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Shahnaz Husain

Shahnaz Husain (Shahnaz) was another successful woman entrepreneur of India. She popularized herbal treatments for beauty and health problems. Her company, Shahnaz Husain Herbals, was the largest of its kind in the world and had a strong presence in over 100 countries, from the US to Asia. By 2002, the Shahnaz Husain Group had over 650 salons around the world, employing about 4200 people. The net worth of the Group was $100 million.

Shahnaz Husain was born into a royal Muslim family which originally came from Samarkand (in Pakistan) and later held important posts in the princely kingdoms of Bhopal and Hyderabad before India's independence. Shahnaz's father, Justice N.U Beg, was a progressive man who instilled in her a love for poetry and English literature. Shahnaz Husain received her schooling in an Irish convent. A western education coupled with a traditional family background gave Shahnaz Husain wide exposure and developed her into a well rounded personality. She was married at the age of 15 and had a child by the next year.

When her husband was working in Iran, Shahnaz Husain became interested in cosmetology. After she began her training, she realized that chemical cosmetics had a harmful effect on the human body. As a result, she turned her attention towards ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, which used natural substances and extracts to heal and improve the body. Subsequently, 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. Instead of offering chemical treatments like other salons, Shahnaz Husain's salon offered Ayurvedic treatments. Shahnaz's custom made natural products for skin and hair problems quickly became successful.

Shahnaz Husain pioneered the commercialization of ayurvedic cosmetics. Until she started her business, ayurveda was practiced in peoples' homes or by local ayurvedic doctors. The commercialization of ayurveda was relatively unknown in the 1970s when Shahnaz Husain entered the business. Shahnaz Husain capitalized on this deficiency. She identified ayurveda as a niche market and catered to it. Her products gained popularity in India, and her treatments were booked months in advance. Encouraged by her success in India, Shahnaz Husain started exploring avenues abroad. She was disturbed by the fact that India was not represented in any of the international beauty forums. Determined to change the situation, she represented India for the first time in the CIDESCO beauty congress,[17] where she was appointed President for the day's proceedings. She used this opportunity to focus the world's attention on India and ayurveda.

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 three 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 Husain was also the first Asian whose products were retailed in the Galeries Lafayette in Paris and to be featured in the 18-foot shop window of the store. 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 were carried by many prestigious stores across the world, such as Harrods and Selfridges in London, the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Bloomingdales in New York, the Seiyu chain in Japan, Sultan Stores in the Middle East and other exclusive outlets in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.






[17] CIDESCO is one of the world's major beauty therapy associations.Founded in 1946, its head office is in Zurich, Switzerland.

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