Tuesday, September 11

Tribute to Anita Roddick, a pioneer, a fighter...

Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, a UK-based business empire spanning over 2100 shops serving more than 77 million customers in 51 different markets speaking 25 different languages, which she had sold to L'Oreal last year, has died yesterday evening (GMT) at the age of 64 after suffering a major brain hemorrhage. Her business empire started and grew all while she was developing Hepatitis C contracted from a blood supply during giving birth of her youngest daughter in 1971.

I first visited a Body Shop in 1993, and a year later, I started hearing about her success stories following the Annual Business Leadership award conferred to her by my alma mater, the University of Michigan. I personally haven't been a loyal patron to any of the Body Shops, but I do know how the shops excite many of my female friends all these years -- We even have a few of Body Shops here in Malaysia since the setup of its franchise system as early as 2003 - as many as ten shops in Kuala Lumpur vicinity alone.

According to Anita's biographies, her humble start in with the Body Shop over three decades ago was with a single shop in Brighton, Sussex in 1976 for survival of herself and two daughters. Six month later, by the time of opening of Body Shop's second store, she and her husband, Gordon started employing franchise* strategy to self-finance many more shops. After eight years, the couple took the company public, a move she had expressed regret for, due to reduction of her control of the company.

But such a success gave her immediate recognition and ability to pursue her other passion, fighting for world's causes and justice to human beings, a trait from her prior engagement with the UN's Women's Rights Dept. of International Labor Organization (ILO). In the1990s, she started associating herself with Mother Jones Magazines, Human Rights Watch, The Ruckus Society, Greenpeace, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Body & Soul, Amnesty International etc. A fighter she was till the end, just days before she collapsed, she wrote her last blog entry dated Sep 6, 2007 regarding Amnesty's pursuance on the release of political prisoners.

More about Anita Roddick can be read at her own self-biography and resume at

No news on her passing was up till now though on the domain AnitaRoddick.com that is under care of Warren Puckett of San Francisco, California, whose own blog at humanz.org bears its most recent post dated a year ago on Sep 5, 2006.

[Photo of Anita with her DBE medal, courtesy of Reuters on news report made over 12 hours ago]

* In Malaysia, franchising only started to become popular and started to be heavily promoted by the government in early 90s. In October 1999, Franchise Act 1998 (Akta Francais 1998) was first enforced in Malaysia. As of 2007, there are 320+ franchise systems in Malaysia (with 61% local origin) averaging about 10 franchisee for each system producing over RM 10.7-billion in annual sales and employing 93,000 workers. This is rather very low compared to other Asian and Asia Pacific countries like China, Korea, Japan and Australia which average about 50-200 franchisees for every franchise system. - Statistics from Perbadanan Nasional Berhad (PNS). More information about business franchising in Malaysia can be obtained from Malaysian Franchise Association (MFA) website.

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