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THE BACKGROUND

Established in 1995, Wardah is Indonesia’s first halal-cosmetics brand born from parent company Paragon Technology and Innovation (PTI). Halal refers to what is “permissible” or “lawful” in traditional Islamic law.

In a country where muslims make up more than 87% of the population, Wardah has gained popularity among young Indonesian women, especially by focusing on halal-compliant products.

The brand claimed to control approximately 30% of the market’s makeup segment and was identified as the only Indonesian cosmetics brand to record sales growth of more than 20% in 2015-2016.

Among Indonesians, Wardah is known as an affordable brand as the company’s 300 cosmetics products in makeup, skincare, and fragrance are within a price range of IDR 16,000 – IDR 667,000 ($1.20 – $50).

The company currently offers its products at 22,000 store locations in Indonesia and Malaysia and partnered with Symon AnMi to sell an assortment of products in Bangladesh.

In addition to offline stores, they’re also selling on marketplaces like Lazada and Sociolla while their brand.com serves as only a catalog and resource for company information.

THE CHALLENGE

In the years following Wardah’s inception, it remained small and local because its marketing strategy projected a brand exclusively catered to muslims and relied on a multi-level marketing (MLM) strategy to reach people in Pesantren, an Islamic boarding school.

“It’s really hard at first to sell halal cosmetics, people even accused me of selling religion,” said Nurhayati Subakat, Wardah’s Founder and Owner.

For so long, Wardah products could only be found at salon counters because it was unable to compete with both local and global cosmetics brands such as Sariayu Martha Tilaar, Mustika Ratu, and L’Oreal.

THE INNOVATION

To improve the company’s image, Wardah began to push more inclusive campaigns that included models without hijabs published across television ads and print media.

Its message was clear, Wardah halal-cosmetics are not only for muslims or hijab-wearing individuals. 

Halal Cosmestics Wardah

Wardah’s advertisement featuring famous Indonesian actresses from different generations

The company’s popularity was also given a boost after it became the official sponsor of Indonesian box-office movie “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa” (99 Lights in European Sky). Since then, Wardah has regularly been spotted partnering with larger scale movie productions and fashion events by Indonesian designers.

One of these designers is Anniesa Hasibuan, the first Indonesian to present a New York Fashion Week collection that also incorporated hijabs.

Halal Cosmestics Wardah

Anniesa Hasibuan’s NYFW 2017 collection sponsored by Wardah

She also uses her runway to address current global issues by employing immigrant-only models for her shows. Hasibuan’s powerful representation of the ‘modern muslim woman’ is a strong message that Wardah wants to associate its brand with as it speaks to the company’s target demographic.

“I’m here bringing the beautiful voice of the Muslim women, the peace and the universal values that fashion can offer,” expressed Hasibuan.

THE STRATEGY

Following its endorsement of Hasibuan, the company is further positioning itself as a prestigious brand for active and worldly young women by working with famous female public figures to become their brand ambassadors.

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Wardah’s Brand Ambassadors

The brand’s strategy continues to bathe in the fashion and celebrity limelight. Rightly so as 68.4% people in Indonesia have made a purchase influenced by celebrity endorsements according to a survey by MarkPlus Insight.

“We know that before Wardah is considered as an old (brand), now Alhamdulillah we are becoming more modern,” admitted Subakat.

halal cosmetics wardah

Face & Body category scored 7.28 in the scale of 1 to 10 of how likely is celebrity endorsement affecting intention to purchase.

Understanding that fashion and cosmetics go hand in hand, the brand has organised its annual Wardah Fashion Awards competition since last year to scout young, aspiring designers and empower them to grow as fashion-preneurs.

“Progress in the fashion industry will help the cosmetics industry, especially here in Indonesia,” explained Rifina Affandi, Wardah Brand Manager.

The participants in the program are mentored in design innovation as well as business strategy before showcasing their creations in a fashion show where the models sport Wardah products.

The company was also the official makeup partner for Asia Islamic Fashion Week that was held in Kuala Lumpur last April.

“Our participation in this event is to strengthen our position in global market, as Asia is geared to be the center of the world’s Islamic fashion,” said Salman Subakat, Wardah Marketing Director.

All of their efforts and sponsorship dollars have not gone to waste. Starting as a virtually unknown brand a decade ago, Wardah has now recorded nearly 50% growth in annual revenue in 2016.

THE FUTURE

Though Wardah has made large strides in Indonesia, the company is not satisfied with only one market and is eyeing expansion to other countries.

“We want to extend our [domestic] success to the global market, especially in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),” said Nurhayati Subakat.

Not surprising as the Halal cosmetics market is expected to reach $54 billion in 2022.

Practicing Muslims across the world strictly adhere to things like eating halal food, which is how the startup “Halal Dining Club” was born, reports Tech In Asia.

Halal Dining Club is taking on the challenge of providing Muslim consumers a listing of certified halal restaurants within an area. The app, launched last month, allows users to discover, book, and review foodie outlets and earn themselves loyalty points in the process.

In Southeast Asia, the landscape of Halal food startups is still relatively young, but the Indonesian government’s efforts in joining Malaysia in an ecommerce Halal portal may signify progress towards the sector.

The halal dining market is expected to grow to $2.6 trillion in the next six years. That’s a massive opportunity and a severely underserved market.

The app is currently live in Singapore and London. With 500 restaurants in Singapore, users can choose from a list of Chinese, Indian to Brazilian food. Each restaurant added to the startup’s database is personally audited by the team. This is done to ensure that they’re actually providing halal food and not simply making it up.

CEO admits that it may not be a scalable model, but the approach is right as it helps add an element of authenticity and trust for consumers.

There is also a crowdsourcing element in which users can recommend restaurants to the app. Many establishments are also approaching them in order to be listed.

The startup competes with Halal food veterans such as Zabihah and Singapore Halal Eating Guide, which indicates that the Halal startup industry in Singapore is becoming filled with key players. However, there are still many untapped opportunities in the market.

A version of this appeared in Tech In Asia on August 5. Read the full version here.