When Vietnamese fashion designer, Linh, and Australian scientist, Mike, merged their talents, they created a fragrant soap story. Penang Spirit had a chat with Dr. Mike Thair about the creation of Indochine Natural.
Like many people, Linh and Mike found that they were suffering from skin irritations caused by the use of conventional body care products. Finding it difficult to buy natural, chemical and preservative free products, they decided to produce their own.
Inspired by the spice trade of the 18th century, Mike and Linh set out to create a range of products using natural ingredients and exotic fragrances. Indochine Natural was born in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2006.
In 2009, Mike and Linh moved their entire production to Penang. “It was difficult to deal with the government in Vietnam and shipping from Hanoi was difficult and expensive”, Mike said when asked why they decided to move.
Why Penang? ”Penang has a good shipping and air hub and an efficient public service”. Mike found government departments such as the Ministry of Health and other regulatory bodies extremely helpful and easy to deal with. “I have lived and worked in 13 countries and can say that Malaysia ranks best in public service”.
Indochine Natural mainly export to Japan, Australia, Middle East and USA. Here in Malaysia it supplies to Justlife stores, one of which is in Tanjung Bungah. The company also supplies guest amenities to boutique hotels such as Campbell House, Straits Heritage, Bon Ton Resort and the Dusun.
In the production facility in Tanjung Bungah, Indochine Natural has the capacity to produce 10,000 bars of soap per week. The most popular soaps are the patchouli and the basil and lemongrass.
Indochine Natural not only produces exotically fragrant soaps, but also a range of delightful shampoos, body washes and face wash. The geranium body wash and tropical rain shampoo are best sellers. The company also has a small range of home care products such as eco-friendly washing powder, cleaning liquid and dish wash soap.
Indochine only uses natural plant-based ingredients which are free from synthetic and chemical additives. All the ingredients, some of which are organic, are sourced from companies in Australia since the quality is guaranteed. Most importantly to Mike, a scientist, these companies provide a certificate of analysis for the quality and purity of the products.
In a world where many companies exploit their workers, Indochine is exactly the opposite. It is the first and only Fair Trade certified company in Malaysia. This means that it creates income opportunities for the disadvantaged communities in Penang, as well as paying fair wages and providing a safe and healthy working environment.
One of the company’s projects has been to create an income opportunity for the Stepping Stone Centre in Balik Pulau. Mike developed a household liquid cleaner made from recycled cooking oil, the only person to have developed this method.
Mike modified the process so that the intellectually disabled could make it themselves and earn money. The Stepping Stone Centre manufactures the household liquid cleaner and Indochine buys it from them, labelling and packaging it. Mike hopes that one day Stepping Stone staff will be able to do the labelling and packaging themselves.
Both Linh and Mike are passionate about what they do and hopefully their fragrant soap story will continue for a long time.
Indochine Natural products can be bought from Justlife Organic Shop, 1C Jalan Sungai Kelian (Opposite the Cove), 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Penang.
You can also buy from Indochine Natural’s online store.