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'Don’t Start With Marketing Plan, Start With Product'

There’s more to the entrepreneur-turned-author Nelofar Currimbhoy, the President of the Shahnaz Husain Group of Companies, than being the daughter of the doyen of beauty entrepreneurship in India

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Nasir and Shahnaz Husain’s daughter Nelofar Currimbhoy has been lovingly named after the Princess of Hyderabad. Born into a vibrant heritage and ancestral lineage, she believes in the values and traditions that are passed down through generations. Shahnaz and Nelofar have grown up together, like sisters (with 16 years difference between the two) where the latter went through the rigorous process of learning alongside her mother. As Nelofar puts it, “There are a few entrepreneurs who imbibe from their home-grown business and I am lucky to do that since the age of 12. My journey started with filling beauty grains into product containers. I have not inherited my position in my business but I am one of the next-generation entrepreneurs who has worked with intent and passion through each and every loop of its winding path. I have mixed products, stirred the creams, bottled the ready products and labelled them. Hence, I have gone through the process of building it alongside my mother.”         

Nelofar Currimbhoy is the President of the Shahnaz Husain Group of Companies. A graduate of Lady Shri Ram College, she has been trained in beauty therapy at I.T.E.C., London. Under her mother’s wings, she learnt the ropes of the business, built her own place with her sleek managerial capabilities and now administers the company. So how difficult it is to follow in footsteps? “Though my biggest inspiration has been my grandfather Nasirullah Beg, who believed in multi-faith and the right to equality towards women, my mother has been my muse and mentor. Having said that we are two different personalities. She has been multitasking and has been the face of the brand. I take the hands-on approach to the national distribution and marketing of the products to ensure they reach the consumer. I have a creative bent and match up to give my best in my field as she has been doing in her field.”

Currimbhoy’s special interest, however, lies in research and development. She spends hours in creating innovative product lines like the 24 Carat Gold range, the Pearl Whitening range, the Flower Power range and the recently introduced cream ‘Oops’ - an all-natural acne cream. “My interest in beauty formulations and inventions was piqued at an early age and when I was 25 I had created a formidable range while I was assisting my mother in pioneering a reincarnated beauty movement adding her own mark to enhance the company’s portfolio and image.”

While heading the sales and marketing, Currimbhoy feels with the changing trends one has to evolve with time. She sensed this as early as ten years ago that internet sales will be the order of the day. “I set up ‘Shastore’ a website that brought the product to the customer's computer screen and into the homes of women in far-flung places. Today, the site has grown exponentially that only net sales can penetrate to and the facility of personal phone calls and contact for women in smaller towns who need the comfort of a voice.”

The brand has exponentially grown at the rate of 25-30 per cent every year, but there is a need to tap the international market. “Africa is a strong emerging market to launch our products. We plan to focus in unexplored markets like the US, South America and Indonesia in the coming years where the popularity of natural products is huge,” says the creative head as she signs the final sketch of the new range of cosmetic colour line.

Apart from her interest in Ayurvedic formulations, her management skill coupled with an innovative mindset makes her an excellent entrepreneur. One strong piece of advice to all the young entrepreneurs, she says, “Don’t start with the marketing plan, start with a product. If the product is strong you can market it well. The product has to pass the test of competing with any other product. Advertising is good but it should be packaged with the strong product and word of mouth publicity. Social media helps, but personal contact is very important. No matter how high you reach one should be in touch with your customer and be ahead of the competition.”

Apart from her strong business skills, Currimbhoy is an avid writer. “For me, the ability to write translates itself into the best communication with my customer,” she says. The insight into Shahnaz Herbals from its genesis to date is vividly portrayed in her first book ‘Flame’ which was her debut into the literary world. “One fine day when we were at the bookstore, my mother told me to write a book on me. The book brought out my creative bent at the time when I used to jot down verses in the form of letters to my mother.” Now, the book is being scripted for a soon-to-be-released film and has been translated into Malayalam, Bengali and Urdu.

While the second book, yet to be published in English, ‘Beauty to Beauty’ is a guide for the common woman in Malayalam and the third being ‘Eyes of the Healer’ brings out her compelling talent as a storyteller, this time in verse.

As a CSR initiative, she is involved in ‘Shamute’, a free training school in cosmetic therapy for the speech and hearing impaired to offer skilled jobs and guidance.

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entrepreneurs shahnaz husain Nelofar Currimbhoy marketing