Kavita Khosa, Founder, Purearth, on her inspiration to start an ethical skincare line
As she struts confidently into the Marriott Suites, Pune, in white palazzos and a comfortable black sleeveless top, Kavita Khosa, 54, a powerhouse of entrepreneurial excellence is disarmingly approachable, her skin radiant and her smile a permanent fixture. Her suitcase for the cover shoot, however, reveals her fine taste and her selfcreated ability to live a life of luxury. It is home to a Sabyasachi sari, a beautiful Anavila sari, a pair of nude Valentino stilettos and skincare products of choice—Purearth, her own line of luxury, artisanal and 100 per cent organic creams, mists and an assortment of other elixirs made entirely from ingredients sourced from the Himalayas. The corporate lawyer-turned-social entrepreneur, swears by her product and the cause she’s fighting for. “I wanted to work with women—I didn’t want to start a charity,” she says. “Women don’t need charity, I wanted to give them work and a life where they could be engaged in sustainable income generation activities.”
And that’s what Purearth, Khosa’s privately held company does and stands for. “Most of our ingredients are gathered at soaring altitudes of the Himalayas by micro-credit and women self-help groups. Through these partnerships, marginalised producers engage with urban markets on fair terms,” reads the ethos page of their website. Khosa, who describes herself as a “mountain goat”, is often called the skin chef in jest by her friends. From starting out as an airhostess with Cathay Pacific to a high-profile lawyer on Wall Street who would blend oils in her home as a hobby, her journey has been intense. From learning Ayurveda and travelling across remote villages in the Himalayas to empower entire communities of women through microfinance, encouraging them to forage for seeds and products in the
Nature is your best soap and your kitchen is your pharmacy. My ingredients are my bioactives wild, and creating a full-fledged retail cycle across four countries and counting, Khosa’s professional journey has been long and eventful. Her aspirational, constantly questioning and subtly rebellious streak comes from a rough childhood.
Rebel with a Cause
Khosa grew up in Pune, to the smell of incense from the Ramakrishna mission on one side and a love for Faiz and shayri because of a Muslim-dominated colony on the other; a Brahmin Bengali lady who would blow a shankh several times a day on the right and a gentleman who would teach piano early in the mornings nearby. “I was always very interested in the arts. Whether it was music or writing poetry. At 13 I tried to put together a thriller, which of course never got published,” she laughs. But Khosa’s mother wasn’t particularly keen on having her only girl child educated. “When I was 15 and a half, she would say, ‘We need to marry you off early, so no point in studying because it will make you more demanding,’” she recalls. “My mother would tear my homework and school work. When my brothers and I would come back
from playing she would make me get them water.” But Khosa, ever the rebel, ensured that nothing deterred her. She funded her way through her Bachelors of Commerce in Wadia College and eventually got her LL.B degree from Symbiosis Law School in Pune, by giving tuition classes, working as a fitness instructor at Blue Diamond Hotel and being completely financially independent from the age of 15.
Woman on Wall Street
Armed with two degrees, Khosa at 23 dove head first into an unsuccessful marriage to a hotelier from Pune, which lasted all of six months. Soon after, she moved to Hong Kong, where she initially worked as an air hostess with Cathay Pacific. This is also how she met her current husband, Amar Khosa, a barrister practising in Hong Kong. She subsequently made the switch to law full time and after the gruelling process of becoming a solicitor in Hong Kong, bagged a job with White & Case in Wall Street. “People graduate from Harvard and people push them to this path where they can work with a firm like White & Case. And here I was, a brown girl working there, and at that time India wasn’t on the map like it is today,” says Khosa. From here she moved to AIG as Associate Director in the legal department. And with two young children, when a work trip to Korea turned from a two-day to a two-week affair, Khosa realised this was not the lifestyle she wanted for herself. “I quit. And people thought I was being insane. But my calling was to do something else. I just decided to learn and teach yoga,” she says. After training with BKS Iyengar in Pune, Khosa opened a yogashala in Hong Kong, run just on the goodwill of clients who would contribute to the rent, help with infrastructure and pitch in with finances. “We would hold Vedanta classes, meditation classes. It was never a business, I wanted to be more of a student than a teacher. Then I studied Ayurveda formally, a one year course with Dr Vasant Lad.”
a natural tranSition
Suddenly, Khosa’s life changed drastically. After working important telecom deals for ten years, she set off on a spiritual, Eat-Pray-Love-like journey. This finally led her to the Himalayas. “I needed to come back to my country. Hong Kong has given me everything, it’s fantastic, but it doesn’t nurture my soul. And I know that my country, my earth does,” she says. She conducted extensive research, travelling across Kashmir, Uttrakhand and Himachal, partnered with NGOs such as Umang and Chirag and women self-help groups in some of the most remote Himalayan villages, which eventually led to the conception of Purearth. “In Uttrakhand, I think it’s around 20 per cent migration from the rural areas to the cities. And it’s the men who migrate, not the women. The women are the caregivers and very often the men don’t send the money back, so women often also have to bring in the income,” she says. “I am very conscious about the ethics and the sustainability aspect of all the ingredients that I source. What I sourced at all these NGOs, none of them were guilty products. They would use chilli, garlic flakes, walnuts, apricots, rajma, rice – so this was what I was exposed to.”
A self-proclaimed “woman of the soil”, Khosa finally created a business model which was cost-effective and convenient. Sourcing from the mountains is a complex process. “Seabuckthorn oil comes from Leh, apricot oil comes from Uttrakhand, turmeric comes from Ponta Sahib near Dehradun, rosemary and other herbs come from Uttrakhand too. It doesn’t
Back to Roots Khosa is very conscious about the ethics and sustainability aspect of all the ingredients that she sources
A family affair Khosa and her husband Amar (left) often enjoy family vacations with their two sons