For Thomas, being a part of Darling is an obvious choice, given how passionate he is about hair – he even confesses to dreaming about hair! For him, waking up every day and knowing he is going to work on something that he loves, is the most fulfilling thing, and what keeps him pushing for more.

Meet Thomas

"Keep on learning - knowledge is power!"

(enjoys travelling, going to Durban with the family, R&B fan, movie buff)

February 2000: The start line

I joined the Darling Group as a Quality Controller. I worked at our factory and was in charge of checking quality, through the different stages of manufacturing, right up to the finished product. Our main business is in the dry hair category. We are the leading player and having high quality products is central to our brand promise. My role was very hands-on in its approach and great learning.

September 2009: It's time for marketing!

I was very excited when I was offered the chance to work with our Marketing team. I was looking to learn something new and this was perfect! I first started out as a Marketing Assistant. My new role involved working closely with our in-store promoters, who are pretty much our eyes and ears, on ground. This meant that I was out, in the market, interacting with a whole new team. I demonstrated samples of our new products and gathered feedback.

Innovation is a key focus for us. We are constantly working on creating new styles, in line with the latest fashion trends. Testing these new products and even doing quality checks, was all part of what I was now doing. There was a lot to learn.

January 2014: Brand activations and the Style Lab

What I enjoy the most is working on marketing activations. We are always on the lookout to engage our consumers - whether in universities and high schools, in stores, salons or malls - there is so much to do.

Last year, we set up an in-house style lab at our headquarters. This is a big first for us. We have created the lab as a space where we can train stylists on the latest trends. It helps them build on their skills and allows us to familiarise them with our products. As part of the team, I assist on planning for the different sessions and coordinating with the stylists who sign up for them.

Today

I enjoy how my role has kept evolving and the many opportunities I have had, to learn across our business. A lot has changed since I first joined; we are becoming stronger and more innovative as a company. I am personally, very excited to be part of this journey.

Bongi has completed a course in Internal Auditing from TSA.

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"Keep on learning - knowledge is power!"

(enjoys travelling, going to Durban with the family, R&B fan, movie buff)

February 2000: The start line

I joined the Darling Group as a Quality Controller. I worked at our factory and was in charge of checking quality, through the different stages of manufacturing, right up to the finished product. Our main business is in the dry hair category. We are the leading player and having high quality products is central to our brand promise. My role was very hands-on in its approach and great learning.

September 2009: It's time for marketing!

I was very excited when I was offered the chance to work with our Marketing team. I was looking to learn something new and this was perfect! I first started out as a Marketing Assistant. My new role involved working closely with our in-store promoters, who are pretty much our eyes and ears, on ground. This meant that I was out, in the market, interacting with a whole new team. I demonstrated samples of our new products and gathered feedback.

Innovation is a key focus for us. We are constantly working on creating new styles, in line with the latest fashion trends. Testing these new products and even doing quality checks, was all part of what I was now doing. There was a lot to learn.

January 2014: Brand activations and the Style Lab

What I enjoy the most is working on marketing activations. We are always on the lookout to engage our consumers - whether in universities and high schools, in stores, salons or malls - there is so much to do.

Last year, we set up an in-house style lab at our headquarters. This is a big first for us. We have created the lab as a space where we can train stylists on the latest trends. It helps them build on their skills and allows us to familiarise them with our products. As part of the team, I assist on planning for the different sessions and coordinating with the stylists who sign up for them.

Today

I enjoy how my role has kept evolving and the many opportunities I have had, to learn across our business. A lot has changed since I first joined; we are becoming stronger and more innovative as a company. I am personally, very excited to be part of this journey.

Bongi has completed a course in Internal Auditing from TSA.

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"Get up, dress up, show up!"

(loves tending to her home and garden, enjoys reading, good food, taking her shoes off and walking on the grass, playing with her dogs and braaing (South African barbecue)).

June 2010: The start line

I joined Darling after a 6-month sabbatical, following a 10-year career in the beauty sector. Why? The promise of getting to create this amazing brand in a whole new category drew me.

I started from scratch. In a business that was mainly manufacturing driven, marketing was an aside. We weren't big on market intelligence or innovation. We didn't even have a real budget! I rolled up my sleeves and

dove in. Over the coming years, we celebrated great growth. The numbers were stacking up and there was always a lot to do!

January 2013: Godrej comes on board

Darling entered into a partnership with Godrej and there was lots of buzz surrounding this new development. As with any merger, there was the anxiety that we were 'being taken over' and no one was quite sure what that meant.

Our first meeting with the Godrej team pretty much put those worries to rest. Their focus was to help us leverage their global expertise. That was an exceptionally busy year. We were standardising systems and processes, looking for new ways to add value and working on how we could make our brand even stronger. Whether it was our

salon engagement programme or our 360 degree approach to brand activation, there was lots happening.

March 2013: From firing off 2 cylinders, to all 12!

We found a great balance between the entrepreneurial spirit characteristic to Darling, and the benefit of world-class teams and resources from Godrej - a blend of the best locally and globally. The scope of what we were doing and what we thought possible was expanding dramatically.

On a personal level, I was enjoying being exposed to all these challenges and the news ways of thinking. One of my big wins was the Soweto Fashion Week. We had two weeks to pull off the 2013 partnership and it was a great branding opportunity. The next one in 2014 was

even bigger and better. It worked brilliantly, as a perfect fit to all that our brand stands for.

Today

As I see it, we have all the little pieces of the jigsaw in. All we need to do now is rev up the engines and hit the ground running!

Debbie has completed a National Diploma at Wits Technikon and a course in marketing from the Damelin Business School.

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"Nothing succeeds like success"

(Reading, listening to music, holidaying with family)

April 2014: Second innings

Godrej was not new to me. Shortly after my Chartered Accountancy, I spent 10 years at the Group, when I went on to head Finance at the erstwhile Godrej Sara Lee and later, Godrej Tea. This gave me tremendous exposure, which ranged from managing a high growth business to a young start-up, and I firmly believe it continues to hold me in good stead.

I have worked across various domains within Finance, such as treasury, accounting systems, ERP and taxation. Business planning, however, is what I always enjoyed the most -

being able to help businesses grow in scale and scope, while managing challenges along the way.

So, when I was offered the role of CFO, it seemed like the perfect move for me.

September 2014: Making South Africa home

This was my first time in South Africa and there was so much that was still very new to me!

The Godrej journey in Africa is a very exciting one. We see tremendous potential in this geography and especially, the exciting hair care industry that we are part of. From a more operational perspective, there was a lot for me to do - particularly strengthening our processes and streamlining them with our centres of

excellence. Integrating with the team and settling in has been great. Sure, there are many differences from what I was used to, but my team here has been very supportive. I particularly enjoy our open, entrepreneurial culture.

My family still lives in Mumbai, which means that I travel as much I can; and they visit too. Even as we are getting used to this change, I am grappling with learning how to live on my own - from keeping home to cooking for myself! I guess there is a first time for everything!

Today

I wear two hats. Apart from being the CFO at Subinite & Frika, I am also Regional CFO for Southern Africa, and I liaison between them with our central team in India. This requires me to work with different teams with distinct

working styles and in different stages of maturity. I am able to leverage my experience of working across multiple environments, as well as my knowledge of Godrej and what it takes to be part of a start-up, to deliver successfully. Nothing excites me more than creating something new - and that is exactly what this role offers.

Suhas has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Mumbai University, and is a certified Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).

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"Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly. Leave the rest to God."

(dog lover, veteran hair stylist, chess master who plays everyday)

February 2014: The start line

I came on board to manage our technical team at Darling. This is an industry that I love. I am deeply passionate about the world of hair - sometimes I even dream about it, as crazy as that sounds! As my friends and family would tell you, I pretty much eat hair, sleep hair… In short, I love hair!

My role basically involves spreading the word and educating the market in general, about our brand. We have different stakeholders in this - the

stylists who use our products, the salons, the stores where they are bought, and of course, our consumers.

At Darling, all of us have a 'PhD' - 'Passion for hair by Darling'. And as part of this exciting journey, we have set up an in-house style academy. This academy caters to stylists - they come here and are trained on advanced techniques and the latest styles. We have different training programmes that cater to their different capabilities as well. It is also a great platform for us to showcase and familiarise them with our products. We have received great feedback on this and are very excited about the potential it holds.

I also work closely with the Marketing team to drive our awareness and activation plans across different platforms, which is great learning as

well. We are exploring new ways to engage our consumers and partners across universities and high schools, in store, salons and malls. Our mobile salon in particular, is a big hit.

We are in the process of growing our technical team, bringing new people on board and setting up our larger systems and processes, all of which I am getting to lead.

Today

Prior to joining Darling, my focus was on the wet hair market. So, even though the industry isn't new to me, this is a new market and there has been a lot to learn. For me, personally, waking up every day and knowing that I am going to work on something that I love, is very fulfilling. And that is what keeps me pushing for more.

Thomas has diplomas in Hair care and cosmetology, and certificates in advanced hair care, customer care, financial management and basic business management.

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