FOR­EVER BEAU­TI­FUL

Kavita Khosa, Founder, Purearth, on her in­spi­ra­tion to start an eth­i­cal skin­care line

India Today - - CONTENTS - By As­mita Bak­shi lo­ca­tion cour­tesy mar­riott suites, pune wardrobe cour­tesy threads and souls by dim­ple math­i­jia hair and make up lane six sa­lon, pune photo by man­dar de­od­har

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

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