Entrepreneur-cum-researcher makes a mark in biotech world


DR Fauziah Desa wears many hats – a company founder, chief executive, entrepreneur and research pharmacologist. And, she is good at it.  

Fauziah founded Fyto Elegance Sdn Bhd, a biotech company in 2000.  

Fyto went into full swing just after two years of operations when Fauziah managed to convince Malaysia Venture Capital Ma- nagement (Mavcap) last January to invest RM500,000 or 42.9% equity stake in her company. 

That speaks volumes for a small start-up in the biotech industry as Fyto was the first local biotech company that received funding from Mavcap.  

The idea of starting Fyto came when Fauziah, as a graduate student in Britain, did a research study and project on aromatherapy.  

Dr Fauziah Desa

“I started to look at the perfume industry in Malaysia. I found out that perfume manufacturing is not prevalent among Malaysians compared with Westerners.  

“Besides, the established brands in the market are usually imported from France and America. Aromatherapy is a new concept and I thought it has a fair chance to start with, as a trend.  

“The locals love aromatherapy, however, there is no one prominent local brand around. Very few are taking it seriously. There is no research and development on aromatherapy. The existing ones are in the cottage industry. So I started to look into what is important in oils,” she explained.  

Fauziah discovered that the locals preferred floral and herbal-based oils and continued to improve and improvise her products to suit local tastes.  

To date, she has five commercial products in the market, borne out of her research efforts at a laboratory in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.  

Her foray into the business world was not a bed of roses, as it may seem. It was smooth going for her when she was researching and developing aromatherapy products. However, she took almost a year to ensure that the marketing and business operations were up and running well. 

“In my case, it was having the confidence to market my products. I was not sure how my products would be accepted in the market,” Fauziah told StarBiz during a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.  

She started off by participating in exhibitions to gauge responses and feedback from visitors before deciding to take the plunge. 

In January, Fauziah aggressively launched her marketing activities which, included advertisements and promotions in local women and health magazines.  

“Even without the advertisements and promotions, there were some sales but we wanted the products to move more rapidly,” she said.  

Fyto products are now available in 40 pharmacy outlets, including selected Watson and Prima Health pharmacies in the Klang Valley.  

About two weeks ago, Fauziah sealed deals with Watson and Apex pharmacies, which would certainly increase visibility of her products in the city.  

Watson agreed to carry her product range in 33 of its outlets across the Klang Valley while Apex would commit eight outlets.  

Monthly production at her Johor manufacturing plant is estimated at RM10,000 in terms of product value per month.  

However, she will increase her production according to market demand.  

Her next mission is to market a range of massage oils for use at spas and beauty centres. She is now researching the suitability of local oils for three proposed formulations for her new spa line, which she estimates would see the daylight at the end of this year.  

In addition, there are plans for Fyto to be an aromatherapy “original equipment manufacturer” for companies.  

She calls it “blend formulated” and is actively campaigning for tenders from interested companies, a project for which she expects to see concrete results by 2004.  

Inspired by the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, the soft-spoken Fauziah has made a significant mark in the infant local biotech industry. 

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