Supporting SME growth

KUALA LUMPUR: High standards and strict rules imposed by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry have helped small-and-medium enterprises produce better products which can penetrate larger markets.

“It is not easy to get the ministry’s stamp of approval. There are layers of authorisation, especially when you are producing skincare, health or beauty products,” said Wonderland Primary Sdn Bhd managing director Leny Adam.

She said the ministry’s high standards have helped her products win the trust of consumers.

“In 2010, we registered our company with the ministry as we wanted to apply for a license to produce a range of children’s toiletries for two popular children’s animated series.

“However, three years after, we decided to try something new and that was when we came up with our own in-house brand. In 2016, our in-house range of health and beauty products, Asianic, was born,” she told New Straits Times.

The mother of four said the ministry has been actively helping their company in licensing, research and development (R&D) and packaging.

“They have strict rules when it comes to endorsing certain products, especially in packaging. I have had previous experience in marketing international brands and I can see that the ministry is making sure that the packaging of our local products are on a par with international brands,”.

“We took the challenge to come up with health and beauty products including skincare and toiletries that catered to all ages, which is slightly different from other SMEs”.

Leny said the ministry has been very supportive, motivating many SMEs to push themselves to produce better products. This has enabled many of them to market their products in major hypermarkets.

“We took about a year to come up with Asianic. We only use natural-based ingredients, which are also SLS-free (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate-free) and parabens-free. Our formulas are safe for children and adults to use.

“Through the ministry’s endorsement, we are showing to the public that we, too, have good local chemists who can produce products that are just as good as the international ones.

“The ministry’s call to support local products through the “Buy Malaysian Products” campaign has also been very helpful in bringing our products to the community,” added Leny.

Asianic health and beauty products can be bought on e-commerce platforms including Lazada and Shopee.

They are also available at major hypermarkets such as Tesco, Giant, convenience stores such as KK Mart, local pharmacies such as Tigas Pharmacy or Royale Pharma and from their website, www.wonderlandprimary.com.

Another homegrown SME, GT Bioscience Sdn Bhd, formerly known as Fortuna Biotech Sdn Bhd, produces a range of essential oils highlighting medicinal and therapeutic products made locally.

Founder Nur Latifah Kamaruddin, who has a background in biotechnology, said the company first started producing essential oils as an OEM company.

“It all started when we saw an over-supply of vegetables or raw plant materials in the market in Kuching, Sarawak.

“At the time, we were halfway through our own R&D process which mainly involved distillation of agarwood oil, and because agarwood is a protected species, we had limited raw material supply.

“We also noticed that there was an over-supply of raw plant materials in the market in Kuching, Sarawak. We decided to try using lemongrass and other local plants as part of our first R&D process for essential oils production.

This also led to community farming for planting local plants for essential oil production.

Latifah said collaborating with the ministry has helped her with branding and marketing her products.

“The demand for locally-produced essential oils was huge! I was initially not exposed to how marketing works as we were only directly dealing with companies in the OEM market.

“It was an eye-opening moment for us when we decided to register our company and new in-house brands with the ministry in 2018”.

Latifah said the ministry has helped them push their business forward through various training programmes.

“The ministry has a channel where consumers can directly give us feedback on our products and we worked our way around from there. It was a huge leap for me, in terms of learning the ropes of marketing strategies.

“We’ve had our packaging revamped into more exclusive looks through the ministry’s packaging grants, and we’re now a hot item in the market. The ministry even offered us pushcarts to sell our products at high-end major shopping malls in Malaysia,” she said.

“They’ve brought us to expos and exhibitions to market our products, bringing us to where we are now.

“They have certainly helped to shorten the timeframe for us to get our brands recognised in the market as it would have taken us years to do it on our own,” she added.

Borneo Essential Oils has won the Malaysian Innovation Award 2020 from Platcomm Ventures and SME Corp for innovative encapsulation of high performance plant compounds.

The company produces essential oils and natural handcrafted soaps made of lemongrass, citronella, Bentong ginger, Tambunan ginger and Sarawak black pepper which are mainly sold to the tourism market and are available at duty free shops located in airports and on e-commerce platforms.

Source: NST