Anita Roddick sets the bar very high

by Anjali Gupta

“Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking.”

– Words of Anita Roddick, founder The Body Shop, who passed away this week at age of 64.

A true pioneer, who believed in the green revolution long before it was even considered something worth talking about. I was urged to read more about her by my mom, who has been practising vermiculture at home for the past 8 years and never misses an opportunity to show me that business need not be disconnected from the environment.

Anita started the Body Shop on a simple value – “Nothing the Body Shop sells pretends to do anything other than it says. Moisturizers moisturize, fresheners freshen and cleansers cleanse.” Drawing inspiration from her travels to Tahiti, Australia and South Africa, where she saw women rubbing their bodies with cocoa butter, and washing their hair with mud and the best part – it all worked and did not require the product to be tested on animals, a value that the Body Shop stands by to this day.

I always find it fascinating to learn what prompts people to take on entrepreneurship. In Anita Roddick’s case, the answer is as unthinkable as the Body Shop story that follows it. One fine day her husband announced that he wanted to fulfill his dream of traveling on horseback from Buenos Aires to New York, a feat that would take a couple of years, so Anita took out a small loan and opened her first Body Shop in 1976. Later, it was he who helped her execute her dreams and expand the Body Shop to 50 countries in 15 years.

Anita stuck to her principles. She defied retail conventions and applied lessons learnt from her mother during the Second World War. For example, why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? Reuse, refill and recycle everything.

And what’s the story behind the green color that has become synonymous with everything the Body Shop does“the only colour that we could find to cover the damp, mouldy walls of my first shop.” After opening the second shop within 6 months of the first, her husband came up with the idea of self-financing more stores through franchising. And, the expansion continues. The Body Shop is now in India thanks to their tie-up with master franchisee Planet Retail Pvt. Ltd. The company plans to open 50 stores over the next three years.

Her’s is a story that is beyond just “how it happened”. Most business leaders are remembered for their innovation or wealth creation abilities. Anita is one of the few who built a business on a value that is so close to heart. It questions our approach to living on this planet and what constitutes fair use of its resources. She sets the bar very high for all of us. Very few businesses would score on all these dimensions.

– Anjali