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Fredrik WidellFlames of passion

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Fredrik Widell, Managing Director, Oriflame India tells Salon India about the challenges and growth of the direct selling business in India and shares some of the experiences of the Swedish company.

How has the year so far been for Oriflame India?
We have opened strongly in 2009 with two major product launch events in Delhi. One of these was for the new diamond range, which is the most expensive launch of Oriflame in India. We were also the official beauty sponsors of Delhi Fashion Week. This is just the initial part of our plan to grow in India.

Have you adapted growth plans for 2009 because of recession?
We have made no changes in our business plans. In fact we are continuing our aggressive approach to growth in terms of infrastructure, marketing and public relations. We are continuing with seminars, conferences and external investments as well. We’ve just had four events in four cities with more than 21,000 consultants attending, and also a lot of new people coming to hear about Oriflame. A lot of people are interested in alternate employment and in cosmetics.

How important is the Indian market for your brand?
India is clearly one of the most strategically important markets for Oriflame. This is not only because of the large population but also the tremendous potential for sales to grow. The fit of our portfolio and the direct sales offering is very good. Recently, our global CEO spent a whole week in India. That is clear evidence of how important the market is for us.

How do you distinguish yourself from the other brands?
Our pricing strategy is completely different. Our quality is very good, being a natural, Swedish brand. Since we don’t have retail outlets, the middle man gets eliminated from this process.

How do your consultants create branding without retail outlets?
Trust issues are important. Oriflame has been here for 13 years, people know our products. Our consultants carry a full sales kit with them to give a touch and feel experience to the customers. The advantages our consultants have is that they have direct access to consumers. It is very much a win-win situation.

What is the strength of your sales force at this time?
We have 1.20 lakh consultants. The company has grown in double digits over the last year. We grew 40 percent over 2007.

Are product launches essential?
Yes, we have 413 new products in 2009, which is more than one new product each day. We keep looking to see if there are gaps in our product portfolio and filling these gaps.

Which are the gaps you see?
India is changing too. People are experimenting more. We do see gaps in colors. Browns, dark reds, mauves are popular here. Europeans like light reds and pinks. We are working hard to give people what they want and will continue to give the Indian customers what they need.

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