Ajmal Perfumes: From Humble Scents to an Emerging Brand

The art of perfumery is an ancient one, born out of human desire to create a good feeling and pleasant environment.  Perfumes are an epitome of refinement, a pleasing personality, and have significant impacts on the body and mind.  They also have a special place in the Islamic and Arab heritage.

With nearly 60 years of heritage and expertise in the fragrance industry, Ajmal Perfumes, a family-owned fragrance house of India, whose name means “most beautiful” in Arabic, is a shining example of dedication to the art of perfumery.

Today, Ajmal Perfumes is regarded as a Top 40 Arab Brand with its presence in the MENA markets (Forbes Arabia.)  It has established a formidable global presence with over 200 exclusive retail outlets spread across 20 countries, and 500 dealerships across the globe. Its business presence is in over 32 countries with an annual turnover of USD200 million and is run by the second and third generation Ajmal family, a household name in India and the Middle East.

Image source:  Ajmal Perfumes website

An Entrepreneur with humble beginnings

The story of Ajmal Perfumes began in the early 1950s, in the verdant foothills of the mountains of Assam, India. In a village called Hojai in the Nagaon district of Assam, Ajmal Ali Haji Abdul Majid began a modest trade house in the lucrative Dhahanul Oudh oil derived from the essence of Agar wood (Aquilaria) trees. Oudh can take up to 20-40 years to harvest, and one kilogram of oil cost Rs 132,000 (USD 2,950).

In the tradition of great masters, Ajmal Ali left his hometown for Mumbai with 500 rupees and some oudh oil as his starting capital. He worked in a dingy house in Bombay in the early 1950s blending perfumes and trying to find the right mixture that would impress the many Arab traders who visited India’s Western shores. In 1964, he gave his family name to his product range. He shifted his operation base from Bombay to Dubai in 1976, where he opened the first Ajmal outlet and launched its first fragrance, “Mukhallat.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Ajmal Ali’s five sons have distributed the work amongst themselves. They are, in UAE: Amiruddin, CEO of Ajmal Perfumes; Fakhruddin, CEO of Ajmal Real Estate; Nazir; COO of Ajmal Perfumes. In India, Badruddin and Sirajuddin look after the India operations.

“Through decades of continuous research and experience in the art and technique of extracting pure oils from natural substances, Ajmal has became synonymous with high quality traditional Arabic and oriental fragrance products”, says Mr. Sirajuddin Ajmal, India’s Head and one of Directors for the Ajmal Group.

Modern Operations

Today, Ajmal Perfumes has the largest private plantation of Agar wood in Asia, owning more than a lakh

Perfumes & Islamic Heritage

  • In Islamic culture, the use of perfume has been documented as far back as the 6th century and its use is considered a religious practice.
  • Eggs and floral perfumes were brought to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries from Arabia, through trade with the Islamic world. There are records of the Pepperers Guild of London, going back to 1179; which show them trading with Muslims in spices, perfume ingredients and dyes.
  • Two talented Arabian chemists: Jābir ibn Hayyān (Geber, born 722, Iraq), and Al-Kindi (Alkindus, born 801, Iraq) established the perfume industry.
  • The Persian scientist, Ibn Sina, introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers by means of distillation, the procedure most commonly used today.

(a unit in the Indian numbering system equivalent to 100,000 units) of agar trees, grown at various locations in Assam. The group has set up its research and development centre, at Hojai, with modern testing facilities for agro-extracts and essential oils. A team of highly dedicated scientists manage the Ajmal R&D Centre and help devise processes for producing value added derivatives, essential oils and herbal products from medicinal and aromatic plants.

Ajmal, employing state-of-the-art technology, has produced an expansive product range to cater to the varying demands of its national and international clientele. Its fast moving consumer products are; Jabtisan, Hayati, Dewaan, Oudha Al Zaid, Mkt Shams, Abhaar, Ottarid, Rijali2001.

Ajmal also boasts a new range of natural fragrances like Dahn al Oudh, Rose, Jasmin, Sandal and Saffron and a special range of economical purchases, like Maryaj. All contain ingredients that appeal to its growing global customers.

Original Packaging & Customer Experience

Ajmal’s packaging design and production division have played catalysts to its success. The designs – both traditional and contemporary – are stunningly original, and are also eco-friendly and recyclable. The high quality of fabrication matches the elegant designs and is particularly appreciated by clients in the Gulf and other parts of the world.

Ajmal’s constant innovation led to the introduction of retail concepts such as “My Inspiration” and “Ajmal Eternal” to enhance the Ajmal shopping experience. This has widely been received and appreciated by fragrance lovers across the Gulf region. According to Forbes Arabia, Ajmal Perfumes is ranked amongst the Top 40 Arab brands.

DAHN AL OUDH EAU DE PARFUM ETHNIC CHIC PURE PARFUM

Ajmal Perfumes recently announced that it has earmarked USD 50 million for international expansion and the retrofitting of its existing GCC network of stores, in line with the concept of “Crafting Memories.”

The company has invested over USD 10 million in a new 150,000 square-foot facility in Dubai that offers a high-tech automated production unit including a research wing.

With a growing network of 137 exclusive retail outlets across the GCC and Asia; ambitious plans that include expansion in London by 2011; and other key metropolisations in the near future, “Ajmal Perfumes has become a globally recognised brand,” says Abdulla Ajmal, Deputy General Manager of Ajmal Perfumes.

Ajmal has an aggressive presence in the Indian perfume market with offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hojai. In the last three years, Ajmal Perfumes has opened up new showrooms in major cities of India. Before the close of 2012, Ajmal Perfumes is planning to make its presence felt in most of the state capitals and semi metro cities of India.

“With the growing demand for fragrance, the Ajmal Perfumes strategy is to utilise its resources mainly for the domestic market, and plans a multiple

marketing and distribution strategy to foray into markets with huge potential,” says Sirajuddin Ajmal, India Head and one of Directors for the Ajmal Group.

“With the middle class is growing rapidly and disposable incomes increasing, the potential is immense. Ajmal’s vision is to be a more globally recognised luxury brand enriching customers’ lifestyles by encouraging creativity, innovation and continual improvements,” he says.

Ajmal Perfumes:  KEY FACTS
Key     offices:……………… Mumbai, India; Dubai, UAE
Main brands: Jabtisan, Hayati, Dewaan, Oudha Al Zaid, Mkt Shams, Abhaar, Ottarid, Rijali2001, Haailah and Baaqa
# of branches: 200 retail outlets across 20 countries, with 20 showrooms in Kuwait, 7 retail shops in Dubai and 3 in Mumbai. Ajmal Perfumes also has 500 distributors worldwide.
# of employees: 7000 employees with 70% originating from Assam, India
Company website: www.ajmalperfumes.info

Alwaleed: Businessman, Billionaire, Prince (Book Review)

Any time one reads something on Saudi Arabia there is looming curiousity about the life and person of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, the world’s fifth-richest man. There are few individuals as unique, enigmatic, and colorful as this member of the Saudi Royal Family. His life is a revealing portrait of a unique person whose presence and impact on the global economy is unmatched.

Like investment guru Warren Buffett, Alwaleed has became hugely successful through a number of strategic high-profile investments. He makes his international investments through Kingdom Holding Company and Time magazine has nicknamed him the Arabian Warren Buffett.

In a fascinating and characteristically insightful biography, international journalist and broadcaster Riz Khan, formerly of CNN, offers a revealing insider’s view of this business genius who is estimated to be worth approximately $24 billion. He based his writing on in-depth interviews with the Prince’s family, entourage, and closest business associates which includes top names such as Sandy Weill, Rupert Murdoch, and Jimmy Carter.

The book deals with Alwaleed’s family history, the origins of his powerful drive to succeed, his phenomenal achievements in rescuing beleaguered companies, his investments in top brands, his unique approach to investing and some of his most lucrative strategies.

From Humble Beginnings

Alwaleed began his business career in 1979 after graduating from Menlo College in California. Funded by a $30,000 loan from his father and a $300,000 mortgage on his house, he initially brokered deals with foreign firms wishing to do business in Saudi Arabia. This was followed by land deals in the 1980s along with major investments in the Saudi banking industry. After these initial successes, there was no looking back for this Saudi prince who has carved out a deep niche as an entrepreneur and international investor.

Alwaleed is the largest single foreign investor in the U.S. economy, with interests in almost everything that touches the American lifestyle. This billionaire prince’s story unfolds in gripping detail, with a relatively modest bank loan to build an empire that embraces some of the world’s best-known brands from Citigroup and Disney to Apple Computers and the Four Seasons Hotels.

Alwaleed’s activities as an investor came to prominence when he bought a substantial tranche of shares in Citicorp in the 1990s when that firm was in difficulties. His holdings in Citigroup now comprise half of his wealth worth approximately US $ 10 billion.

He also currently holds a 17% stake in Euro Disney SCA, the organization which manages and maintains the Disneyland Resort Paris in Marne-la-Vallee, France. He has also made large investments in AOL, Apple Inc, Worldcom, Motorola, News Corporation Ltd and other technology and media companies.

His real estate holdings have included large stakes in the Four Seasons hotel chain and the Plaza Hotel in New York. He has also made investments in London’s Savoy Hotel and Monaco’s Monte Carlo Grand Hotel. Alwaleed purchased the Savoy Hotel in London for an estimated GBP £250 million in which he owns an estimated 16% stake. His company, Kingdom Holdings acquired Toronto, Canada-based Fairmont Hotels for an estimated US $3.9 billion in partnership with the U.S. real estate firm Colony Capital.

Charitable contributions

Prince Alwaleed is heavily involved in charitable activities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and is estimated to donate more than $100 million annually to charity.

In America his charity includes a donation of $ 10 million to New York City towards relief efforts after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Alwaleed also donated $500,000 to the George Herbert Walker Bush Scholarship Fund in 2002. In December 2005, he donated $20 million each to Harvard University and Georgetown University to finance new initiatives aimed at enhancing the study of Islam in the Western academy and to foster understanding between Muslims and Christians. The Weill Medical College of Cornell University also received a donation $10 million in 2006 to establish the Institute for Computational Biomedicine in his name. Finally, Alwaleed donated $1.48 million to the Islamic Society of North America in 2007.

In France his charity includes a donation of $20 million to the Louvre Museum, the largest gift ever to the world’s largest museum.

Alwaleed donated $8.3 million in the form of goods and cash to support relief and reconstruction efforts in wake of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. He also gave $2 million dollars for the development of the remote regions of Pakistan that include Kahuta, Jhelum valley, and the mountainside region of the Swat River valley.

Alwaleed financed the building of the headquarters of the Fondation Pour l’Enfance, an organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Malian and African children in Mali.

A balanced identity

The billionaire prince has a colorful life style true to his name and status. He owns a Boeing 747 jet that is converted for his private use. He has also ordered the world’s largest passenger aircraft Airbus A380, for private use. The aircraft will be delivered to him in 2010. He owns the yacht Kingdom 5KR, which was seen in James Bond movie Never say Never Again.

The jet set billionaire’s life on one hand revolves around the world of Wall Street, with limousines and designer labels and on the other he has a close and emotional relationship with the desert and its people. His identity sits on the fence separating the Arab world on one side, with tents, camels, and rifle-toting Bedouins and neon lights and the skyscrapers of the West.

Alwaleed is a 21st century ambassador acting as a bridge to connect the Middle East and the West. He has taken a notable pro-American stance and has been diligently working to erase the enemy image of the Arab in America. He has done so by financing a $10 million American studies program at the American University in Cairo. Similarly, his deep involvement in America, where he spends consider time, is to build the image of Arabs, particularly Saudis as friends of America and not their enemy.

The 53 year old Prince is married to Princess Ameera. He had been divorced three times and has two children – Prince Khaled and Princess Reem – from his first wife, his cousin Princess Dalal.

Alwaleed, despite being the nephew of King Abdullah,has stayed outside of the core of political power in Saudi Arabia. He is known for his liberal views and is vocal about women’s rights. He has hired the first female airline pilot in Saudi Arabia, to be part of his staff.

The book – Alwaleed the billionaire Prince – is a scintillating account that successfully reveals a portrait of a remarkable individual whose presence in the global economy is unmatched. Riz Khan has done a commendable job in bringing out the details how this extraordinarily hardworking character has achieved this iconic status.

Brilliantly written, racy in style, the book quotes Alwaleed saying; ‘I see myself as a businessman who is a member of the Saudi royal family. God has blessed me with great wealth, but this comes with obligations. Those who build bridges must be capable of seeing the big picture.’ This is the sum and substance of this fascinating book.