Natura & Co: DevOps for Beauty and the Planet

The fourth largest beauty company in the world is embracing data and DevOps principles to shape a better, more caring world

Headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil, Natura &Co. includes four purpose-driven brands—The Body Shop, Avon, Natura, and Aesop. The group is present in 73 countries across continents and committed to generating positive economic, social and environmental impact in the world.

Renzo Petri, head of cloud platform engineering and DevOps at Natura &Co., joins Jeff Zeisler, global VP of field services at Delphix, to discuss how the company is leveraging data automation and DevOps to drive digital transformation in the beauty industry. Watch the video or read the full transcript below. 


Jeffrey Zeisler: To kick things off, I'd like to just start with an overview. We want to focus on three topics today. The first is Natura's purpose-driven mission and sustainability goals. The second is Natura's digital transformation and the business model shift that that's driving. And last is the role of DevOps in driving innovation and helping the company achieve the two goals prior. Tell me a little bit about Natura's mission. You mentioned a couple of things there in the introduction, but the group describes itself as purpose-driven. What does that mean for a business?

Renzo Petri: Excellent question, Jeff. Let's talk a little bit about everything we love: beauty and technology. It's a fact that nowadays people are paying more attention to those companies that are socially engaged and that maintain a coherent stance, including words and actions to produce a more sustainable, equitable, and conscientious world. At Natura, which is one of the companies of the Natura &Co. group, we have a longstanding commitment to producing positive impacts in the world. Our initiatives are well-known and include efforts to protect the Amazon, empower women, and promote social inclusion and diversity. We are currently aware of the need for constant evolution in our corporate practices. This is part of our strategic agenda, and sustainability is included in our strategic planning.

That's why we launched, in June of last year, the Commitment to Life by Natura &Co., which is the plan that brings together our goals and commitments through 2030. In this plan, we have very clearly and directly set out the actions we intend to take to address urgent global issues like climate change, the preservation of our beloved Amazon biome, the defense of human rights, guaranteeing equality and inclusion for everybody in our network, as well as our belief in the circular economy and regeneration.

Jeffrey Zeisler: I was able to review the Sustainability Vision 2030 that's published on your website and it goes into great detail about what's important to the company and what’s driving your goals, not just financially but also to make the world a better place, which is fantastic. The company is also undergoing modernization of its business model, shifting from a mostly direct sales model through consultants to an entirely digital-enabled sales model through physical retail stores. Can you share a little bit about what's driving this shift and what your goals are?

Renzo Petri: Yes, Jeffrey. I invite everybody to log onto Natura &Co.'s website to get to know a little bit more about our journey and to buy stuff as well, why not? Specifically regarding our journey, the pandemic has greatly accelerated our strategy for digitalization, which we had been investing in for some years already in order to expand our sales models so that the consultants and sales reps are in contact with our clients. As soon as the crisis started, we directed our tech innovation staff to focus on those projects that would be most useful at that time, betting more heavily on digital tools and fitting them to the digital demands of our consumers, especially to keep this economy moving forward so that our consultants could continue to have their income, which is important for them. Digitalization has shown itself to be essential to our business model and very resilient during this time. 

Our combined sales with e-commerce and social selling in the group have grown 80% in the fourth quarter. With all of the different businesses, we've reached the highest level of digital sales in history. 

Speaking of Latin America, which is the greatest focal point in this time for Natura, we've produced more than 1 million virtual sales spaces for our consultants. The orders received through these digital spaces have increased 60%. And in these digital spaces, the consultants have their own e-store where the client receives the virtual consultancy services, as well of course, being able to purchase products in our e-commerce spaces. We have seen this important movement in Avon as well with increasing sales through digital magazines, new app features, and the launch of our e-commerce site in Argentina, as well as many other features that were developed over the course of the last year and during this year. 

I would dare say that we've achieved, just a few months into the digitalization plan, something that would otherwise have taken some years to achieve. And to finalize, Jeff, the important thing to highlight is that beyond this concern for the digital aspects, we are also improving the technology in the supply chain. Currently, it is possible to guarantee the traceability of our ingredients as far back as our biodiversity through a blockchain tool, guaranteeing a long lasting relationship with these communities throughout the Amazon region and strengthening our innovative business model with our partners.

Jeffrey Zeisler: Well, that's incredible. First of all, the growth rate, right, that you guys were able to show through a pandemic year, but also the shift to these digital models. And I agree with you, we're hearing this from lots of customers that the COVID pandemic has forced them to just speed up all of these efforts that they had to try and change the way that they do business. That's amazing to hear what you guys have accomplished in such a short period of time. Tell me a little bit more about the modernization itself and some of the technology choices. How is Natura modernizing its technology to meet the changing market needs and emerging consumer trends?

Renzo Petri: Technology is already part of our business model. First of all, the adoption of a digital strategy, which is a hundred percent cloud-based, was very important and was focused on the restructuring of our assets. 

Natura is a company that's existed for over 50 years. There were many of our technologies that were approaching obsolescence and this discipline, and this decision to move to the cloud ensured our scalability with an emphasis on experience and performance, which are our trademarks. 

Another decisive factor was the creation of a strategy focused on data and database decisions. The structural changes of the organization from the point of view of technologies allows us to be more flexible and streamlined and to more easily test new hypotheses, making it clear that a successful example of this investment in digitalization and technology was our social selling, which brings together our direct sales with our online sales, enabling the consultants and sales reps to receive payments via the internet and publicizing sales and offers and sharing our digital magazines and catalogs through different digital communications media and maintaining all their consultancy activities.

Only the delivery remains our responsibility. Social selling enabled us to expand our networking abilities, allowing direct contact with the customer anywhere in Brazil or in Latin America through our social media. Beyond that, recently we launched our payment platform, a hundred percent directed and dedicated to our consultants and with customer service mechanisms using humanized chatbots and personalized sales via machine learning, augmented reality for our apps, you name it. It's an infinity of possible changes in technology which allowed us to provide even better social inclusion.

Jeffrey Zeisler: Wow, that's really neat. I think adoption of cloud and focus on data are things that are very near and dear to our hearts at Delphix, but it's amazing to hear about all the advanced technologies that you guys are employing to get your products in front of your customers and to make it easier for your consultants. I want to talk a little bit about your brands and acquisitions. Natura has been on an acquisition spree over the last few years with The Body Shop and AVON being the most recent. How has integrating these companies impacted your digital transformation efforts, particularly from an IT perspective?

Renzo Petri: It's been exponential. That's the right word, Jeffrey. Speaking of our companies, we generate income for millions of people. We're one of the companies that most promotes digital inclusion in our region. And our social network, since it is digital, has the power to transform the lives of 4.5 million consultants and sales reps in Latin America alone. 

The speed required to meet the demands of the business demanded great efforts on the part of the IT team, especially with regards to scalability and integration. 

Integration, especially, because we have totally different ecosystems in terms of IT architecture, and they need to be strongly integrated. We need to reduce waste. So once again, the adoption of cloud-based platforms aligned with the strategy of architecture has helped us to make progress more quickly, as well as the data strategy and API-first strategy. The challenge here in Latin America has been hiring specialized personnel. Recently, we've invested in the platforms that feed into our delivery process, especially those based on DevOps engineering, which are essential for this process of integration and rationalization of our legacy systems with a minimal impact and the possibility for exponential growth in our business models and the transformation of our businesses.

Jeffrey Zeisler: That's wonderful. Thank you for that perspective. It sounds challenging to me, but also that you guys are doing an incredible job. So global expansion is a strategic growth lever for Natura. You mentioned at the beginning just how many countries that you guys do business in and your global presence is pervasive. How does going digital help with that? How are your customers around the world impacted by Natura's digital transformation journey?

Renzo Petri: Our principles, Jeffrey, are very much aligned with a digital platform that is robust, that allows rapid growth, and an outstanding customer experience. A B2B and B2C platform that's multichannel and that would guarantee the evolution to omnichannel and that has a business model through an ecosystem of integrations with partners and providing us this capacity for the group to provide sales to partners in different sectors. Our leadership is already thinking on a global scale. 

Recently, I will mention one case where we did the unimaginable. We entered an Asian market with a product launch in record time through our platforms in the Malaysian market. We recently entered that market with our full stack of technologies for e-commerce and our stacks of consultant functionalities and our apps and our websites. This has allowed us to think bigger and better regarding our strategies for multi branding and multi-region as well.

Jeffrey Zeisler: That's a great anecdote about Malaysia. People don't often, or at least I don't think of that as one of the major economic expansion areas, but for you guys to be able to enter that market so quickly, it says a lot about the flexibility that you've built into your digital technologies. That's amazing. Just in general, Renzo, everything that you've talked about so far, it makes me think that it's a ton of change that you guys are managing. What would you say have been the biggest challenges in your digital transformation and your business modernization journey?

Renzo Petri: In our case, we had to remake our traditional business model to operate at a much higher rate of speed and be much more scalable. So the changes in mindset, hiring people, changing technologies, it was a great challenge, but we are overcoming it with excellence. So moving into an increasingly digital business model without losing track of our essence and purpose, that's what we believe in. Our internal network also believes in our value proposition. Through this challenge of entering markets and making all these changes at the same time, it's been the strength of our network and the strength of our personnel that have enabled us to progress so rapidly in this transformation.

Jeffrey Zeisler: What role does data management play in your digital transformation efforts? Can you share some examples of where it has made a big impact?

Renzo Petri: Yes, Jeffrey. One of the cases I would like to mention, which was a great success with our partner Delphix. We have one of the largest SAPs in Latin America with a huge volume of invoices needing to be processed. That data is at the core of the digital platform for orders, whether from our consultants or sales reps. We faced a gigantic challenge in orchestrating or integrating the environments for production, processing and auditing to guarantee greater delivery speed. We had a need to deliver these environments to the engineering teams more quickly. 

As infrastructure designers, we'd take two to three months to set up one single environment. With the adoption of the Delphix platform, we reduced this lag time to days. 

Currently, we can in one week create completely reproducible environments with production data. Beyond that, this data evolution has allowed us to monitor the journey of the client with a 360 degree perspective mapping micro events of their interaction with our platforms to guarantee a better client experience and guaranteeing personalized insights. In addition to the technical aspects, more efficient and democratic management of this data is essential, especially in the digital initiatives. That's why we created a data focus Center of Excellence during this last year, especially to ensure that we maintain the focus and energy necessary for this discipline that is so important.

Jeffrey Zeisler: Oh, that's great. It's neat to hear that you guys have actually created a Center of Excellence around this. And I'm sure that's tied into your DevOps initiatives as well. As a DevOps evangelist within Natura, how has DevOps influenced this transformation? Tell us a little about that.

Renzo Petri: This is one of our passions, Jeffrey, speaking for all of us. Ever since we created a Center of Excellence for cloud DevOps, from the moment that we started to use these technologies and started to believe in this culture change, we've seen fantastic results. The creation of a space to be a Center of Excellence for DevOps was necessary to create workshops and to engage our teams in changing the culture. 

Our stack today is practically 100% open source. We have some tools that we are developing to implement DevSecOps, but the creation of a platform engineering team for DevOps lifted us to a completely different level. In the same way that our partnership with Delphix has produced good results. The development of this team has given us autonomy for our squads, guaranteeing the dev experience and generating a greater autonomy for the product teams. Currently the squads and our product teams can provide self-service infrastructure without having to depend on the infrastructure teams. This is go-to-market. This reduces lead time, everything with guaranteed quality and security. In other words, autonomy with a standard of excellence.

Jeffrey Zeisler: That's great. I love hearing about enablement of self-service for DevOps squads. But you're right, putting some fences around that self-service access to make sure that they are still obeying a framework that you guys have in place is really important as you do that. So let's shift gears a little bit and talk about compliance. Anytime we're talking about important company data, personal data, we have to talk about compliance. Globally, we're seeing a lot more regulation regarding personal data. Brazil's LGPD law became effective last year. How has that impacted Natura? Is it driving the decision to mask data in your DevOps environments? Are there other environments where masking is also important for Natura?

Renzo Petri: Exactly right. Recently with the entry into force of the LGPD in Brazil, we created a broader program, a corporate privacy program. We have legal and social responsibilities, and this responsibility for the safekeeping of data is not just a regulatory compliance issue. We had already been working toward that, but now with the advent of this law, we are adapting all our processes, including DevOps and DataOps. They've helped us to create this culture that is consistently one of responsibility with regards to the use of data in all of the creation of non-production environments.

We are working with Delphix in masking these data in order to enable their use. We've been working with other solutions on the market, produced by specialists in data privacy. We've been revising our entire portfolio of apps and data to guarantee that all our policies and practices are complying with our corporate privacy program. We evaluate this every day. It's a daily effort to ensure that this data is anonymized in these production environments to guarantee the safety of our customers.

Jeffrey Zeisler: That's great. It sounds like you guys are making every effort to protect the personal data of your customers. That's fantastic. Tell us a little bit, how does digital transformation tie into the sustainability and social inclusion efforts? Are the two related?

Renzo Petri: Absolutely. Our journey of digital transformation, Jeffrey, which we started particularly in Natura many years ago, and that now extends to the other companies in our group, is a strategic enabler for all of our commitments with regards to the positive social impact we want to cause. Advances in digitalization, our business model allowed consultants and representatives to keep their businesses active, even during strict lockdowns because of this terrible pandemic. And this has become the only source of income for many of them because of economic downturns. Furthermore, we have cases of technology launches that take into account not only sustainability issues, but also social inclusion issues, as is the case with our voice commerce, which was launched in record time to guarantee that social inclusion. These advances have allowed our team members and our consumers around the world to enjoy a very, very successful first year of integration between the companies. When we deliver positive results to one company, we can produce synergies with other companies and have positive repercussions, especially in the reduction of our carbon footprint. 

Finally, the evolution of our direct sales model to a relationship sales model brings with it this development of the wellbeing ecosystem within our network. Technology is the lever to promote the development of both social inclusion with the financial benefits we mentioned, which help to increase people's income but also improves the physical health, mental health, and emotional health for everyone. I don't know if everyone knows this, but recently, Natura has launched an app that is available online called the Meditation App, which is an invitation to everyone to reconnect with themselves and improve their mental health and wellbeing so that everyone can at this difficult time connect to their inner selves as well.

Jeffrey Zeisler: That's awesome. I'll definitely download the Meditation App when we're done here. I can certainly use a bit more of that in my own life. Tell us a little bit about what's next for the IT team at Natura. What are some new technologies and approaches that you want to adopt going forward?

Renzo Petri: Jeffrey, we are very dedicated to elevating our DevOps practice to DevSecOps levels. We are committed on a global scale. Now we need from the point of view of engineering to become increasingly fast and agile in delivering quality products, and especially looking at our infrastructure elements to become more predictive. Technologies like AIOps, blockchain, IoT, industry 4.0, these are already a reality here within our group, but we are expanding them on a daily basis. 

Automation, automation, and more automation has been our mantra, especially to help us deliver more quality products in a timely manner and advancing our cloud-based integration strategies as well to guarantee the launch of more and more innovative solutions. 

And finally, making greater use of the power of this network. Our API-first strategy is very well structured, and we are expanding it to draw more partners into this ecosystem that can help us in our mission.

Jeffrey Zeisler: That's wonderful. Natura's CEO Roberto Marques says, "The era of growth at any cost is gone, replaced by the opportunity to build sustainable growth and the notion of a thriving society in which the needs of people, planet, and profit are balanced for the benefit of all." We couldn't agree more at Delphix. Thank you so much for joining me today, Renzo. This has been a great conversation and we really appreciate the relationship that we've developed with you. It's been so exciting to hear about all the wonderful things going on at your company.

Renzo Petri: Thank you, Jeffrey. Thank you Delphix team. It's been a great pleasure indeed to be able to talk a little bit about our history, and you are certainly part of this journey. You have helped us to guarantee greater flexibility and security in our deliveries and have a positive impact on our ecosystem and on our network. Thank you very much.

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