By: Kiana A. Wilburg
The Luxury Personal Care Brand, the Rupununi Essence, is the first of its kind to be launched and produced in Guyana since the much venerated Limacol brand. Since its debut on May 9 at GuyExpo 2016, the Rupununi Essence has received nothing but rave reviews.
The personal care products are not only exceptional but the packaging is exquisite and world class and the business model embraces sustainable community development and conservation at its core.
Kaieteur News recently caught up with Professor Suresh Narine, Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), who provided an insight into this vertically integrated and socially conscious initiative.
Professor Narine explained that for more than 7,000 years, the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana have known and used botanicals native to Guyana as medicines, personal care substances, for spiritual sustenance and nutrition.
Dr. Narine said that the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, working in collaboration with the Ministries of Social Cohesion and Indigenous Peoples Affairs, is embarking on collaborative projects with indigenous peoples across Guyana to secure indigenous intellectual property, develop products from this intellectual property and business models which are rooted in environmental sustainability and community development.
This process, he said, endorses the ownership of this knowledge by the indigenous peoples of Guyana, which it seeks to ensure through patents, trademarks, copyrights, business models and branding.
Dr. Narine intimated that the Rupununi Essence is the first brand to be developed, this time in collaboration with the Macushi Research Unit (MRU) and the Medicine From Trees (MFT) organizations, which are part of the North Rupununi District Development Board.
He said that IAST worked with the MRU to develop solid and liquid facial cleansers, using all natural organic ingredients: coconut oil, lemongrass essential oil and oil from the crabwood tree.
The products were produced under supervision by the IAST. They will continue to be produced at the IAST by the MRU, whilst a modern production facility is being planned for the Bina Hill, Annai location in the North Rupununi.
According to Professor Narine, the product meets all the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards, utilizing the state of the art materials testing laboratory at the IAST.
Professor Narine explained that in three to four months, a facial scrub will be introduced to the line followed by hand creams, face creams, personal hand sanitizers, etc.
He said that the intention is to develop a brand following, and provide the customers with a full range of personal care products. The brand will continue to have at its core indigenous knowledge, all natural ingredients and socially conscious community development.
Dr. Narine intimated that the products have taken off with alacrity. He said that within four days of the launch of the Rupununi Essence, the MRU had recorded sales of more than $650,000 and that demand has continued to increase at an exponential rate.
Like all products which begin from zero presence and experiences explosive demand, Narine believes that the biggest challenge will be to keep up with demand and ensure that quality is not compromised.
He did indicate that because of the unexpectedly high demand, there will be a temporary shortage of the product before the end of May, but orders are being taken and will be satisfied.
All sales of the product go back to the MRU, MFT and NRDDB, explained Professor Narine.
“Unlike many cosmetic ventures, which places profit in the hands of managers, administrators, product developers and ‘middle men,’ 100 percent of the proceeds from this product go back to the Macushi People,” Professor Narine explained.
He said that ownership of the product, the trademark; the branding instruments, the website, the promotional video and all other instruments of the business belong to the MRU, MFT and the NRDDB.
Furthermore, the essential ingredient, the crab wood oil, which comes from the pods of the crab wood tree, means that there is now a greater incentive to avoid logging in areas where the crab wood tree grows.
Professor Narine took extreme care to mention that this project came out of the efforts of many people over the years. Among these, prominently featured are people like Annette Arjoon-Martins, Vanda Radzik, Minister of the Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock, the IAST staff, especially those who were involved in this project, and of course the MRU, MFT and NRDDB.
The scientist took care to also give credit to the Macushis and all other Indigenous groups, who have contributed to the knowledge about crab wood oil and its utilization.
For now, the product is available at special events, such as the Guyana Fashion Week and at other Jubilee Celebration Events, or by calling the IAST at 222 4214. Plans are underway to have outlets at the major hotels and airports, and there is also a website at www.rupununiessence.gy and face book, Instagram and Twitter presences. The IAST/MRU, MFT, NRDDB are also in discussions with various North American partners who are interested in carrying the products in Canada and the United States.
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