A perfect publicity blend - from India’s beauty care queenMay 12th, 2010 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS
By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 12 (IANS) India’s beauty care queen Shahnaz Hussain is all set to launch yet another herbal skin care product in New York and London - and again with no advertising budget at all as she claims.
“You can’t imagine anybody launching a brand, that too a brand going international, without any ad budget at all,” Hussain told IANS in an extended conversation here. But that’s what she has been doing for the last 30 years and with great success.
So much so that America’s top business school, Harvard, invited her back in 2002 to give a lecture on “How to create a brand without publicity”, but Hussain, the consummate businesswoman that she is, waited for eight years to come down to America to do it.
When Hussain got an invitation in January from Washington to attend President Barack Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship, she promptly wrote to Harvard to give her a date around that time. And they did, she said excitedly.
“But I am here for the summit,” she hastened to add lest it be taken amiss before quickly returning to her theme. “I told them I can’t get away from my business just to give a lecture,” said Hussain who was all set to jet down to London along with her export manager and an assistant in tow.
So what tips did she give to those Ivy League guys? “Simple,” she told them, “If I pay money to say I am launching this, it is me who is saying it’s so. But if the public uses it and they say, it’s good, that’s where the brand will last.”
“When people talk, the press covers,” said Hussain as she put a drop of the new product simply called “Plant Stem Cell”, which she claims has “an extraordinary regenerating capacity and can virtually generate any cell or tissue”, on the back of one’s hand to rub on the skin.
“How does it feel,” she asked as everyone around the table nodded with “oh so cool!” and “smooth” as if already rejuvenated.
“In my mind there has always been the private concern that to pay money to say that buy it is wrong,” said Hussain. “In no other business in the world as in cosmetics, total success really depends on the product, no matter how good I say it is.”
“I specialise in chemicals, not advertising at all,” she added disarmingly. Yet she has compounded a perfect blend of publicity for her range of herbal beauty care products.
“If the Americans and the British say it’s amazing, that itself is the biggest publicity for the product,” said Hussain recalling how it took two years to get the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and four years to clear the French laws.
“Again wherever I have made a success, it has always been through the government,” she said disclosing another ingenious ingredient of her brew.
“I just write a letter to whoever is the external affairs minister, saying I am going and this is the purpose and could they tell the mission to inform the press.”
“And that’s all,” said Hussain. “And over 30 years, in every country in the world, the mission has called a press conference,” she said, recalling with pride the huge draw she has been in some of the capitals.
“I am not very good at disturbing multinationals,” she said revealing a third ingredient of her success formula of not treading on big toes. “You spend so much time fighting the multinationals for your space, you don’t focus on business.”
This is how she quickly gave up the idea of starting a chain of coffee shops named “Starstruck” or a new product named “Shanil” - blending her first name with her daughter’s - when she got legal notices from “Starbucks” and “Chanel”.
And her new product is simply named “Plant Stem Cell”. “We don’t want to give it a fancy name. The moment you give it a name, the ’stem cell’ gets lost,” said Hussain underlining how the generic name itself is a huge draw.
For the record, Hussain attended Obama’s summit too. “America is fortunate that a man like Obama walks the earth,” she gushed asking her listeners to jot it down carefully. And then handed over a big business card signing it with flourish on lots of white space thoughtfully left for autographs.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: arun kumar, barack obama, beauty care, budget, businesswoman, export manager, harvard, herbal skin care, India, invitation, ivy league, private concern, publicity, queen, shahnaz hussain, skin care, skin care product, stem cell, summit, top business school