Cambodian start-up revamps hair business

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Promotion picture for Arjuni’s hair extensions

Backed by seed capital from a Japanese investment fund, Phnom Penh-based Arjuni Ltd has set up a buzzing e-commerce business selling natural hair extensions to worldwide customers. Now the innovative enterprise is grooming customers in the US.

Founded in 2009 by Afro-American Janice Wilson, Arjuni International Ltd is an example what entrepreneurial spirit can achieve in a developing country such as Cambodia. Wilson, originally a lawyer from Wisconsin, US, came to Cambodia on vacation in 2008 and soon began thinking of starting up a business there. She hit on an idea when she met a group of unemployed sewers and also saw that there was a rife trade of natural hair sold by Cambodian women to Chinese merchants.

She set up an online company banking on the demand for hair extensions mainly among Afro-American customers in Europe and the US, bought up natural hair from Cambodian women all over the country, had it sewn together to extension strands in her shop, and started selling it directly on the internet via credit card payment and DHL shipping, avoiding the wholesale trade over China.

Arjuni founder Janice WIlson

As of today, Arjuni employs 78 people and uses social media such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to build up a loyal customer base. The hair is sold by weigth (ounces), and prices for a full extension package can reach up to $650. Arjuni’s slogan ‘The world’s purest human hair’ refers to ‘virgin hair collected from women which has not been subjected to any artificial processes that permanently change its inherent physical qualities.’ Arjuni says that its hair is ‘never composed of fallen hair, and the cleaning and manufacturing is done mainly with organic hair treatment products,’ thus giving it a significant advantage over chemically treated hair extensions from China and India, countries that dominate the global hair extension business with a total annual revenue of about $250 million.

On March 31 and April 1 this year, Arjuni has launched its first sales event in Atlanta, US, under the name of ‘Halo’, which was supposed to be the first of a series of similar events in target markets and will continue to other cities, the company announced. According to reviews of the event, the Cambodian hair has reportedly become a ‘celebrity secret’.

Arjuni’s hair factory in Phnom Penh

95 per cent of Arjuni’s employees are Cambodian women, many of them orphans, victims of human trafficking or sex trade. By eliminating transactions by intermediary organisations such as religious groups, and purchasing hair directly from the women themselves, Arjuni says it helps promote the empowerment of Cambodian women. The company also pledges to donate ten per cent of its profit to organisations that endeavor to reduce human trafficking and prostitution.

The investor behind Arjuni is Tokyo-based Arun LLC, a fund specialised on social investment in developing countries, with a current focus on supporting the business efforts of Cambodian social entrepreneurs. Additional start-up support for Arjuni came from the Cambodian Export Market Access Fund, which is financed by the World Bank.

Arun LLC runs two other entrepreneurial investments in Cambodia. One is Sahakreas CEDAC, which focuses on developing distribution channels for natural agricultural products from 900 farming assocations in Cambodia. The other one is Perfexcom, a social enterprise working to improve employment through IT by offering computer training and English language courses for young people in poverty stricken villages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Promotion picture for Arjuni’s hair extensions

Backed by seed capital from a Japanese investment fund, Phnom Penh-based Arjuni Ltd has set up a buzzing e-commerce business selling natural hair extensions to worldwide customers. Now the innovative enterprise is grooming customers in the US.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Promotion picture for Arjuni’s hair extensions

Backed by seed capital from a Japanese investment fund, Phnom Penh-based Arjuni Ltd has set up a buzzing e-commerce business selling natural hair extensions to worldwide customers. Now the innovative enterprise is grooming customers in the US.

Founded in 2009 by Afro-American Janice Wilson, Arjuni International Ltd is an example what entrepreneurial spirit can achieve in a developing country such as Cambodia. Wilson, originally a lawyer from Wisconsin, US, came to Cambodia on vacation in 2008 and soon began thinking of starting up a business there. She hit on an idea when she met a group of unemployed sewers and also saw that there was a rife trade of natural hair sold by Cambodian women to Chinese merchants.

She set up an online company banking on the demand for hair extensions mainly among Afro-American customers in Europe and the US, bought up natural hair from Cambodian women all over the country, had it sewn together to extension strands in her shop, and started selling it directly on the internet via credit card payment and DHL shipping, avoiding the wholesale trade over China.

Arjuni founder Janice WIlson

As of today, Arjuni employs 78 people and uses social media such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to build up a loyal customer base. The hair is sold by weigth (ounces), and prices for a full extension package can reach up to $650. Arjuni’s slogan ‘The world’s purest human hair’ refers to ‘virgin hair collected from women which has not been subjected to any artificial processes that permanently change its inherent physical qualities.’ Arjuni says that its hair is ‘never composed of fallen hair, and the cleaning and manufacturing is done mainly with organic hair treatment products,’ thus giving it a significant advantage over chemically treated hair extensions from China and India, countries that dominate the global hair extension business with a total annual revenue of about $250 million.

On March 31 and April 1 this year, Arjuni has launched its first sales event in Atlanta, US, under the name of ‘Halo’, which was supposed to be the first of a series of similar events in target markets and will continue to other cities, the company announced. According to reviews of the event, the Cambodian hair has reportedly become a ‘celebrity secret’.

Arjuni’s hair factory in Phnom Penh

95 per cent of Arjuni’s employees are Cambodian women, many of them orphans, victims of human trafficking or sex trade. By eliminating transactions by intermediary organisations such as religious groups, and purchasing hair directly from the women themselves, Arjuni says it helps promote the empowerment of Cambodian women. The company also pledges to donate ten per cent of its profit to organisations that endeavor to reduce human trafficking and prostitution.

The investor behind Arjuni is Tokyo-based Arun LLC, a fund specialised on social investment in developing countries, with a current focus on supporting the business efforts of Cambodian social entrepreneurs. Additional start-up support for Arjuni came from the Cambodian Export Market Access Fund, which is financed by the World Bank.

Arun LLC runs two other entrepreneurial investments in Cambodia. One is Sahakreas CEDAC, which focuses on developing distribution channels for natural agricultural products from 900 farming assocations in Cambodia. The other one is Perfexcom, a social enterprise working to improve employment through IT by offering computer training and English language courses for young people in poverty stricken villages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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