Rajiv Sheth, master perfumer and the creative director behind All Good Scents, on what inspired him to come back to his country and start his entrepreneurial adventure.
Jasmine, sandalwood, rose, patchouli, vetiver… Whenever I smelled these ingredients – whether in classes at I.S.I.P.C.A, Versailles or during the time I was creating fragrances for a French perfume house in Paris – it reminded me of home.
These raw materials would instantly make me revisit my childhood memories of playing in my grand- father’s jasmine-scented gardens and partaking in fragrant festive ceremonies. My family has been into manufacture and export of essential oils & perfumes for over 60 years, and I have grown up with the scents of rose, patchouli, vetiver, lingering in the air. The more I studied perfumery and delved deeper into its finer nuances, the more I realised India’s role in the modern olfactory universe.
Till date, India remains one of the leading exporters of perfumery raw materials, and it’s not uncommon for noses from prestige perfume houses to travel to India for the best quality ingredients. Most designer and branded fragrances are created by multinationals such as Firmenich, Givaudan, IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) etc., which have their internal resource of perfumers. These companies also manufacture natural and aromatic chemicals, and for them, India is one of the largest sources for natural ingredients like spices, woods and flowers. Many of these ingredients are converted into essential oils or absolutes and exported out of India. One of which is jasmine sambac, which is the jasmine variety found in our country and is widely exported.
What is even unique is how natural perfume ingredients continue to be a part of daily life. Take for instance the tradition of women wearing jasmine mogra in the hair, burning of sandalwood incense sticks for religious ceremonies and the use of fragrant gulabs and mogras in weddings. Even in our food, whether is it is gulkand in paan, or kewra water in biryani, or khus sherbats, the fragrant quotient is high.
For me, it was strange that on the one hand, India has been a land of olfactory indulgence and yet there is no modern Indian perfume that could stand on its own against the branded perfume industry in the West, especially France. All the duty-free sections in Indian airports were filled with the same alcohol-based fragrances that are available in all other parts of the world, and there was no Indian brand insight.
All along while I was studying and working in Paris, I was on the lookout if any significant brand in India moved into perfumery. And for so many years I didn’t see any Indian brand making serious inroads into this industry. There were line extensions but I didn’t come across a lifestyle, aspirational category of Indian fragrances. We did have attars and it didn’t move beyond that.
For me, this was a gap, and that motivated me to move back from France with a mission of building a modern fragrance house in India. And that’s how All Good Scents was created with an aim to blend our scented heritage with modern sensibilities, keeping in mind the domestic preferences of scents. Of giving people access to fine fragrances but at affordable price points so they can enjoy and wear perfumes on a daily basis and not only on occasions.