In my last note, I talked about how my Indian heritage shaped sustainability for me and how I incorporate that into Abhati. Now I’d like to take a moment to think about how my Indian culture motivates the other great passion of mine: natural beauty.
When I was growing up, my granny—my Naniji—would pull out all sorts of oils and plants and powders to massage and rub into my hair and face. She never bought us any products to specifically address an issue like acne or dry hair, but would instead make it all in her kitchen. Besan (gram flour), yogurt, turmeric, cold pressed oils, exotic (for the UK, at least) fruits…she would slather us head to toe with her latest beauty concoction, and at times I felt like a pickle put to one side to marinate!
This dedication to natural beauty remedies is passed from generation to generation in Indian families, so Naniji passed her knowledge onto my mum, who passed it on to me and my girls. And it is a dedication to looking after our hair, skin and scalp that we carry with us through our entire lives.
My mother is now 85-years-old and still asks for her hair to be put up in a tight bun so she can enjoy her daily shower ritual with her lovely creams and potions. She still wears sindoor (worn by married women in their hair line) and a tikka (a red dot of vermilion paste) on her forehead. My dad is 87, and they both lovingly reminisce about their younger days and the importance of quality over quantity, and staying as true to nature as possible.
My mum has dementia, and that means she often forgets who dad is in the late afternoon. But when she notices him sitting there, she asks who that handsome man with so much hair is—hair that she spent decades lovingly massaging and oiling. A quiet moment of recognition we cherish dearly.
And how to does this connect to my life as an entrepreneur? When it comes to the types of products I want to make at Abhati, I think of those countless hours spent with my granny and mum in the kitchen brewing their latest beauty elixir, and I use those moments as inspiration for our formulas. For instance, I’ve spent my life seeing the power of the small-but-mighty amla fruit—how my parents and grandparents always had thick, healthy hair and delayed premature greying by applying it religiously to their scalps. So when I decided to venture into haircare, there was no question that amla would be the star.
Or tamarind. Naniji used to soak it overnight, and then mix it with a bit of turmeric, honey and natural yogurt. She’d slather it all over my face, legs and arms, and leave me to soak in all its moisturising goodness. Back then I found the process tiresome because what child wants to sit around covered in yogurt and spices, however now as a beauty founder, I understand the science of why it was such an effective home remedy. Tamarind contains a high concentration of a natural alternative to hyaluronic acid, so after hours spent soaking in my granny’s kitchen my skin was always smooth, supple and hydrated. With our newest additions to our line of hair products, I knew I wanted to incorporate the natural goodness of tamarind. We did just that with our IMALAYA Volumising Shampoo, and the result is magic.
Wanting to make a difference in the world drives my dedication to seeing the charitable model we’ve created with Abhati succeed, but my heritage drives my passion for crafting products that are as natural as possible. Products that do what we want them they do. And every time I use an Abhati product, I’m reminded of my dear Naniji and I smile thinking about what she’s inspired. Back then when she was slathering me in turmeric and marinating me like a pickle, little did she know she was inspiring a movement. And I know she’d be proud of what I’m doing.