‘We had to create our reality’: How one natural beauty brand helped carve out a market for natural solid soaps in Thailand
Bangkok Soap Opera is a natural beauty brand based in Bangkok, Thailand, that produces natural soaps made from ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, trees, and spices.
Maria Kalita founded Bangkok Soap Opera in 2015 after learning to make natural cosmetics while pursuing her second degree in physiotherapy.
Kalita, who also has a background in chemistry, began making natural soaps in 2010 before realising there was a potential in the Thai market for natural solid soaps.
However, Kalita told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that she knew she was in for an uphill battle as the market for the kind of soaps she was making barely existed.
“When I explored the market in Bangkok, I had a feeling that the way I was making soap would not be loved by anyone. Our soaps looked too old fashion, too simple, and focused too much on effect, not the look. The market at that time was focusing on transparent soaps with overpowering smell and colour. There was no market at that point for truly natural soaps.”
In order to carve out a market for the brand, Kalita recounted taking a grassroots approach to connect consumers with its products.
“We decided to be the ones to demonstrate the difference and educate the community. We had to create our reality and we did. We have been talking to our customers non-stop since our launch and have changed the perspective of the local community on beauty care's impact on the skin and planet.”
The company actively conducts workshops such as soap making or perfume making, which it believes is crucial for staying connected with its customers who choose the brands products for more than just function.
“We work with community members focusing on sustainable ideas, those who struggle with allergies to certain chemicals, those who want to be zero waste, and those who value truly natural cosmetics,” said Kalita.
Additionally, it is a way to remain open and transparent with its consumers, something she thinks is lacking in the mass market.
“Nowadays there are very few businesses sharing true information about their production process, which is sincerely worrying for the customer and the planet’s health. Producers may use terms like natural, organic, safe, and clean only to make their products more sound more appealing and valuable.”
This year, the company is moving into a larger space where it can accommodate bigger groups for workshops.
“We plan to move our current main store to a three-floor building to have enough space for hosting workshops for big groups of up to 40 people and make our store a big test station where our customers can enjoy smells, colours and textures before making a purchasing decision,” said Kalita.
She added that she hopes these opportunities will help the brand forge a deeper connection with its customers and give them an experience a mass-market product cannot.
“Today, they may choose natural soaps, but we want them to choose a green future tomorrow. For our brand, it’s not just about soap, it’s about the small steps we can all take on our journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. That is something 100% missing from mass-marketed products.”
Online and overseas expansion
With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the brand has also had to improve digital offerings.
Kalita tells us the brand is aiming to “bring online sales to a new level” by offering free same-day deliveries locally and begin online workshops.
The latter is especially important as the company is beginning to expand the business overseas in Hong Kong and Malaysia through retail partners.
According to Kalita, the overseas ventures have been going well and now the company is looking to expand in Malaysia with a standalone store to replicate the Bangkok Soap Opera experience in Malaysia.