He started a brand by doing his own research on soap making and cooking up recipes for his soaps in 1999.
Today, Harnn, Thailand’s pioneering natural spa, aromatherapy, body and skincare brand, is available in 16 countries.
Paul Harnn, 54, founder and CEO of Harnn, was born in Thailand but spent most of his years abroad for education and work as an architect.
As there were less projects during the 1997 Asian economic crisis, that steered him towards finding a business he could own.
“I enjoy cooking and the process of making soap is similar to cooking, like testing different oils, adding different herbs and spices. My design background helped in manipulating textures, colours and scents from using essential oils,” says Harnn at an interview in Petaling Jaya.
The Internet wasn’t readily available then so he learnt from natural products and aromatherapy books.
“At that time soap recipes were mostly from Europe and utilising olive oil which we don’t have in Asia. What was available in Asia were coconut, palm and rice bran oils. With Thailand being the largest rice exporter we have an abundance of rice bran oil. This oil has three natural vitamin E that are very moisturising and is a natural sunscreen for skin so it’s the perfect oil for skin.”
He created his first natural soaps using rice bran oil and became the first natural soap manufacturer and exporter in Asia.
Along with soaps and certified organic essential oils, the brand offers products under five collections including Cymbopogon (scientific name for lemongrass), Oriental Herbs, Jasmine, Oriental Rose and Tropical Wood. All carry a full range from body cleanser, nourishing lines, natural scrub, bath salt, hand cream to hair care.
Harnn was previously known as Harnn & Thann as he started the brand with a partner but when the business grew and became harder to manage, he sold Thann to his partner about three years ago.
Today Harnn Global includes Vuudh (luxury fragrance), Tichaa (certified organic herbal tea), Jaritt (resort wear) and Harnn Heritage Spa.
Locally, Harnn is available at 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya and Gurney Paragon in Penang.
“Initially, we were focused on a natural product brand but after awhile, I realised that it’s a very new industry in Asia, and soon competitors will follow. We then decided to position ourselves as a luxury brand from Asia offering contemporary lifestyle products.”
Harnn said there was no awareness of natural products in Thailand then and even the spa industry was different.
“Previously, only the elderly would go for massage therapies. Then after our Harnn Heritage Spa at The InterContinental Sun Peninsula in Danang won the Best World Class Spa three times, it brought the attention to Thailand and the spa and luxury lifestyle industry.”
There are a total of four Harnn Heritage Spas, two in Bangkok, and at The InterContinental in Danang and Koh Samui.
“Our products are manufactured in Thailand. We work with different factories and their R&D teams that are supported with know-how from overseas so we benefit from worldwide expertise.”
“Harnn is more of a lifestyle product where customers have a wide range of choices to enhance their lifestyle.”
“We encourage customers to use several scents. In the morning, they can use one scent to feel invigorated, and at night, to use another scent to calm down. The current contemporary luxury is not so much the price but the richness it adds to your lifestyle,” says Harnn.
What he uses depends on his mood and he says, “that is the trick of aromatherapy. Your body will tell you what it needs chemically.”
“Different scents smell good when you’re under a different state of mind, stress level and time of day. So you can select which makes you feel good when you smell it – that is true luxury,” he says.