By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The beauty and personal care product business may sound shallow to some, but taking care of the physical appearance is actually a matter of survival to most. At times, it is one’s personal appearance that makes or breaks the deal.
Avon, a world-famous brand known for its highly reputable and trust-worthy beauty products, jewelry and apparel, makes women more confident and its thousands of beauty consultants and representatives empowered.
RAZVAN DIRATIAN vows to ensure that the world’s leading direct-selling company continues to enjoy its leading position in the country amid stiff competition.
“It’s an exciting time for Avon. We’re a healthy and stable business, celebrating our 41st year in the Philippines as we continue to carry on our legacy of empowering women,” says Razvan.
This is expressed in Avon’s global Stand4Her campaign, an initiative to help women in three ways: giving them a positive, inclusive beauty democracy, fighting for the causes they believe in, and providing them with sustainable earning opportunities.
A Romanian who became General Manager of Avon Philippines in August 2017, Razvan brought over a wealth of experience and expertise from his eight-year stint as the leader of Avon Romania and Moldova.
Razvan’s leadership saw Avon Romania achieving 18 quarters of consecutive growth and innovation through a flexible, responsive and Representative-focused approach and management strategy. He enabled Avon Representatives in Romania to conveniently order products anytime and any way they want, which led to a 95 percent increase in Representative satisfaction rate, as well as the highest Representative count in five years.
In the Philippines, Avon is enjoying a leading position. It has 100 percent brand awareness among Filipinos, and according to the 2018 Euromonitor report, can reach far-flung provinces, beating even the expanding reach of shopping centers and online retailing.
Avon is No. 1 in the make-up, fragrance, lotion, and intimate apparel direct selling product categories.
“Our consistently high-performance plays into how Avon can provide opportunities where our sales force can earn up to 50 percent,” says Razvan.
“I’m very pleased to say that Avon Philippines remains one of the top Avon markets worldwide,” says Razvan.
Championing beauty for a purpose, Avon advocates important issues affecting Filipinas, and activates initiatives that produce results.
Avon wants to impact women in every phase of their lives. Whether they’re teenagers or older adults, Avon always has what they need. They cater to all personal care needs from apparel, personal care, accessories, and other products not just for women but also for the entire family as well.
One of the most exciting things Avon has seen recently is the rise of digital as a source for information, which is why the direct-selling enterprise is also putting even more focus in developing its digital capabilities.
Globally, Avon has been steadily executing its “Open Up Avon” plan, our long-term strategy to reboot direct selling, modernize the brand, leverage strategic breakouts and begin a cultural transformation.
“But Our Reps are still at the core and the focus of our business, as we continue to see that personal connections are incredibly essential to our customers,” says Razvan.
Razvan has acknowledged that digital channels can actually help expand Reps’ reach and empower them to do their jobs better. As such, Avon has developed initiatives to help Reps reach more clients.
The Avon Easy program lets them order straight from their phones or computers, saving them valuable time and effort, and have their orders delivered to their homes through LBC. The Avon On app is where they receive product photos to use for sales, avail of the latest promo offers, and get important updates from Avon.
According to Razvan, social media is a tool that presents more opportunities for success. Around the Philippines, Reps are starting to use social media to market their products more publicly, converse with clients, and above all, maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“This combination of efficiency, productivity, and flexibility is what I believe will sustain Avon in the years to come,” he adds.
Even though, Avon is adapting a digital mindset, they are not giving up the direct marketing network they do with its committed representatives because that is what Avon has been known for. Avon has more than 5 million independent representatives all over the world.
Avon is therefore addressing this gap by doing what it does best: offering customers the services of its committed Representatives. In fact, recruiting and retention remain its key areas of focus.
“We believe that maintaining a healthy and happy Representative base is crucial to driving our future growth. Our Reps have brought us to where we are today, and we intend to keep nurturing and empowering them,” adds Razvan.
Every year, Avon Reps gather from all over the Philippines for the National Sales Convention where they recognize the top sellers.
“This is also the main platform where we present the new products that we can offer our customers, as well as provide them with the latest selling tools that help our Filipino Reps earn more and do business more effectively and efficiently,” says Razvan.
A big part of empowering and nurturing its Representatives includes providing them and their families opportunities to continue to pursue their education through the scholarship programs they can be eligible for.
“We’re gaining better understanding of the different characteristics, preferences and behaviors of our different representatives and then designing targeted training, tools and supports aligned to Her goals and Her needs. The training/s will fuel Representatives’ earnings power and their enjoyment at being part of the Avon community,” says Razvan.
“We also maintain a drive towards growth by encouraging team spirit. In the Avon offices, a bell rings every time we hit our goals. This is a simple thing, but it allows us to function as a team, one where one person’s success also stands as everyone else’s.”
“Competition has been increasing, but we are happy because it also means that the industry wherein Avon is a pioneer is also thriving,” says Razvan.
Avon is a company with a legacy of over 130 years of beauty product development and of empowering women. “Our purpose is to help women become beauty entrepreneurs. Millions of independent Representatives across the world sell iconic Avon brands such as Avon Color and ANEW through their social networks, building their own beauty businesses on a full- or part-time basis,” adds Razvan.
With several brands have been introduced in the market including the very famous Korean brands, Razvan said they do pay attention to trends, but stressed they only consider the best that fit its identity.
Instead of bucking the trend, Avon Philippines has introduced Korean products developed in partnership with Korean innovation experts Bonne, a leading developer and manufacturer of luxury beauty, to address consumer interest.
Avon continues to provide our Filipino customers with on-trend beauty products such as The Perfectly Matte Nude lip palette that flatters a broader range of skin tones and its first K-beauty collection of masks and hand creams.
Still, most of its high performing categories locally are still the company’s signature products. “We’ve remained the dominant market leader in make-up, fragrance, intimate apparel, and other relevant categories,” says Razvan.
To cope with other very competitive networking brands, Avon is delivering more innovation than ever, faster. “Our products have a depth and breadth of quality and science that rivals anything else on the market, at a more accessible price. And I would say that no other company perhaps creates as much opportunity for women as Avon does,” says Razvan.
They have new brochures rolling out every 2 weeks to 1 month maximum, and the brand is playing in all cosmetics categories.
Competition is not just coming from the new global brands, but also how the fast-paced digital technology has added another layer to the competition. It is becoming more and more important, not just as a source of information but also as a sales channel. Today, every brand is compelled to respond to trends and innovate as quickly as possible.
“That’s why we are making some moves towards digital while keeping Avon’s human component at the center. People enjoy the ease and accessibility of online shopping, but they also prefer personalized service over automated service,” says Razvan.
According to Razvan, he came to Avon 20 years ago by coincidence. He started as a junior sales analyst of the world’s most famous direct selling company. From the beginning, he already felt a great fit between him and the company values.
“More than what this company had and is having amazing good people, a very good and creative working atmosphere and I found the same thing in all the countries I saw,” he adds.
As for Avon Philippines, it has been an extraordinary business. “All the people in the field and in the head office are extremely committed, open-hearted and passionate about driving performance,” he adds.
He finds working in the Philippines inspiring with so many strong, brave women. He was touched by the stories of their everyday lives and needs.
“I’m truly moved by how the women around me, from the Reps to my colleagues, work hard not just for themselves but for others as well. It is true that when a woman enjoys individual success, she uses it to empower the community around her. This is a powerful attitude, one that I believe we should all have,” he adds.
In a direct selling organization, Razvan stressed the need to work with and within the team. It is important, he said, to have a very collaborative environment where everyone can express their ideas, creativity and to debate about solution.
“But I am very direct, I appreciate a straight forward communication and also I like to look towards solutions. I am encouraging people to assume responsibility and to take actions. For me, courage and initiative are the key drivers for success and I am honored to work with a team that is always open for solutions, for growth and for improving the status quo,” says Razvan.
As a leader, Razvan looks up to two persons who inspire him every day: Richard Branson and Elon Musk.
“I consider them the most innovative entrepreneurs in the last 20, maybe 30 years and they managed to build strong businesses in multiple areas. I am encouraged by them to challenge everything, to start each day like Day 1 and to look always to new things, new paths, some impossible that could become possible,” he adds. He himself has a lot of learning and more to learn from. In his entire career, he learned that people are the most important “asset” for an organization because they are building and leading the culture.
He also learned that a business leader must think mostly on the future and build 2-3 scenarios at the same time. “No one can tell you about the future, but the only thing that you can do is to be prepared. The surprise element is always something that will appear, and this is actually a useful thing as you need to be always fit and prepared to drive the organization to the next level,” says Razvan.
When things get rough, Razvan is not one who gets easily ruffled rather he continues to push for delivering a long-term strategy. But he would look for quick or actual wins in order to drive better performance on short terms.
“Then, I would disconnect personally to allow me to have thinking time, spend more time on preparation and prioritization rather than ad-hoc actions,” he adds.
Many beauty brands have come and go, but Razvan is confident Avon will still be one of the best-known brands in the Philippines and globally in the future given its strong representative base and the company’s unwavering faith in their selling power. With its new digital mindset, Avon reps can provide the needs of our customers through all channels.
The Philippines is one of Avon’s eight innovative hubs across the globe. The strongest categories in the market—aside from beauty, are personal care especially the skin whitening products such as lotions and deodorants, the intimate apparel collections known for offering a wide range of sizes and designs without compromising comfort, and the fragrance lines that allow customers to express themselves in a different way.
Razvan also vowed that Avon will continue to support women through its advocacies such as its promise to help end violence against women and girls, and its crusade against breast cancer.
Avon has been assisting 4 NGOs that run help lines for victims of violence and programs that empower and support them to live safe and healthy lives. It has also brought back its signature Run & Walk event for its breast cancer crusade.
As the leader of Avon Philippines, he believes that the heart of the business lies in their Representatives’ contribution and takes pride in the highly spirited and talented Philippines team.
“Avon has a rich history of making dreams come true, and empowering women to start their own business. I’m proud to be part of that and help pave the way for the company and our Representatives’ future,” concludes Razvan.