Azleena Ameen

8 mins read

Hotel Insider sits down with Azleena Ameen (Azu), founder of Ogaa – a local brand which specialises in making authentic, artisan bath and body products from local ingredients found in the Maldives. Azu shares with us her journey with Ogaa and her thoughts on sustainability in the Maldivian business scene.

Hotel Insider: Could you tell us a little bit about Ogaa first? How did you get into this business?

Azu: Ogaa actually comes from the Dhivehi language word, ogaatherikan which means caring. My husband and I, we first started a business called Artistree in 2017. At the time, we learnt about soap making and started selling it at LeCute, a well-known beauty shop in Male’. Then, in 2019, we decided to create a brand, something that would wholly focus on being sustainable. So, we consulted with brand strategy firm, Ember Blu to create Ogaa, an eco-friendly and wholesome brand focused on making hand-crafted bath and body products in the Maldives.

Hotel Insider: So, you started with soaps first. How have you expanded your business since then?

Azu: We first started with soaps because it was something that was organic, sustainable, and helped us eliminate plastic bottles. It’s also something which enabled us to use locally sourced, Maldivian ingredients such as coconut oil, tamanu oil, moringa leaves, neem leaves and papaya. Moving forward, we now have shampoo bars, conditioner bars, body balms, bath bombs and scented candles. We also make liquid soaps which come in aluminium bottles, and we’ve recently introduced a range of lip balms as well.
Ogaa products are now available for purchase from our website, different resorts, and local islands such as Dhiffushi. We currently supply to over 20 resorts in the Maldives and ship to international destinations on an order-basis with special packaging and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) if required.
Right now, we’re moving from being a boutique product to more of a spa product; a lot of our products are currently used in the spas of Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts. Our products are also very popular with guests who visit the Maldives – it’s an organic, authentic, local product which they can take back home as souvenirs.

We also make customised gift packs for resorts with their logos. Some of our clients include One&Only Reethi Rah, Dusit Thani Maldives and Mirihi Island Resort. If you’re looking for an authentic, Maldivian product which can be customised, we do it here.

Hotel Insider: How do you source the raw materials for your products?

Azu: Anything that is available in the Maldives, we try to source it from here. At the beginning, we used to source from local shops as we didn’t require a large quantity of materials. Now, we have contacts within local islands who provide us with the necessary items.

For our essential oils, soy wax for our candles and some of the carrier oils we use such as almond oil, we have to source from abroad as it’s not locally available.

Hotel Insider: How do you ensure the quality of your products, especially in your skin-care range?

Azu: Prior to establishing the Ogaa brand, we attained the ISO certification for making handmade soaps. This helped us to set a certain standard as a manufacturer of grade 1 soap and ensure that we provide quality products to our customers. As part of this certification, we also have to annually test our soaps and provide a content analysis report for every raw material we use.

We make our soaps in small batches, so it’s easier for us to control the quality. Other than that, we always take orders in advance and ask our clients to let us know their requirements ahead of time so that we can ensure the best quality and service.

Hotel Insider: Ogaa as a brand began with the mission of providing eco-friendly products. How important is sustainability to your business model and practices?

Azu: I grew up here in the Maldives, and even at a young age, the environment was a very important factor to me. As a low-lying island nation, single-use plastic was and is a huge issue for us. So, it was important to us to play our part to eliminate plastic bottles and protect the environment, making sure that our business practices are sustainable and environment friendly.

Hotel Insider: How do you think Maldivians’ attitude to eco-friendly products have changed over the past few years, especially with the introduction of more environmentally friendly alternatives to the market?

Azu: People do find it difficult to shift to using these kinds of products at first, but I’ve found that most people are receptive to learning. They’re curious; they want to know more about eco-friendly products and try out different things. Once they know, more and more people are willing to make the change and they’re dedicated to doing their part to protect the environment. So, as more people invest in themselves – and in the environment – with organic and sustainable products, I would eventually like to see this as a household item rather than a luxury one.

Hotel Insider: In your opinion, in what ways can businesses running in the Maldives contribute to protecting the environment and promoting a more sustainable way of life?

Azu: It’s not easy to make a product while ensuring that each step of the process is eco-friendly and sustainable. For instance, there are so many products that we would like to make as well, but as we don’t use plastic products, we’re limited in that capacity. Regardless, I think it’s very important for businesses to do the necessary research and incorporate practices in which they can offer better, more sustainable options to customers.

Hotel Insider: Thank you for your time, Azu. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.