Shahnaz Husain’s journey is a great inspiration for all the young entrepreneurs, especially women. She has revived the science of Ayurvedic beauty which was earlier lost in the realms of antiquity and not be an integral part of modern beauty regime. She is one of the rare and few first generation women who introduced a new concept of Ayurvedic care and cure across the globe. In an interaction with Diksha Yadav, she talks about the various challenges she faced and shares her entrepreneurial insights.
From where did you get the inspiration of making a career in beauty business?
I never planned it this way. I was married at the age of 15 and by the time I was 16, I had become a mother. I was always interested in beauty and in making others beautiful, so I decided on beauty as a career. I was determined to get the best training possible and worked by way to prized institutions of the West, to learn cosmetic chemistry and cosmetology. My husband was posted in Tehran at the time, as head of foreign trade with the State Trading Corporation of India. I was not a college graduate, but I loved to write, so I started writing articles for the Iran Tribune. While training in London, I came across instances of damage caused by chemical treatments. In a way, this changed the course of my life and career. I wanted to find a natural alternative that was safe and without risks. My study of Ayurveda convinced me that it could offer the ideal answers to modern cosmetic-care. So I returned to India and started my first herbal salon in the verandah of my home in New Delhi, in 1971, in a very small way.
What were the initial challenges that you faced while starting your first herbal salon?
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. I 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 borrowed Rs.35000 from my father to start my first herbal salon in a very small way. Entering the international market was the biggest challenge.
What is the USP of your brand and how is it different from others?
“Shahnaz Husain” is not a faceless brand name or corporate. Everyone knows that the person behind the brand name is herself trained in cosmetology and cosmetic therapy. My name has become the brand. The brand name is a symbol of my vision of herbal beauty care. It is a unique integrated system of Salon Chain and Product Excellence. The products have grown out of clinical usage. They have been clinically tested in actual user-conditions. Along with general care, the Brand has become known for its therapeutic products, for the treatment of specific skin and hair problems. The Shahnaz Husain label has become a symbol of my own understanding of Ayurvedic Beauty Care, my vision and philosophy. Today, the brand is ideally positioned as the leader in both domestic and international markets in Ayurvedic beauty care.
How has the definition of beauty changed over time?
I always say that when I started my career, beauty was “Colour and Cover.” Superficial beauty treatments and hairstyling were “treats” women went in for, without realizing that beauty is actually the outcome of long term care. No heed was paid to the health of the skin and hair, to natural beauty care and to the potential dangers of chemical treatments. I introduced “Care & Cure,” as well as natural beauty care. Beauty is a total impact. It is physical beauty power, brain power and spiritual power. It is the blending together of physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual qualities into one integrated whole. Beauty care should help towards the achievement of healthy skin and hair, because the beauty of the skin and hair lies in their good health.
What is your message for the budding women entrepreneurs?
Today, professional qualifications and training is the order of the day. So, it is essential to acquire professional and vocational training in your own 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. Never give up. Have the ability to adapt and adjust, because one has to adapt to the changing demands of the market and trends. In a business, trends and techniques can change. Start in a small way, but think “big.”