SupportBiz talks to Sheetal Wathodkar, founder of AromaOrchard about various aspects of her business.
What is your background? What were you doing prior to starting Aroma Orchard?
I am a B. Tech in Cosmetic Technology from LAD & SRP College for Women, Nagpur. After obtaining my degree, I worked as a Fragrance Evaluator with several fragrance and flavor companies in Chennai and Bangalore. I started PGDBA program in Marketing Management, while I was expecting my baby, from Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning, and completed this course while taking care of my baby. I took a break for almost 4 years to enjoy motherhood before embarking on entrepreneurship. Recently, I completed my certification from NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) to enhance my knowledge in the field of Aromatherapy.
When did you start AromaOrchard?
I thought of the idea of starting a home-based natural perfumery in early 2011, but it took me as long as October 2011 to actually launch the business.
How did you come up with the idea of starting Aroma Orchard?
I have always had a highly developed sense of smell. Later, when I studied perfumes and colours as a subject, I loved it. It taught me the basics of perfumery. When I bagged a campus placement in a perfume company, I was able to get a first-hand feel of what it is like behind the doors. I had a feeling that I would love to do this in life – start a perfumery of my own. When I was at home, having a baby and taking a break from my career as a fragrance evaluator, I realized that the breathing difficulties I was having earlier had absolutely disappeared. It struck me that this was because of staying away from chemicals. That was when the fabulous idea of making perfumes that do not contain any synthetic chemicals hit me. That is how AromaOrchard came about.
Do you have an exclusive retail store where you sell your products?
I do not have an exclusive retail store for my products at the moment, but I do sell them through Itshandmade, an interactive online market place for handmade designer products. Apart from that, I also get product inquiries and orders from visitors to my blog and Facebook page.
Do you advertise in any way, apart from your blog and Facebook page?
No, apart from my blog and Facebook page, I do not advertise my products. I get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, though, from satisfied clients.
How do you ship your products to your customers?
I use the Speed Post facility offered by India Post for shipping orders. I am working on establishing a contract with them for delivery outside India. Hopefully, I will be able to ship my products across the globe soon.
Which are your most popular perfumes?
From the women’s collection, my perfumes called Enchantress, Moroccan Mistress and Cool Wave are highly popular. From the men’s collection, a perfume called Tranquility is the best seller.
How are Aroma Orchard perfumes different from others available in the market?
Most of the perfumes available today are made up from synthetic chemicals and are mass-produced. AromaOrchard’s perfumes are made from 100% natural ingredients, and are unique and handmade. These perfumes provide users the benefits of Aromatherapy, derived from entirely natural ingredients and essential oils. The scent experience is subtle yet luxurious, personal, and free from alcohol & synthetic chemicals. It is a great choice for those who prefer eco-friendly products and/or allergic to synthetic materials normally added to perfumes.
What do you think about the fragrance market in India today?
There are several kinds of fragrances available today – from prestige fine fragrances by Chanel and Prada to affordable deodorants like Axe, Set Wet and Nivea. You also get smell-alike duplicate versions of fine fragrances, that are available at far lesser price point compared to the high-end version. I find that Indians are still not as aware of the different kinds of fragrances available in the market as people from other countries. In other cultures, people wear different perfume for different time (day/evening wear) and also depending on season (summer/ winter). Perfume is a part of their daily ritual. However, in the Indian context, perfume is still a luxury.
How big is your team at present?
At the moment, I am the only one who makes the perfumes, takes orders and supplies them. My husband does help out whenever required.
What are your expansion plans in the near future?
In the short time since we have started, the response has been very encouraging. I have always been an ear and shoulder to lot of my friends and family. I can feel and listen to people deeply and relate to their emotional ups and downs. In the coming years, I want to marry this ability of mine with my knowledge of perfumes to help people overcome their emotional problems with the use of their very own customised perfume.
I have recently come out with customized ‘Bride & Groom’ perfumes, which have been greatly appreciated. In the near future, I would want to further my activities on customised/bespoke perfumery.
What are the major challenges that you face?
One of the major challenges that I face is maintaining a balance between my work and my family. Sometimes, it becomes rather tough to give time to family when work beckons, and at other times, it is the other way round.
Also, due to the exotic nature of ingredients used in my perfumes, the cost is higher as compared to regular departmental store perfumes. Also, no synthetic chemicals means no spray bottle. All AromaOrchard perfumes come with a roll-on bottle. People in India are still new to the concept of all-natural perfume and the benefits they can receive from it. Hence, they hesitate before buying such products and usually prefer cheaper products instead. I feel there is a need to educate people about the benefits they will receive by using all-natural product.
What have been your proudest moments as an entrepreneur?
As a natural perfumer, I take pride in doing my bit to keep earth clean and green. Whenever I work on a customized perfume, I feel happy that I am helping a person with my creation that serves them, makes them feel good about themselves, and is also eco-friendly.
If I have to mention one moment that made me feel the proudest, though, it would be when a woman entrepreneur placed a big order for perfumes as a Women’s day gift for her female employees. It was a very sweet gesture that touched me immensely.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
When you are inspired with a dream, God has hit the ball into your court and you have to hit it back with commitment. Believe in your dream and your abilities. Put your heart and soul into your venture, and success will follow.