- February 17, 2022
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- Posted by: admin
When the roll call of those who transformed the beauty industry in Nigeria is made, one name that will certainly be conspicuous is Chika Ikenga, a chemist whose interest in the chemistry of natural products generated the idea of formulating the Natures Gentle Touch brand.
In its 24 years of existence, the brand has grown to become one of the country’s leading personal style brands; competing successfully in the natural hair care market. And the creator has continued to churn out products, aimed at providing solutions to Nigerian women’s hair challenges.
The journey leading to being a leading name in the hair care industry began at one of the nation’s foremost institutions of higher learning, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where Ikenga studied industrial chemistry.
His fascination with the subject was influenced by his earlier discovery that chemistry is life.
While in school, and also observing women around him, Ikenga noticed that many women were plagued by hair damage, breakage, dryness, slow-growth and scalp-itch amongst others. Also, visiting the salon for a relaxer application was often an unpleasant experience.
He also noticed that the unique texture of African hair makes it drier, requiring a constant balance of moisturising and conditioning. Further research also confirmed that Nigerian women’s hair was directly affected by climate and diet.
To Ikenga’s amazement, there were no hair care brands developed specifically for Nigerian women – even with the abundance of natural, raw materials in West Africa. This realisation inspired the creation of Natures Gentle Touch in1997.
The Chemist did not set out to compete with other imported brands. Natures Gentle Touch simply and effectively repositioned the market dynamic.
So, while others expected Nigerian women to be like their home consumers, the brand empowered them to express their sense of personal style, by providing them with a new set of values – different to what the imported brands were proposing.
Thus, using Natures Gentle Touch as a social vehicle, they formulated products with superior hair care solutions that the imported brands were unable to deliver.
The brand developed a range of solutions, formulated to treat and provide relief, using natural, local ingredients, something that imported products could not deliver on, as their formulations were, and still are for the most part, focused on Caucasian hair.
They also created a new space by taking ownership of being proud to be Nigerian. Thereby creating a new generation of consumers, who used their hair to project who they were and express their unique sense of style and origin.
To the Nigerian woman, Natures Gentle Touch became a statement of individuality, youth, and personal style.
The company also widened its scope, moving beyond just hair care to body, finishing, facial, skin and toiletry categories, which are experiencing phenomenal growth.
With 45 products in their portfolio, the brand has solved the broad spectrum of problems that Nigerian women face, with additional innovations on the way.
The Natures Gentle Touch brand as a natural extension of its business growth took to changing the perception of hairstyling in Nigeria after noticing that the quality of hair care services then was poor.
There was the need to critically analyse customers’ hair and scalps. This meant training their own Trichologists; which were non-existing at that time in Nigeria.
The company built a state-of-the-art facility in Lagos in 2005; The Natures Gentle Touch Hair Institute conceived as a place where expertise, relevant to Africa, could be passed on – where talent would be fostered and encouraged, and where business and beauty skills were transferred.
They set out to create a new generation of professionally-trained and certified stylists. Also, to provide a high level of technical skills to young people, enabling them to find employment in the beauty, fashion and entertainment industry – and, to set up their own businesses.
This is unique on the continent and represents the brand’s fundamental determination to develop home-grown solutions for local hair care and beauty problems and has become the cornerstone of the brand.
The brand also inspired the Nigerian natural hair care movement and has been able to make Nigerian women believe that taking care of themselves and projecting the desired image in one’s own way, is what makes one truly unique.
In 2003, he led Recare Cosmetics to acquire Hairsavvy Cosmetics, South Africa, to become the first Nigerian Company to acquire a South African beauty brand.
Ikenga’s monumental achievements as a renowned industrialist, who has ensured the growth of Recare cosmetics as an indigenous company, as well as elevated the quality of life of Nigerians has not gone unnoticed. He and the brand have received several awards.
Only recently, he was conferred with Honorary Doctorate Degree (Honoris Causa) by The Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia Abia State.
The brand has also won awards including Exquisite Ladies of the Year 2010 Awards for Beauty Brand of the Year; City People Brands Award as Best Relaxer for the Year 2010 and Philanthropic Beauty and Cosmetics Company of the Year 2020 by the CSR Reporters, among others
Ikenga is glad that more Nigerians are now using locally made products, helping them to express who they are. And though the brand rank among top brands, not only in Nigeria, but also, in some key markets in Africa, he still wants to succeed beyond Africa borders, thereby becoming an internationally-renowned.
He is presently eyeing North America, where African American women are celebrating their ethnic pride and reaching for their cultural roots and identity.
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