“When life hands you lemons…” – Salil Dhingra, Founder of the Great Africa Hair Company (GAHC)

“When life hands you lemons...” – Salil Dhingra, Founder of the Great Africa Hair Company (GAHC)

Written by Staff Writer


By Monica Steyn


A great deal of lip service has been paid, by many, over the past 18 months, but there are a precious few who are delivering on what are otherwise merely empty words.

Pandemic aside, South African entrepreneurial investment, in a country so many of us believe in, is alive and well, and one company – Great Africa Hair Company (GAHC), along with its founder, Salil Dhingra is putting its money where its mouth is.


Talk is cheap, but the fundamental investment is not

GAHC’s investment is, unapologetically, FMCG- (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) focused. “We do and want to continue to play in the consumer space,” Salil shares. “The consumer is there to stay and each one has a necessity that needs to be serviced. Whether that’s to cleanse, beautify or eat, that’s where we’re focused to deliver products that serve what our basic needs are.”

If history has taught us anything, it’s that when the market is down, or flat, the luxury goods market is the one that’s hardest hit. “Where our focus lies is where the average consumer lives,” Salil adds. “There is a fundamental need to feel and look good, regardless of it all.”

Whether you reference The Great Depression or otherwise, during trying times, base needs remain critically important, a place GAHC has legitimately claimed and championed over the past two years, thanks to its range of relevantly beneficial product lines. “During The Great American Depression, hair care/Beauty product sales boomed, if only because people were sitting at home, with little else to do, so self-care was quintessential in lifting morale during that very challenging time,” Salil proposes. “Sadly, our current reality has seen that trend emerge again, and we continue to deliver the products and pampering needed to navigate these no less challenging times.” 


Onward and upward

Salil’s aim, now, is to further grow an already sustainable business and entrench it within the broader FMCG space. “Our core team all come from the fast-moving consumer goods space, so it makes sense for us to deliver in a sector where we’re specialists,” Salil points out. “We began our journey in hair care, and then swiftly responded, in the face of the pandemic, by delivering an extensive and growing range of quality, cost-conscious sanitiser-based product ranges. Health and hygiene were a logical next step, all of which is performing well. Skincare is another area we’re very proud of delivering in, and now we’re moving into the confectionery space, yet another exciting growth area for the business.”

With the broader strategy to own all four majors of the FMCG verticals (haircare, personal care, skincare, and food), GAHC is now close to realising that intent. “That said, we’re not going into commoditised FMCG,” Salil points out. “Our focus is rather on delivering premium FMCG lines which, by all accounts, is a tactic that’s already serving us well. Each product line is our baby, and we treat each with the respect it deserves.” 


 Working for the collective good

Another area where Salil and his team are effecting positive change is in the business’ support of new and smaller brands by assisting each to gain access and shelf space in retailers they otherwise would struggle to achieve, independently. 

R&D is at the very centre of everything GAHC does. “We look at the market, formal and informal, and then approach each to grow their reach,” Salil explains. “As much as we are there to learn from the local market, our biggest asset is our international exposure, all of which serves what we take to market here. Our innovation strategies are internationally informed, to the collective good. What we do differently is approach each line from a price and quality perspective. The more competitive that is, the more likely it is to land.”

“We act as a platform to help launch a wide variety of non-competing product lines by giving each business access and use of our logistics network, our shared IP, and by allowing us to forge relationships for each, under the umbrella of GAHC,” Salil continues. “We call it the value chain of doing business. One that is highly complex and extremely convoluted,” Salil adds. “Understanding and being able to respond to it is something we’re adept at, and that’s the value we bring in supporting the brands we look to partner with, and in so doing having each one succeed.”

From financing, pricing, and product selection, GAHC is proudly South African and actively supports a network that extends the length and breadth of the country. “For us, the customer is The BOSS, and we look to deliver what they want, at the right price, in the appropriate packaging that serves their needs,” Salil asserts. “To keep all stakeholders happy, we are involved in the entire product journey, from the manufacturing right through to mechanising and after-sales support. The smarter we work, the greater the savings, all of which we remain committed to passing on to the consumer.”


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade

What’s most remarkable, from an economic perspective, is the fact that GAHC has not only started and built a business at the most trying of times, but it’s also further empowered and continues to onboard a growing team of specialists. “In February 2020, we started with a mere three employees,” Salil recalls. “18 months in, we have around 20 people directly involved in the company. That said, we noticed the vast amounts of spare capacity in South Africa, and with the pandemic that’s unfortunately grown. To collectively support ourselves and our suppliers, we remain invested in utilising existing networks, that in turn support ours. What that means, in numbers, around 2000 South Africans are in work because of the products we produce and deliver.”


Exciting times ahead

The future looks bright, all be it dark in so many other ways. The power of partnership could not ring louder, but the investment GAHC continues to make cannot be ignored. Their ongoing investment should not be denied. GAHC is unapologetically South African, paying dues across a plethora of everyday realities in delivering products everyday people not only need but equally love for its investment in the greater good.




*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.

For enquiries, regarding being profiled or showcased in the next edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication, please contact National Project Manager, Emlyn Dunn: 

Telephone: 086 000 9590 |  Mobile: 072 126 3962 |  e-Mail: [email protected]



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