Shahnaz Husain - A Successful Indian Woman Entrepreneur
"I do not sell products. I sell an entire civilization in a jar."
- Shahnaz Husain
"She lives, sleeps, breathes her business. She is consumed with building a successful
company which she has done."
- Janine Sharell, Correspondent, CNN
She captured the markets around the world and now she wants to conquer space. In an
innovative move, Shahnaz Husain has started work on formulations that astronauts
could carry with them in their extraterrestrial sojourns to protect their skin from the
ravages of space travel and slow down the ageing process. She has sent National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) free samples of her moisturizers, hoping
that they will be used on space expeditions. Shahnaz Husain is one of India's most
successful women entrepreneurs. Her company, Shahnaz Husain Herbals is one of the
largest manufacturers of herbal products in the world. It formulates and markets over
400 products for various beauty and health needs and has a strong presence across the
globe, from the USA to Asia.
In 2002, the Shahnaz Husain Group, based in New Delhi, was
worth $100 million. It employed about 4200 people in 650
salons spread across 104 countries. The Group has seen a
good growth rate in the 25 years that it has been in business.
The average growth rate in the initial years (late 1970s to the
early 1980s) was 15-20%. In the 1990s the average growth
rate was 19.4%. A number of awards, both national and
international have been conferred on Shahnaz Husain.
Some of them are "The Arch of Europe Gold Star for Quality",
"One of the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World",
"The 2000 Millennium Medal of Honor", "Rajiv Gandhi
Sadbhavana Award", etc. (Refer Exhibit I & II)
The Making of an Entrepreneur
Shahnaz Husain belongs to a royal Muslim family which migrated from Samarkhand to
India and later held high positions in the princely kingdoms of Bhopal and Hyderabad
before India's independence. Shahnaz received her schooling in an Irish convent and
because of the influence of her father, Chief Justice N.U. Beg, she developed a love for
poetry and English Literature.
The Making of an Entrepreneur Contd...
She thus had the advantage of growing up in a traditional family and receiving a modern
education. She was married at the age of 15 and was a mother by the next year. When
her husband was posted in Teheran, Iran, she developed an interest in beauty
treatments and decided to study cosmetology. To support the expenses of the training
financially, she wrote articles for the Iran Tribune on various topics under different
In the course of her studies, she learnt of the harmful effects
of chemicals on the human body. Consequently, she turned
her attention to Ayurveda (Refer Exhibit III), which she
believed was the ideal alternative to chemical cosmetics,
which not only harmed the human system but also led to the
deterioration of the environment in the long run.
After leaving Teheran, she trained extensively in cosmetic
therapy for 10 years in some of the leading institutes of
London, Paris, New York and Copenhagen. On her return to
India in 1977 she set up her own salon at her house in Delhi
with an initial investment of Rs 35000. In contrast to salons
offering chemical treatments, Shahnaz offered Ayurvedic
Entrepreneurship-The Shahnaz Husain Way
Shahnaz Husain uses the Ayurvedic method of treatment, which uses natural
formulations to cure ailments. She is the pioneer and leader of Ayurvedic beauty
products in the world offering "Natural Care and Cure". The Shahnaz Husain Group offers
exclusive salon treatments geared to individual needs as well as a number of commercial
formulations for the treatment of specific problems like acne, pimples, pigmentation,
dehydration, alopecia (hair loss), etc.
According to the Group, ayurvedic products are well suited to human skin and hair as
they are non-toxic and have no harmful side effects. The human body adapts well to the
natural treatments of Ayurveda while it has an inbuilt resistance toward chemical
treatments. This makes the system all the more effective.
The Group's sophisticated R&D units develop the products and put them through
stringent quality control tests. These products are environment friendly and no testing is
done on animals. All the products offered by the group are entirely natural and carry the
guarantee of purity and safety. Shahnaz offers a wide variety of over 400 products for all
age groups and for a variety of problems (Refer Exhibit IV).
Entrepreneurship-The Shahnaz Husain Way Contd...
She uses natural ingredients - fruits, flowers, herbs, vegetables, honey, - as the base for
most of her products. More complicated and exclusive treatments using gold and pearls
have also been developed. Shahnaz has recently launched the Oxygen Range with an
Oxygen cream, an Oxygen mask and facials using ingredients which breathe life into the
skin and revitalize it. The Shahnaz Husain Group has two R&D units and a herb and
flower farm near Delhi. A degree of quality control is exercised at every stage of the
product development, right from the raw material stage to the end product. Various
methods of soil culture and cultivation are followed to improve the quality of the final
product. The extraction of essential oils and decoctions, infusions, powders and
tinctures, is carried out using the latest technology.
All the procedures are carried out in accordance with the
Ayurvedic system. Shahnaz believes that high quality is
ensured only by the rigid exercise of control at every stage of
production. In spite of the huge size of her business and the
wide variety of products she deals in, Shahnaz Husain has
never advertised. She has relied entirely on word-of-mouth
publicity to make her products known to customers.
She believes that a satisfied customer is the best form of
advertisement. Before Shahnaz Husain entered the retail
market, her clinics were the only outlets for her products. By
the 1990s, the range and popularity of Shahnaz products had
increased so much that her products were carried by most of
the big retail stores in India and abroad.
She has been able to achieve growth due to the quality of her products and the result-
oriented treatments she offers. She commented, "I have relied only on clientele
feedback, based on clinical treatments and this is what has made the ranges truly unique
and result oriented." In 1977, when she returned to India, she set up a parlor at her
home in New Delhi. She had then put up a banner with her qualifications on it.
Within days she was booked for the next 6 months. She said, "I removed the banner and
since then I have never advertised. I have let my products speak for themselves."
Shahnaz was disturbed by the fact that India was not represented in any of the Global
beauty forums of the world beauty congresses. Deciding to change this situation, she
represented the country for the first time in the CIDESCO1 beauty congress in the late
"It was my aim to get India on the world beauty map as I felt terrible about the fact that
India was never represented at any world beauty congress," said Shahnaz. She was
appointed President for the day's proceedings at the congress and she used this
opportunity to focus the world's attention on Ayurveda.
The Turning Point
The turning point in her business came when she represented India at the Festival of
India in 1980. Her team was given a counter in the perfumery section of Selfridges in
London. She managed to sell her entire consignment in 3 days and also broke the store's
record for cosmetics sales for the year. As a result, she was offered a permanent counter
in Selfridges. Shahnaz was the first Asian whose goods were retailed by the the Galeries
Lafayette in Paris. Although it was not easy to enter the highly competitive western
markets and especially difficult to attract attention to the Indian system of Ayurveda,
she was able to gain a firm foothold in the markets. Shahnaz Husain products are sold at
many prestigious stores around the world such as Harrods and Selfridges in London, the
Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Bloomingdales in New York, the Seibu chain in Japan and
Sultan Stores in the Middle East. Her products are also carried by other exclusive outlets
in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Shahnaz Husain has used the franchising mode to
expand her business in India and abroad.
She has a large network of over 600 franchises and associate
clinics around the world. All the franchisees are required to
undergo training in specialized treatments at Shahnaz
Husain's school of beauty therapy. All franchisees obtain the
right to use the Shahnaz Husain name and her specialized
treatments and are allowed a 30% profit margin on the sale
of Shahnaz Husain products. In 2002, the Shahnaz Husain
Group obtained distributor rights for Australia, New Zealand
and the Fiji Islands.
Distribution channels were first set up in the major cities of
Australia, and later in New Zealand and Fiji. This was followed
by the setting up of herbal clinics, first in Sydney and later in
other Australian cities, New Zealand and Fiji by the first half
The Shahnaz Husain Group has about 40 distributors and more than 600 sub distributors
all over India. The Group sells not only in the cities but also in the small towns. In
addition, the Group owns about 20 clinics and outlets in New Delhi. All other outlets are
run on the franchise system. The Group does not make any financial investment in its
franchises, nor does it have any share in their profits.
The Group has diversified into Ayurvedic centers for Panchkarma, Dhara and Kerala
It has also set up two Shahnaz Husain Ayurvedic Health Resorts, one near Delhi and
another in collaboration with the Hyakumata group of Japan in the US island of Saipan.
These resorts which can accommodate about 200 people at a time, aim at providing
urbanites treatments and programs designed to counteract the stress of modern life. The
Group has also been holding discussions with major five star hotels in New Delhi and
New York to set up health spas. Shahnaz Husain products normally cater to the premium
end of the market and are rather expensive. Shahnaz justifies the price citing quality,
purity and high excise duties as the reasons. In 2002, however, she developed a product
for the mass market, a Fairness Dream Cream, priced at Rs 68 for 50gms.
This product will not only be advertised (unlike her other
products), it will also be made widely available through all
sorts of retail shops and even at railway stations. She claims
that she has always wanted to create a product for the
masses and the R&D deparment had been on the job since
1995 to create such a product.
The group has also launched a line of herbal drinks under the
brand name Fitness Fiesta Shadrink. These drinks are low
calorie, cooling drinks to be consumed in the summer. The
drinks are based on rose and khus (poppy seeds) extracts
and contain essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals which
nourish the body and help purify the blood. Shahnaz's love for
animals prompted her to introduce a special range of
ayurvedic products for pets – Shapet.
This range includes hair care balms, anti-tick hair cleansers, talcum powder, anti-scabies
skin oil, antiseptic balm, and anti parasitic lotions Shahnaz believes that chemical
products and pesticides destroy the natural luster and health of the animal's coat.
Natural products not only prevent this but also help soothe and cure infections.
Training Future Entrepreneurs
Seeing the need for internationally recognized institutes that offered professional training
in beauty, Shahnaz Husain set up Woman's World International. This was started at a
time when people who wanted to train in beauty treatments and therapy could only get
apprenticeship training. The institute which is affiliated to ITEC, U.K3 offers training in
cosmetic therapy and combines theoretical knowledge with practical training. Students
study physiology and the human anatomy to understand the scientific principles of
beauty and become familiar with the major systems of the human body. They are taught
the practical skills of massage and make-up under the expert guidance of a qualified
therapist. They also learn the use of various skin and hair gadgets. In addition, they
study nutrition, weight control and exercise. Students are also given basic training on
setting up and running salons and maintaining hygiene.
Training Future Entrepreneurs Contd...
In addition, they learn communication skills and general business management skills.
The institute has branches in New Delhi, Mumbai and Noida. Shahnaz later started the
Men's World International because of the demand for men trained in beauty treatments.
These institutes offer Diploma Courses and Post Graduate Courses in beauty and
cosmetic therapy. They also offer refresher courses and courses on personal grooming.
(Refer Exhibit VI for Shahnaz Husain Beauty Schools)
The Shahnaz Husain Ayurvedic Centre for Panchkarma, Dhara and Kerala Massage also
imparts training in these traditional disciplines. Students are taught the Ayurvedic
system of "Tridosha" (Refer Exhibit III) for identifying ailments. A qualified Ayurvedic
doctor conducts these classes.
Shahnaz has also started 'Shamute', a free training school in cosmetic therapy for the
speech and hearing impaired. The training they receive in this school helps them lead a
self reliant and purposeful life despite their handicap. Even after they qualify as
beauticians, they are offered guidance and advice throughout their career.
Lessons on Entrepreneurship
Shahnaz Husain has acquired worldwide recognition. Her
dedication and relentless hard work have paid off and she
heads a Group which is the largest of its kind in the world.
"It is important to have a dream and to believe in the magic
of your dreams" says Shahnaz, who has been able to convert
her own dream into a business worth millions of dollars.
Shahnaz believes that a true entrepreneur is a person who
has independence of spirit. "One should be innovative,
dynamic and willing to try every avenue towards success."
She does not look on her work as a career. It is more like an
obsession and the sole purpose of her existence.
Shahnaz says that to succeed, one must never give up and never stop trying. "I always
feel I have another mountain to climb and another frontier to cross. I never rest on my
laurels." She puts in 18 hours of work and diverts all her energies into her company. Her
business acumen and untiring efforts combined with excellent products she creates have
made the Shahnaz Husain Group the undisputed leader in the market for Beauty
Products and Natural Remedies.
Exhibit I: Major Awards Won by Shahnaz Husain
Exhibit II: Shahnaz Husain Receiving "Udyog Rattan Award" from Former President of
India, Giani Zail Singh.
Exhibit III: Ayurveda
Exhibit IV: The Shahnaz Husain Product Range*
Exhibit V: Ayurvedic Panchkarma and Dhara
Exhibit VI: The Shahnaz Husain Beauty Schools