Expansion in a time of a pandemic, how one company has revolutionised the hygiene business
July 16, 2021
At the height of the 2020 global Coronavirus pandemic, a quality, cost-conscious and sustainable hygiene business, EF-Active, was born. Since then, the brand has grown exponentially to become a trusted household name, with an ever-growing range of products sub-Sahara African markets continue to embrace and champion.
Finding a market in the gap has always been something EF-Active founder and CEO, Salil Dhingra, does very well. Armed with a BCom, post-graduate degree and an MBA in strategic marketing, he has successfully shaped and grown a business at a time when the markets remain staked against many an entrepreneur.
With the EF-Active range now well-and-truly established and properly serviced within South Africa and Mauritius, the brand is ready to introduce itself to new markets on the African continent.
Innovation and agility are two more attributes that continue to serve Dhingra well. Within weeks of launching his EF-Active product line in 2020, the founder quickly developed Mistizer, an aerosol sanitiser that has, since its launch, revolutionised the hygiene sector at a critically important time. “I take calculated decisions and make them right.” It is a mantra he lives by.
EF-Active’s purpose and product offering consider many aspects – from delivering the effect the package promotes, right through to its ease of use and subsequent efficacy. “Yes, exactly! That is indeed our goal,” Dhingra asserts.
“We have already started to expand into many African territories,” he adds. “We are now regularly exporting to Mauritius, we have also landed the brand in Ghana, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.”
Local best practice, first
“Before we started on the export market, we wanted to make sure that we had the local, South African, market optimally serviced.” Dhingra points out. “We have achieved this and continue to support that network. The countries we are exporting to now do not offer manufacturing opportunities, so we are merely responding to the need to import a decent, reliable product, which we can do and successfully cater to their demands.”
Never one to simply rush in, every step EF-Active take is entirely calculated. “We are taking things slowly,” Dhingra cautiously says. “One country at a time is our approach. We need to best understand the need and the demand in each and couple that with our ability to deliver before we expand further.”
Reliable distribution is critical, something that the business understands implicitly. “My team cannot [currently] travel to many of these countries, something that I used to do a lot,” Dhingra shares, “So, connecting and establishing critical networks, remotely, is something we’ve worked hard to achieve, and we’ve successfully overcome the many hurdles each has placed before us.”
EF-Active’s entire product line has been endorsed and regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa. “We have the special licences to export our product out of South Africa too,” Dhingra points out. “Not everyone can export. Each business needs to apply for permission and that is only for a limited time, six to eight months before you need to re-apply again.
“The government has, since the lockdown commenced, acknowledged that sanitiser products, the likes of ours, are a longer-term demand product and they want to make sure that the local demand is first fulfilled before the product is exported out.”
The Department of Health certification, pharmaceutically speaking, is another hurdle EF-Active responded to and adheres with. “NRCS and SABS protocols are all adhered to, so that’s why it is easier for us to export to more SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries,” Dhingra explains. “They accept our local certifications, which makes it possible for us to service those needing markets, effectively.”
Outbound and exporting
Angola and Nigeria are the next two territories where EF-Active anticipates landing and serving the broader population with their key products. “Nigeria is highly regulated,” Dhingra explains. “There is a lot of red tape, but we are accustomed to challenges and continue to distribute our products within that framework. There are 200-million-plus people across both countries and it’s a region we can actively service, for the greater good.”
As for what’s next, “We are currently exporting to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Mozambique and Mauritius, so yes, the export model is tried and [successfully] tested,” Dhingra supplements.
Bringing new product online remains a key growth area for the business. “After sifting through US-based research, EF-Active took the initiative to identify a longer-term sanitiser product line, and with that US, along with UK research in hand, what came out of it was that about 80% of consumers stay true to their initial brand choices and pre or post COVID, they will make the likes of our product a part of their regular basket shop,” Dhingra explains.
The next chapter
“Knowing that this category is here to stay, we decided to stick with the pre-and post-wash solutions,” Dhingra shares. “So, we have a range of liquid hand soaps, for the normal, at home, routine. Then you carry sanitiser with you, wherever you go. With all of that, your skin dries out, due to the alcohol in the product. And with EF-Active becoming a known and respected hygiene brand with the South African consumer, we then responded and launched a skin-care cream range, including camphor, peppermint and 100% eucalyptus oil varietal balms to counter the effects of intense sanitisation.
“We were the first on the African continent to launch an aerosol format of these varietals,” he adds.
For EF-Active, it intends to promote convenience and ease of use, all of which their entire product line delivers. “We see EF-Active evolving into a full bath, body and personal hygiene brand in future,” Dhingra concludes. “That is what we are working towards at this stage. Bringing in more skin-friendly ingredients is key for us, all while increasing our market share.”
Salil Dhingra – Entrepreneur, CEO and founder of the EF-Active