Irfan Aziz sits with the Jasminder Singh, President Director of The Himalaya Drug Company to better understand the business and its place in the Bangladeshi market, including plans and challenges in the near future.
The Himalaya Drug company is a name that needs no introduction. Go to your parents’ bathroom shelf right now and there is a very good chance that you will find one of (if not multiple) Himalaya products. Over the last few years, it has become a staple in our day to day lives in the same way it has in India and across the world since the 1930’s. A company with this much heritage has surely seen its fair share of polarising leaders over the decades but only a few can match the feats of Jasminder Singh, the incumbent President Director of The Himalaya Drug Company Asia Pacific.
The making of a natural leader
A company with Himalaya’s pedigree needs someone equally impressive to lead them and with over 34 years of experience in the consumer goods, Jasminder is the perfect fit. He initially started out in the food industry where he learned the in’s and out’s of the sale and distribution of products. However, it was only after stepping out of the food industry where Jasminder really found his rhythm. “I was very much still involved with sales and distribution but I developed a keen interest in market expansion and marketing trends. I joined Himalaya about 16-17 years back and initially, I mostly supported them with marketing and sales plan settings in the domestic market and then in regional P&L”, explained Jasminder. After about a decade of excelling in his role, Jasminder was given responsibility to oversee international projects across four countries. “All verticals report back to me and I have been given the responsibility to steer our operations in ASEAN countries forward”, he added. His previous experiences make it extremely easy for him to navigate through his responsibilities as they have given him an unparalleled knowledge about consumers and markets. “It is not only about what you can produce and what you can sell. You need to have an equal understanding of the market, its people and their spending power. You also need to be able to adapt to the challenges of different setups and find out a way to overcome them. You need to maintain a balance in all of these aspects and think long term. It is not a touch and goes business,” answered Jasminder when asked about the qualities a leader must possess in order to succeed.
Inside Bangladesh’s intriguing market
According to Jasminder, Bangladesh’s domestic market is among the most fascinating in the world. “It is still a very young market. We registered 4 years back and initially, we did not have much support in terms of sales and marketing. But what amazed me was the level of awareness and preference the market had for our products. This was a crucial factor and made things very easy for us,” he elaborated. The feature that sets this market is the fact that it functions within the cash and carries framework which means transactions take place on the spot. “The ASEAN market is mostly a credit market but Bangladesh’s distinct business model makes it easy for brands to enter. It is really encouraging and we feel comfortable. The market is still in it’s growing stage so any kind of investment will benefit both the investor and the country itself. However one must come to the country to find this out. This information won’t be obtainable in any other way,” he added. Of course, there are challenges involved as well, mostly in the form of duties that companies have to pay. “This really puts us in a severe disadvantage when it comes to producing locally and setting our prices accordingly. Big fishes and small vendors alike can get access to the same products at a much cheaper rate from the Indian market but we work tirelessly to ensure that we can control the stocks of incoming goods as much as possible”, he stated. Despite the challenges, the response has been positive and encouraging.
The future and creating a positive impact
At the moment The Himalaya Drug Company is only supplying personal care products (in the form of facial care) to the Bangladeshi market but given how well things have gone, it is only a matter of time till they slowly introduce other categories and other products ranging from medicines, baby care, and even animal care. “The market is open and the population sizeable so Bangladesh is as good as it gets for any business”, explained Jasminder. “We also want to open boutique stores that will showcase our products and make them more accessible to the Bangladeshi market. With the positive progress, we are making, I can easily see Himalaya Bangladesh becoming one of the biggest consumer-based companies over the next four to five years”, he added. Jasminder also expressed his desire to be more associated with local NGO’s. At the moment, Himalaya Bangladesh is working closely with the Chittagong Women’s Chamber of Commerce to help over 40 female entrepreneurs earn a decent livelihood through loans and by also allowing them to get access to Himalaya products on credit, selling them and keeping the profits for themselves. “I also want us to collaborate with NGO’s so that we can reach out to the people of Bangladesh and educate them about the various benefits of Ayurveda and engage in activities which will make them more aware about healthcare and skincare”, he stated in his concluding notes.
Under Jasminder Singh’s guidance and tutelage, Himalaya will continue to thrive in South Asian countries, breaking new grounds and setting new standards in the process.