For the last 46 years, Shahnaz Husain has been successfully propagating Ayurveda. She has not only realised her dream of putting Ayurveda on the world map, she is now even taking it to space with help from NASA.
You have pioneered the concept of Ayurvedic beauty care and succeeded in making it global. How did you promote Ayurveda?
In order to promote brand India and Ayurveda, I held press conferences around the world and spoke from various international rostrums, including leading universities and even the House of Lords and House of Commons in the British Parliament. My franchise system also helped me, as I extended my salons throughout India and in other countries through my franchise system. It helped me to promote my Ayurvedic treatments and products all over the world.
Apart from your franchise system, you coined unique business strategies. What were they? What was the response?
In taking Ayurveda across the globe, I became known for my unique business and marketing strategies, especially my franchise system and the fact that I did not rely on commercial advertising. Actually, it was all part of my concept of customized beauty care. Dr L R Hayes, from Harvard University, was visiting Delhi and wanted to understand our marketing techniques. According to him, business schools teach that publicity and advertising are the only ways to build brand identity and ensure success. But I didn’t believe in that and he was most surprised when I informed him that I had started in 1970 as a lone player in a completely unknown field and established brand identity, without any publicity. He felt I had violated every norm taught in a B-school! I was also invited to speak at Harvard Business School.
Tell us about your lecture at Harvard Business School.
I was asked to speak on how to I established an international brand without commercial advertising. I told them that ‘word of mouth’ worked for me and a satisfied client was the best advertisement. I spoke about how my products actually grew out of clinical treatments and massive client feedback.
I believe you also lectured at Oxford University and in the same year, you spoke at the London School of Economics.
I was invited by Oxford University to speak to students on ‘Women Entrepreneurs – Challenges and Opportunities’. I spoke on women entrepreneurship in my country, discussing the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. I emphasized the importance of education and a professional qualification and traced my journey from one herbal salon to a global chain of ventures.The same year, I also spoke at the London School of Economics on the Indian herbal heritage and India’s rising global influence. I
highlighted the economic potential of Ayurveda. I pointed out that such industries play an important role in economic growth, social stability, generating employment, creating wealth and also preserving culture.
How was your experience at MIT? Tell us about it.
I was invited to speak at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on women empowerment and innovative entrepreneurship. The lecture was held at the Sloan School of Management. I spoke on how important it is to empower women with education and professional training, in order to make them financially independent and self-reliant.I mentioned this particularly in the Indian context, which evoked much
interest among the audience.
How have these promotional lectures helped?
Through my lectures, I popularize our ancient herbal heritage and feel it can be adapted by any culture and at any time in history. My mission has also been to create an international market for Ayurvedic products, proving that Ayurveda is the answer to the demands of modern beauty and health care.
You have achieved so much international acclaim. What next?
I have never rested on my laurels. I always think of the next frontier to cross and the next mountain to climb. Perhaps, I will take Ayurveda to the Moon or Mars! Actually, that is not such a far-fetched dream as we have formulated an Ayurvedic cream called ‘Shaspace’ for space travel and given it to NASA for trials.