Andrey Trubnikov: ''They told me I was an idiot. After that, I started my own company''
The founder and ideologist of the brands Natura Siberica, Recipes of Grandmother Agafia and Organic Shop about how to make the world fall in love with Russian cosmetics
Andrey Trubnikov's products based on natural ingredients are presented in more than 60 countries: from Argentina to Australia. His popular Natura Siberica, produced in the Moscow region, is sold in London's Harrods and Paris' Monoprix. Andrey Trubnikov, the director general and main owner of the company Pervoe Reshenie, which owns the brands Recipes of Grandmother Agafia, Natura Siberica and Organic Shop, told about the creation of Russian make-up, organic farms for herb growing, the principles of the cosmetics market giant L'oreal and many other things in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
The peculiarity of entering the world market
Mr. Trubnikov, you have announced the plans to launch decorative cosmetics on the market. How close is the company being to this?
The concept is ready, we just need money for it. Now I have other projects where I would invest — equipment, for example. So, I keep putting it off, but someday I will have to do it. I will produce everything in Italy and France. I do not want to make another cosmetics here, because I do not want to enter the segment of cheap make-up. I believe that the niche of Russian luxury make-up is vacant. Yes, there is luxury Dior, Chanel… But there is no Russian — all of them are either in the middle or niche category. No one has a brand that could launch a serious luxury make-up. I doubt that Chistaya Liniya could do that. I believe that the make-up should be of high quality and expensive. But, of course, I will not be positioned at the price level of Dior and Chanel.
How much will it cost you to launch this production?
About $3 million.
Is the fact that it will be Russian make-up but produced abroad connected with raw materials?
If the package says ''made in France'' or ''made in Italy'', there will be more consumer trust when entering the world market. But when I gain a foothold in the market, of course, I will establish the production in Russia, but I will still bring raw materials from there. The Russian make-up will be also added with Siberian extracts, which I, in my turn, will take to France and Italy. So it will be the make-up with treatment.
What products will the line have?
Everything. I want to release the whole line. About 800 positions. Everything is already developed, except design.
What meaning is the design going to have?
I think that the make-up is closely connected with sex. A woman through the use of a make-up transmits hidden sexual signals to men. She makes up her eyes in a certain way, wears red lipstick or does not weat it at all and thus transmits another signal. I think that my make-up should go in this direction. I want to create the image of the woman-tigress. Her man is a Siberian tiger, but she's a tigress, for example. Of course, I do not want to put a tigress in the photo, but I want to create such an image. The woman as the mistress of men – there is no such make-up yet. Our designer in England will be able to do it.
Why did you choose particularly this image of the woman?
In fact, every woman is a mistress of men covertly. If you look at other make-ups, for example Urban Decay, they make the image of a woman a little depraved, too emancipated. But we want to convey the image of an unattainable women playing on hidden sexual signals. Urban Decay shows that a woman is easily attainable. This image has become very popular. Make-up is a philosophy. The main thing is to find the niche and to send to women, users of this make-up, a corresponding message.
Premium Savon de Siberia and youth Siberian Helicopter
What projects are your priority today?
For example, I am working on the premium product Savon de Siberia. There is a very famous and talented architect-designer, Anastasia Panibratova. Probably one of the best architects in Russia. I hope to make the design of first corners, and then shops with her. It is a serious project. We are working a lot on illustrations. It will be a completely different thing, but within the framework of Natura Siberica. Plus, the youth line Siberian Helicopter, which I can't grasp. I have been working on it for 1,5 years. It will be called Siberian Helicopter. A very controversial project. Many people keep telling me, ''Women will not buy your helicopter, because it is more suitable for men. Let's change the name and everything.''
But you don't agree with them… Why is this helicopter important, what do you mean by that?
The philosophy is that it is the helicopter of freedom that flies around the world and knows no boundaries, nationalities, gender. It looks for places where medicinal herbs grow and there are violations of the use of natural resources… By the end of the year, perhaps, we will release something.
What is the estimated price of this launch?
About $2-3 million.
''...for political reasons, they cannot open an account for me''
What is the share of Natura Siberica in the Russian market of organic cosmetics?
I think it's 90%. There is almost no certified organic cosmetics. There are Weleda, Dr. Hauschka, Lavera – that's it. The others have no documents confirming that they have organics. I also can write that the entire Grandmother Agafia is organic. But it wouldn't be true.
What is your geography of distribution?
We have 60 countries for export. There is also a manufacturing plant in Estonia. We have been given the award — the best export company in Estonia.
To what countries is the export volume higher?
Most of the products go to Spain and Greece. I was amazed.
What is the sales volume in Russia?
9 billion rubles, and abroad — $5 million a year. A little, but we're growing very fast.
What dynamics do you expect this year?
Probably, we will grow twofold. Last year, there was a fourfold increase.
Does the production in Estonia helps you in the story with sanctions?
Yes, it is good that we opened a company in Estonia. Nobody knows what would have been. Now the US are going to impose some additional sanctions and generally prohibit the sale of cosmetics. There will be only China in the market.
The US can ban the import of raw materials as well, then the production will stop. But it can also be a bank ban or something like that. For example, I was denied a bank account in the US. I wanted to produce Natura Siberica there. I came up with the slogan: ''Born in Siberia, made in USA''. I had already agreed with a cosmetics company in Los Angeles that they would produce me Natura Siberica and I would enter the market with own products, but made in the United States. I wanted to certify the extracts at the US Department of agriculture so that I could import them to the US from Russia. I was going to open a store in New York and also set up online sales there. Well, I registered the company and went to open an account. They considered my application for eight months. I went to the United States, they talked to me, asked how many jobs they would get and so on. Then they sent the answer that for political reasons they to me couldn't open an account for me. It's a nonsense, to be honest. I'm just a cosmetics manufacturer. Not some spy, I have nothing to do with the Kremlin. They've gone crazy, really.
When I was interviewed by New York Times, I told them that I had not been hired by Procter & Gamble. Either they misheard, or my English was so bad — they mixed up P&G with KGB and wrote that I didn't get a job in the KGB and therefore I established my business.
Why did you want to get a job at Procter & Gamble?
When I went bankrupt because of the crisis in 1998, I began to look for a job. But I wasn't hired because I was stupid, because I have a low IQ like Mike Tyson does.
What's Mike Tyson's IQ?
Eighty-two, if I am not mistaken. The normal level is 110. I was given to solve 60 problems, I did not understand anything there. For example, it was necessary to answer the question of how herring is different from whale. I wrote that herring is salty and whale is not. I was told that I was an idiot and could only apply for a job as a maintenance staff. After that, I started my own company.
How are your organic farms developed? Is it still land in Khakassia, Estonia, Sakhalin and Kamchatka?
And the Kuril Islands. Besides, in Tuva I want to open the biggest in Europe or even in the world Tuvan sea sea-buckthorn farm. To plant a thousand trees there and collect sea buckthorn for cosmetics. The largest farm on 33 hectares is located in Khakassia. Herbs are grown there.
''I want to make Natura Siberica a global brand''
You left the post of director general at the end of last year, commenting that, having entered the international market, you needed to establish completely different processes. What did you mean by that?
I'm already back. I realized that the whole company is based on creativity. When you use such methods like in transnational corporations, it does not work out. On the contrary, it damages the company. So I had to go back, because people don't understand what creativity is. They believe that if you implement management rules, establish business processes, everything will work out by itself. People do not know how to negotiate, but everything is based on personal contacts. Certain processes, of course, were introduced, and this yielded certain results. But the problem of our company is that creativity cannot be fully integrated into the system. It is unpredictable. Today you have inspiration, but tomorrow you may not have it. We cannot plan: let's come up with a new Natura Siberica by this date, and by 8 February we must come up with a new Grandmother Agafia. It's all spontaneous, you can't plan it. You're inventing a new Grandmother Agafia, but doesn't work out. Planning is out of the question here.
It is possible to plan in the framework of L'Oreal, but even then they do not succeed. Look at Body Shop. The founder passed away, and what happened to this brand? It has become dead and brings only losses. L'Oreal lost a billion dollars on it. In general, L'Oreal buys small creative companies, where the founders work. Then it integrates them into their scheme and after, like a spider, sits on the web and pulls the strings. Without creative companies like Kiehl's, L'Oreal cannot exist because it is completely devoid of creativity, it is simply a scheme. At the same time, this scheme cannot be transferred to a creative company. Creative company should be creative.
What annual revenue was last year?
12 billion rubles for the whole group of companies.
How much do you estimate your business today?
Probably $300 million.
Are there offers?
Yes, all the time.
But you're not interested?
I want to make Natura Siberica a global brand. It is my dream. Why can't we make a new global brand?! Not as structured as Yves Rocher or L'Occitane, but different — more creative but global brand.
You are going to create your YouTube channel, what will it be about?
It will be within the framework of Planeta Organica brand. For example, in Mozambique there grows lavender. We go there with a team of bloggers, journalists and our staff, install an extractor, collect lavender, make extracts and then tell the locals: here, you guys, you make extracts for Planeta Organica. So we go to all countries and install reactors. For example, in Korea, India, Patagonia, Alaska… A team comes, installs everything, shows something interesting about nature — this kind of video blog I want.