Ahasan Khundker, General Manager, VINI International Operations (Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh), is a veteran in the FMCG industry. Having completed his postgraduate from London College of Management Research, he started his career at Nestle Bangladesh and have went on to put his expertise to use in various other organizations in the industry. He entered the fragrace industry in 2016 as VINI’s Country Manager and have led the brand in three countries towards excellence.
Bangladesh Brand Forum had the opportunity to hold a talk with Ahasan Khundker regarding the journey of FOGG, the impacts of the pandemic on the fragrance industry, and the future of the brand.
BBF: What was the philosophy behind FOGG, and how has the brand’s journey been since its inception?
Ahasan Khundker: VINI Cosmetics Private Limited was incorporated in the year 2009. Based in Ahmedabad, India, the company quickly gained recognition with their flagship brand FOGG both locally and internationally. VINI is a venture from the entrepreneur Mr. Darshan Patel who has made his name as a brand creator in the OTC & FMCG market through brands like MOOV, Krack, DermiCool, OSSUM, WhiteTone, Nufeel, and many more. The unique value proposition of FOGG helped it become the market leader in the fragrance industry and now FOGG has its sights set towards launching a unique range of variations in the International market. FOGG has its presence in 80+ countries with 150+ unique SKUs.
Tell us about FOGG’s journey in Bangladesh.
FOGG started its journey in Bangladesh in 2013 and by now has become the leading fragrance brand in Bangladesh. Triggering a paradigm shift in the body spray usage, FOGG transformed the concept of usual gas-based body spray to no gas body spray. Experiencing one of the most remarkable growth for any brand, FOGG commands major market share in the branded fragrance segment. It also has one of the highest awareness across categories and remains one of the best personal care brands in Bangladesh. VINI has a strong and widespread network for distributing its products easily and fast all over the country. Currently, VINI has over 200 distributors, and more than 500 workers in direct and indirect channels to provide service in 30,000+ outlets nationwide. Products are widely available at cosmetics stores, corner shops, grocery stores, malls, supper stores, online stores etc.
How has the pandemic impacted the perfume and deodorant market of Bangladesh?
Sales of perfumes and deodorants fell as has been the trend with all luxury FMCG goods categories and during pandemic consumers were more focused on buying basic necessity items, rather than luxury items. Apart from the consumers requirement, we faced complete lockdown for certain period of educational institutes, offices and social events which hampered the natural movements of our consumers. We are into a category where consumer movement & mobility triggers the purchase, usage of fragrance and hygiene products. The perfume and deodorant industry took a heavy blow during the initial pandemic period in Bangladesh.
Can you provide some insights on the changing consumer behaviour in the fragrance industry in Bangladesh? Do you think there are similarities between ours and globally?
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Fragrances and Perfumes estimated at US$43.6 Billion in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of US$54.6 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 3.3% over the analysis period 2020-2027. Industry insiders believe that the fragrance market in Bangladesh is now worth over BDT 1 billion. People from middle-income households and students are also opting for premium perfume categories. The grey market of fragrance industry in Bangladesh is vast which is making the business more challenging. Currently the industry growth is 8-10% per year on an average.
What key takeaways can we get from this pandemic and what is FOGG doing to evolve and adapt in this new normal?
Consumer mobility and usage have been particularly challenging during this period. As I have mentioned earlier, Deo and scent does not fall under most necessary items, and due to pandemic, many people have suffered financially and many are still suffering. That is why majority of the consumers are focused on purchasing necessities, rather than spending on luxury items.
For evolving and adapting to this new normal, we are promoting Deo as this “not only ensures fragrance, but also ensures the hygiene factor.” This is because during the pandemic and in the new normal, ‘hygiene’ has become a crucial factor in human life. As a result, we are continuously working to educate our consumer to use deodorant as not only part of their ‘smell good’ factor but also the ‘feel good’-hygiene factor. This is because a deodorant is essential to manage the body odour for a humid country like Bangladesh.
How do you plan to take FOGG in Bangladesh, Myanmar, & Nepal forward in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years we are planning to start our manufacturing plant/base at Bangladesh and Nepal. As a fragrance market leader, we also have a plan to increase the range of products, as per our consumers need. This is because we believe that we can increase our scope to include target markets that are still untouched and we are highly interested to serve all potential consumers with our products and offerings.
Can you share some words of wisdom for Bangladeshi marketers to succeed in this country?
To me, we are blessed by a territory called Bangladesh, where we can easily reach 160 million of population with world’s highest population density. Here we can develop a single recipe to cover entire population despite considering tastes and religion. Our distribution network is very effective and we have it easy when it comes to reaching the entire population compared with many other countries. Our marketers have an advantage to use these unique factors to enlighten and delight our consumer base by identifying and ensuring the right kind of products.