The neem flower, from the Azadirachta Indica tree (Photo: Ton Rulkens)
Carlita Rex Doran is a scientist and entrepreneur from Quezon City, in the Republic of the Philippines (Philippines), who established CRD Herbal Products Inc. (CRD) in 1996, a company which develops and markets her inventions. The commercial success of her inventions has made her one of the most revered entrepreneurs in the country.
In 1980, the scientist created Siroca, one of her most renowned inventions. Siroca was an instant solid fuel used for cooking (a replacement for liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG) which was contained in a tin. The fuel was portable and designed to ignite into flames when its lid was opened and the flames would go out when the lid was shut.
Following her fuel invention, in1987 the inventor made scientific experiments with indigenous raw materials such as bark from the gugo tree (Entada phaseikaudes K Meer, a large, woody climber), extracts from tropical fruits (coconuts and papaya, for example) and ingredients such as saponim (a natural, lathery substance found in many plants, such as the soapwort plant, and traditionally used as soap). Combining these ingredients into a secret recipe, Mrs. Rex Doran created – in less than a month - the first gugo shampoo in the Philippines. “I was a chemistry graduate and, by nature, I love to conduct experiments during my spare time at home because I am really passionate about chemistry…that is how I invented the gugo shampoo…” she said. The entrepreneur’s shampoo success led to her being referred to as the “Gugo Queen” and encouraged her to develop and market several other personal care inventions.
In 1995, Mrs. Rex Doran’s creativeness turned to neem (Azadirachta Indica), a tree in the mahogany family. Also known as the “wonder tree”, neem is a large tree native to Asia and Africa. Its fruits and other parts have been used as remedies and antiseptics to treat various ailments including skin infections and sores. The scientist used neem in order to develop a range of personal and home-care products. Bioneem – as her invention was called – was the first insecticide in the Philippines to use the biodegradable properties of the Azadirachta Indica tree.
Mrs. Rex Doran’s other innovations include beauty bars made of natural ingredients with antifungal properties, a kind of soy sauce, banana vinegar, and ampalaya (or Momordica charantia, a bitter melon) concoctions for ameliorating the symptoms of both HIV/AIDS and diabetes mellitus (a metabolic disease related to high blood sugar).
The Bioneem brand produced by CRD (Photo: Courtesy of CRD Herbal Products Inc.)
In 1979 the entrepreneur used 5, 000 Philippine pesos (₱) as capital to established CRD (formerly CRD International Philippines Inc.), a small-scale company that manufactures and commercializes her inventions. When asked for her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Mrs. Rex Doran said: “When you want to sell a product, you don’t need a lot of funds because you can start small. And when you have a product, make sure that it is effective and has quality.” Indeed, the inventor created her famous gugo shampoo with a budget of only ₱1,000 and the help of family and friends.
From humble beginnings, Mrs. Carlita Rex Doran has developed a wide variety of brand names and marketed her goods based on natural, biodegradable ingredients. The inventor is known in the Philippines for the “Tatak Pinoy” product brand. Another leading brand is the scientist’s famous gugo shampoo which is marketed as a treatment for thinning hair and can be used as a conditioner, anti-dandruff, and a remedy for psoriasis (an autoimmune disease of the skin).
Also a well-known brand, Bioneem is a product that has received wide attention in the country for its ability to control disease-causing insects (including mosquitoes which cause illnesses such as malaria) without having adverse effects on humans or animals. Bioneem products also include ointments (against itchiness from insect bites), liquid concentrate (a three-in-one insecticide, deodorizer and disinfectant), and a natural body soap. Other CRD brands include: Forest Magic, Rocalflor, Chin-Up, Magayon and Siroca.
In order to compete against well-funded multi-national competitors, the inventor markets her products based on quality of production procedures and their natural content. Rather than spending large amounts of money on the packaging, the entrepreneur has invested in working with natural, high quality goods that are rigorously tested.
In collaboration with local farmers (for her ingredients) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in the Philippines (for product safety tests), CRD goods not only meet industry standards for safety but also satisfy customer expectation for quality.
Despite stiff competition from well-established corporate competitors, the inventor has been able to market her products at trade fairs and expos, both at home and abroad, and via direct marketing and a network of distributors and manufacturers.
With a wealth of brands and inventions to her name, the scientist relies on utility models and trade secrets to protect her intellectual property (IP). Mrs. Rex Doran first filed a utility model registration in 1981 for her “cooking fuel composition” at the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IP Philippines). Twenty years later she also decided to protect her “herbal base composition for cosmetic applicator”, by filing a utility model registration.
However, Mrs. Rex Doran decided not to patent her Bioneem products because to do so would require full disclosure of its processes and ingredients. Registering the product with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines would also require money, which the inventor could not afford to do as of 2008. Mrs. Rex Doran therefore protects the recipes of the Bioneem products as well-guarded trade secrets.
Siroca Solid Fuel. Mrs. Rex Doran's first invention (Photo: Courtesy CRD Herbal Products Inc.)
Since producing her gugo-based shampoos, other manufacturers have ridden the coattails of its popularity by creating their own versions of the product. Mrs. Rex Doran, however, is sanguine about it; she said: “Everyone can sell gugo shampoo because gugo is a natural ingredient and no one owns it. But I am not threatened because the extraction process I have is unique and which gives high efficacy to my product.”
Working with IP Philippines, the inventor has taken advantage of tax incentives available via a ten year tax holiday under the Inventors’ Incentives Act of the Philippines (RA 7456). The incentive provides duty-free importation of materials needed for the commercial production of inventions.
By using a combination of trade secrets, utility models and IP tax incentives, the inventor has been able to manage her IP assets, keep down costs, market her inventions and remain competitive.
Since her first experiments with the Siroca fuel, Mrs. Carlita Rex Doran has become a celebrated inventor and business woman, winning several national and international awards and citations.
Because of her famous fuel, in 1983 Mrs. Rex Doran won third prize during the 17th Annual National Inventors’ Week, in the Philippines. Only six years later, the scientist was recognized by her peers by being chosen as the Outstanding Filipino Woman Inventor by the Filipino Inventors’ Society. Moreover, in acknowledgement of her imaginative and novel uses of raw and natural ingredients in her products, in 1990 Mrs. Rex Doran received the Best Use of Indigenous Raw Material award by DOST.
Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Rex Doran’s fame spread onto the international stage. In both 1989 and 1991, the entrepreneur won the Gold Medal Award by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized United Nations agency. Six years later, Mrs. Rex Doran was being recognized for her line of gugo-based products by winning Une Medaille d'Argent at the 25th Salon International des Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland. With her name and reputation celebrated at home and abroad, the inventor won the Golden Millennium Award (2003), in the Philippines.
As of 2010, Mrs. Rex Doran’s success had continued unabated. CRD, moreover, had become a multi-million pesos company and produced Bioneem and gugo-based cosmetics and other products for sale to countries such as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Japan, Thailand, and the United States of America.
Carlita Rex Doran’s inventiveness, reliance on natural, good quality products, and strategic management of CRD’s IP have allowed her to compete against well-funded corporations while marketing her inventions successfully. The scientist’s constant ingenuity and innovation also shows that money can grow from (gugo) trees.