What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner, and how have you met that challenge?
Entering the international market was the biggest challenge. I participated in the Festival of India in London in 1980 and was given a counter in the Perfumery Section at Selfridges. In the face of fierce competition, to stand up alone and sell India’s ancient civilization in a jar was not easy. To everyone’s surprise, the entire consignment sold out in 3 days, breaking the store’s existing cosmetic sales records. It resulted in a permanent counter at the London store. From there, we moved on to Harrods in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, the Seibu chain in Japan, La Rinascente in Milan and El Corte Inglis in Spain. Obstacles and hurdles come up in life, but I have tried to meet them as challenges, with my desire to excel, my relentless determination to succeed, an iron will and sheer hard work. I believe that one should never stop trying. If you never stop trying, you cannot fail. Nothing is impossible. I do not believe in destiny. You can be what you will yourself to be. You can make your own destiny.
Having adopted a totally new concept of herbal care and cures, I had to increase awareness of the healing powers of herbs and the dangers of chemical and synthetic ingredients. I did this by contributing articles in leading newspapers and magazines. Very early in my career, I also made it a point to reply personally to letters seeking solutions for skin and hair problems. Four decades later, I still maintain this practice, this personal touch. In my regular columns, I provide home remedies as solutions for beauty problems. In the minds of the readers, this reinforces my philosophy that “nature is the best cosmetologist.” My philosophy and faith in nature have not only influenced markets and minds, but have become an integral part of the brand image. I also had to overcome social and economic hurdles. It was a time when women were just stepping out of their homes into the career world. It was my family’s support and understanding that helped me to overcome barriers and realize my dreams.
I enjoy the creativity and innovation that my role as an entrepreneur demands. As an entrepreneur, I have always upheld the importance of innovation. I have drawn upon the therapeutic values of plants and used them in innovative ways to formulate revolutionary products, not only for general care, but also for specific skin and hair problems. Such innovations have had a dramatic effect on our concept of Ayurvedic beauty care and portfolio of products, which have taken the international markets by storm. The beauty business in India is booming. In fact, it is the herbal beauty business which is driving the growth of the beauty business in India. Beauty trends, rather than regulations keep changing and cosmetic companies have to adjust to the changing trends. Recently, GST had an impact in terms of adjustment of tax and prices, but as time passes the complexities are ironing out. One of the main challenges faced by the beauty industry is the lack of trained personnel. We have our own beauty training academies, following international standards, for vocational training in beauty. First of all, professional qualifications and training is the order of the day. So, it is essential to acquire professional and vocational training in the field. If you can get advanced training and also specialize in some aspect, it can be an advantage. Believe in yourself and your own abilities. Keep learning. Have the courage to say “I don’t know this, but I can learn it.” The sky is the limit, but one should have relentless determination to excel and the ability for sheer hard work.
Have the ability to adapt and adjust, because one has to adapt to the changing demands of the market and trends. This is a business where trends keep changing. Start in a small way, but think “big.” You have to think that nothing is beyond you. As mentioned before, creativity and innovations would stand an entrepreneur in good stead. Innovations make the business dynamic.
Yes, it is important to find a healthy work-life balance. I always made it a point to spend quality time with my family. We would go together for vacations, both in India and abroad and also spend weekends at our herb and flower farm near Delhi. Even now, I love going out for coffee. I love relaxing in the Barista ambience, sipping iced coffee with almond muffins. At such times, I can relax and simply be myself. For me, listening to music, the soft melodies of ghazals, in subdued lighting, is most renewing. Painting and writing poetry are also great restorers of body, mind and soul. They help to put me back in touch with myself.
However busy I may be, I take time out for myself and go for a daily walk. I always say that I could never have achieved what I have, without the support and understanding of my family. First of all, my father guided me and then my husband became my real inspiration to take up a career. I decided to open my first herbal clinic in my own home in a small way. I did not invest a large capital in the business. It was my father from whom I borrowed Rs 35,000/- and started by first herbal clinic. Behind the success of one herbal clinic to the expansion into a worldwide chain lies my relentless determination and hard work and also my father’s faith that I would succeed. My family’s encouragement and constant support made me what I am today. I never rest on my laurels. I am always thinking of the next frontier to cross and the next mountain to climb. As I have mentioned earlier, my dream is to see Indian plant power lead the international cosmetic industry within the next decade, in terms of Ayurvedic beauty care. Our future plans include concentrated international branding, strengthening and widening our global chain of franchise salons, beauty training institutes, retail outlets and spas. We will be extending our Ayurvedic spas, and also converting salons into day spas, where treatments will be geared towards revitalisation, rejuvenation and stress-reduction, upholding the principles of holistic care. Product innovation has helped our organization to remain a dynamic one. In fact, beauty care in India is fashioned after the Shahnaz Husain products and innovations. So we will continue to launch new and revolutionary products. We have recently launched a range of body spray Deodorants, both for men and women, as well as for the premium and regular segments. They are doing extremely well.
We are expanding our footprints across the globe. We will be taking Ayurveda and Brand India to more and more countries. We plan to expand our presence in major countries. Shahnaz Herbals also plans to open treatment and de-stress centres along with spas in hospitals where people going through treatment can relax and rejuvenate themselves. We also plan to set up Beauty schools globally to impart training on skin and hair problems with the powerful magic of herbs and plant power.
We will also continue to supply the Chemoline products for skin and hair care to top Cancer hospitals all over the world, that have been especially designed to help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. These products draw upon the soothing and healing properties of organic ingredients and are known for their beneficial effects on the skin and hair.