It has been a long journey for India’s beauty industry’s best-known impresario Shahnaz Husain. For over 40 decades, the cosmetics czarina has been at the forefront of Ayurvedic “care and cure” that has inevitably made her a household name.
It has been a long journey for India’s beauty industry’s best-known impresario Shahnaz Husain. For over 40 decades, the cosmetics czarina has been at the forefront of Ayurvedic “care and cure” that has inevitably made her a household name. But that and everything she has done thus far has just been a milestone: In the fifth decade of her journey, Shahnaz Husain has many things up her sleeve. She plans to set up beauty schools globally “to impart training in skin and hair problems with the powerful magic of herbs and plant power”. Also on the cards are treatment and de-stress centres along with spas in hospitals “where people going through treatment can relax and rejuvenate themselves”. On March 8, to commemorate the International Women’s Day, Husain announced the launch of Nari Vikas Movement for women empowerment and upliftment of rural women by setting aside an amount of `11 crores by adopting 11 villages on an immediate basis. Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Looking back at the journey of well over four decades, what would you attribute the success of Shahnaz Husain Herbals to A: One of the most important factors responsible for our growth and success is that I chose Ayurvedic care and cure. During my training in London in cosmetics therapy, I came across instances of damage caused by chemical ingredients and I was determined to find a natural alternative. I was the first Indian to open a Shahnaz Ayurveda Aesthetic Clinic on London’s Harley Street. The study of Ayurveda convinced me that it could provide the ideal alternative to the demands of beauty care. That is when the “Back to Nature” movement was starting in the West. I was exceptionally fortunate, because when the world was looking for a natural alternative, I was already there and established.
Q: How has the cosmetics industry in India evolved over the last four decades What do you think have been the major breakthroughs for the industry A: Four decades ago, when I started my career, beauty treatments were mainly “colour and cover”. Superficial beauty treatments and hairstyling were “treats” women went in for. There was hardly any awareness of the potential dangers of chemical treatments and of other detrimental effects on beauty, like exposure to UV rays and environmental pollutants. At that time, the beauty industry in India, including the beauty services industry, was largely unorganised and fragmented. Only some basic beauty products like cold cream and shampoo were available on cosmetics store shelves. The word “cosmetics” mainly implied make-up items. Herbal beauty care, as we know it today, did not exist. It is herbal beauty care which is a major breakthrough. Scientific techniques and modern beauty concepts have also influenced products. Many kinds of beauty products, for varied purposes, are now available, even based on individual skin type, from sunscreens and moisturisers, to specialised cleansers, toners, astringents, scrubs, masks, serums, shampoos, conditioners, hair tonics, hair serums and so on. Product innovation has gone to new heights, especially in terms of anti-ageing or age control treatments and products. Another major development is that branding has become important in the Indian beauty industry. Beauty companies concentrate on building up brand loyalty and brand identity through innovative promotions and value-added offers.
Q: In the fifth decade, what are going to be the Shahnaz Husain Herbals’ major strategies as far as expansion and outreach are concerned A: We are expanding our footprints across the globe. We will be taking Ayurveda and Brand India to more countries within the next year. By 2015, we plan to expand our presence in major countries like the USA, Canada, Kazakhstan and Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, China, New Zealand and other CIS countries, including Russia, Belarus and Latvia. Our future plans include concentrated international branding, strengthening and widening our global chain of franchise ventures and appointing distributors in unrepresented new markets. So, we will continue to launch advanced products in Ayurvedic beauty care in the international markets. 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 also plan to open treatment and de-stress centres along with spas in hospitals where people going through treatment can relax and rejuvenate themselves. I have recently been invited to lecture at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, on how I built a brand without commercial advertising and publicity.
Q: How important are innovation and product evaluation for your products’ long-term success A: We have remained a dynamic organisation due to product innovation. Our commitment to research and development and the launch of highly innovative formulations from time to time, are some of the reasons why the brand has developed so strongly. As for product evaluation, our products are not only laboratory tested, but also clinically tested in actual user conditions in the chain of Shahnaz salons. Q: With more and more products flooding the market, do you ever have a sense of competition A: What is truly unique is that “Shahnaz Husain” is not a faceless brand name or corporate. The image that is foremost in the mind of clients and consumers is that of a real, answerable person, who is herself trained in cosmetology and cosmetics therapy. Q: Do you think the cosmetics industry in India is poised for great leaps in the years to come with major cosmetic brands making their presence felt A: The beauty industry in India continues to thrive, with a tremendous potential for growth. It is estimated that the size of the beauty products business in India is around Rs 5,000 crores. According to Assocham, if we take the beauty salon and spa service industries into consideration, it is said to be much higher, over Rs 10,000 crores. It is to double by 2014. Q: Finally, what is a day in the life of Shahnaz Husain like What are your preoccupations A: I always wish there were more than 24 hours to a day. As I am involved in each and every aspect of my enterprise, I have an extremely busy schedule every day. My day includes discussions with different departments, from production, international expansion, public relations, to packaging and promotions. There are often foreign buyers to meet, or media interviews. After a hard day’s work, I love going to Barista for coffee. Listening to music, the soft melodies of ghazals, in subdued lighting, is also something I love doing. I also love to paint, expressing my thoughts and feelings with a riot of colours. For others, a good life may be living for 100 years, but I live a lifetime between the rising and setting of the sun.