I Had The Burning Desire To Create Something And To Establish My Ideas And Innovations. I Wanted To Be Someone Who Made A Difference.
By Ms. Shahnaz Husain- CEO of Shahnaz Herbals Inc.
Beautiful Minds - 'Wings of Inspiration'
Ms. Shahnaz Husain , a pioneer and a leader of the Ayurvedic beauty care movement, has marketed worldwide India’s 5000 year old civilization in a jar. Today, she heads the largest organization of its kind in the world with a global network of franchise salons, spa, retail outlets, beauty training academies, as well as 375 Ayurvedic formulations for beauty and health care.
Shahnaz Husain has received several prestigious international awards, including the World’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur Award from Success, the U.S. based Business Magazine and the Padma Shri Award for exceptional services towards the country and distinguished achievement in her chosen field. Harvard Business School conducted a video interview of Shahnaz Husain for their “Creating Emerging Markets” project, in recognition of the international market created by her for herbal beauty care. The video will be part of the curriculum for management students. Shahnaz Husain had earlier become a Harvard Case Study on Brand Creation. Now she is a Subject.
"I had the burning desire to create something and to establish my ideas and innovations. I wanted to be someone who made a difference."
Q.1 Give us an insight of your business?
The Shahnaz Husain Group is the pioneer and leader of the Ayurvedic beauty care movement. Today, it is the largest organization of its kind in the world, with a global network of franchise salons, spas, retail outlets, beauty training academies and direct product distributors. The Shahnaz Husain franchise is at the core of the success of the Shahnaz Husain brand. The fast-paced extension of the Shahnaz Herbal salons and other ventures is due to a unique franchise system. The Shahnaz Signature Salons have become internationally known for path-breaking treatments and innovations. As leaders in product innovation, the Group has evolved more than 375 Ayurvedic products for beauty and health care. They comprise of formulations for general care and also, include highly specialized therapeutic products for specific skin and hair problems. The ingredients comprise of herb, flower and fruit extracts, essential oils and other natural substances, including minerals and gems. State-of-the-art manufacturing and R&D units, as well as long expertise have given the Group an edge over others in the sophisticated formulation of products. The Shahnaz Husain Group currently operates worldwide, with its integrated system of franchise ventures and product excellence.
Q.2 What motivated & inspired you to start your business?
Translating my dreams and ideas into reality inspired me to become an entrepreneur. During my training in London, I came across instances of damage caused by chemical substances. In a way this changed my life and career. It sowed the seeds of my desire to become an entrepreneur. I decided to evolve treatments that are safe and without risks. I was determined to find a natural alternative. The study of Ayurveda convinced me that it could provide the ideal answers to the demands of beauty care. I knew that the only way I could translate my ideas was by starting my own herbal salon and thus implement my ideas of herbal and customized beauty care. My independence of spirit was an inspiration in itself. I knew that I must have the freedom to implement all my ideas and this can only be done in one’s own enterprise. My innovations and creativity needed expression and the right environment to grow and flourish. I had the burning desire to create something and to establish my ideas and innovations. I wanted to be someone who made a difference. This was my guiding inspiration.
Q3. According to you, what are the key aspects that can help an Indian woman achieve professional and business success?
The most important aspect is professional or vocational training in your field of business, or in marketing, exports and other subjects related to your business. Professional training is the order of the day. Training in business management would help. For example, our beauty training course includes business and clinic management, to enable one to set up one’s own salon and go into business. Creativity and innovation are very necessary. So is foresight and ability to adjust to changing trends and markets. For a creative person, the world of business offers many avenues, because creativity leads to innovative ideas. Translating them into practical terms is what business is all about.
Q4. What is the greatest obstacle you had faced in achieving the success you desired? How did you overcome it?
The biggest hurdle was entering the international market. India was not even represented at that time, but I attended International Beauty Congresses on my own steam, speaking on Ayurveda and trying to popularize Ayurvedic beauty care. I participated in the Festival of India in London in 1980 and was given a counter in the Perfumery Section at Selfridges. There I was rubbing shoulders with the biggest international brand names. 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, Bloomindales in New York, 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.
Q5. Harvard Business School recently conducted your video interview. How did it come about?
Earlier, I had met Dr. L.R. Hayes of Harvard when he had come to Delhi. After hearing how I had established a global network and brand name without commercial advertising, he said that my business strategies defy every rule in the book. I was invited to speak at Harvard Business School on my business and marketing strategies, becoming a Case Study on Brand Creation. Recently, Harvard conducted my video interview on its “Creating Emerging Markets” project, which will be a part of the subject Business History for Management students. Earlier I was a Case Study and now I’m a Subject.
Q6. Artist M.F. Husain painted your portrait. Please tell us about it.
Yes, the iconic artist M.F. Husain did paint my portrait. He depicted me like a Mughal Empress and told me that this was his impression of me; the way he perceived me. It is my most prized possession. It has pride of place in our sitting room in Delhi. At my request, he also designed and Investors India | October 2017 painted the card for my daughter’s wedding. He had this habit of making sketches. Whenever he visited us, he would make sketches of horses and leave them in our house.
Q 7. You have said “my philanthropic work has remained the nerve-center of my entrepreneurial success.” Please tell us about your philanthropic activities.
I wanted to make a positive contribution towards empowering the less privileged by supporting vocational beauty training for the physically-challenged, so that they can become financially independent and self-reliant. I started my free beauty training courses for the speech & hearing and the visually impaired over 35 years ago. The learning of different skills not only opens the door to employment, but is also important for the development of the country. We are also involved in Government Skill Development projects for Training and Certifying under-privileged women in the beauty and health industry. Our Academy has created Study Material and Class Plan to train the women. The beneficiaries also received Toolkits to help them start their own business, without relocating from home. Over 40,000 women have been trained. I believe that Skill Development has great social relevance in a developing country like India.
Q 8. You have received several prestigious awards. Please mention some of them. How was the experience of walking the red carpet at Cannes?
I received the “World’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur Award” from the New York based Success Magazine, becoming the first woman in 107 years to receive it. I also received the Golden Peacock Award in London from Ms. Theresa May, who is now the Prime Minister of the U.K. I also received the Padma Shri Award in 2006. When I walked the red carpet at Cannes, I also attended the celebrations of 100 years of Indian Cinema at Cannes, which was also held that year. It included a formal candle-lit sit-down dinner. Indian cinema evokes a great deal of interest and the biggest crowds were seen during the celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema. Everybody seemed obsessed with India! Indian stars were a big attraction. While walking the red carpet, the celebrities were being asked about their dress and the designer brand. When they asked me, I said, “I am wearing a handcrafted Hyderabadi outfit; I am wearing Brand India!” It has been observed that finance management is one of the major obstacles that young women entrepreneurs face. So, if you can put some light on how do you manage your funds and invest on wealth creation, then it will be helpful to others. I started in a very small way, in 1971, in my own home. I did not invest a large capital. I borrowed Rs. 35,000 /- from my father. I started extending my salons on a franchise system, in which I had no investment and no share in their profit or loss. But they became important outlets for my products and treatments. I invested in R & D, product development and manufacturing by putting my earnings in the business. However, my franchise business was a success, because I had already established brand identity and brand recognition.
Q 9. As we are talking about business start-up, what advice would you give to the young women entrepreneurs about being more organized and informed about finance management?
One important change is that various institutions in the financial sector have been offering incentives to women entrepreneurs, in terms of loans and other schemes. But, there is still the question of women being aware of these incentives. So, women should find out from banks and government trade agencies about loans and other schemes. For example, for small scale industries, the government provides support by identifying markets, trade and promotions. With globalization, products and services are needed for the global market and this requires effort at various levels, from the Government, research institutions, vocational training institutions, export development and trade agencies, etc. Markets need to be explored. Presenting the products in a globally attractive manner is also essential, along with knowledge of the demands of the global market.
Q 10. The young entrepreneurs will love to know your SUCCESS MANTRA, so that they can also use it for their business growth.
To the woman who wants to be an entrepreneur, my advice would be “Believe in yourself and your own abilities.” It is important to have faith in one’s own abilities. Keep learning. Have the courage to say, “I don’t know this, but I can learn it.” Be sure to take charge of yourself and your health. Have regular medical check-ups, learn about nutrition, and take daily exercise. There is nothing like daily exercise for staying youthful and active. You may start in a small way, but think “BIG.” I believe that in seizing opportunities lies the secret of success, because the opportunity may never come again. With entrepreneurship, the sky is the limit, provided one has relentless determination to excel and the ability for sheer hard-work.
"You have to think that nothing is beyond you. You can make your own destiny. You can be, what you will yourself to be." - By Shahnaz Husain