Designing his Destiny - A Conversation with Rishabh C. Kothari
Rishabh C. Kothari
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru at Midnight of 15th August 1947 in Parliament as India attained Independence.
While there may be several occasions when our great nation was at cross-roads, but ever since its independence, there may have been very few, if any, event such as the current pandemic which has affected humanity at large, our country and our population. And as the country finds itself at a very crucial juncture, for the likes of Mr. Rishabh C. Kothari, every crisis is an opportunity, and the time to fulfil that tryst with destiny, the time to redeem the pledge is now.
Perfumer, Entrepreneur, Director of CKC Fragrances, President of the Fragrances and Flavours Association of India [FAFAI], Vice President of MCCI, Member of the National MSME Board, Ministry of MSME, Government of India, Heartfulness Meditation Trainer, Public Speaker and Writer, Rishabh Kothari dons very many hats and effortlessly manages and transcends from each of these roles with an uncommon ease. In a freewheeling conversation with Incense Media, he explains what he means as this being the time to harness India’s true potential and his vision for the Fragrances and Flavours Industry in India and how he manages to devote time to so very many endeavours at the same time.
Incense Media - Thank you for taking time out for this conversation. More soconsidering the myriad roles and responsibilities that you shoulder. We have been following you on social media and you have been very busy with Webinars on a range of subjects to very diverse audiences in various forums and platforms.
RCK - Thank you for inviting me for this interview. It is always an honour and pleasure to interact with Incense Media, because Incense Media for me is not just a niche publication but a platform which has, you can say, democratised the incense industry in India and almost changed it beyond what you yourself may have imagined when you started the publication. So my compliments to you for all that you have achieved.
Coming to the idea of time, I feel we always find time for things we really want or have a passion for. Let us assume that amongst all the busiest persons would be our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, someone who we know works tirelessly and someone all of us admire so very much. If he is busier than me and per-contra has less time on hand than me, so between the time he has and the time I have on hand, for sure I can find time do something I want !!! So I think finding time is a function of our interest and not necessarily of how busy we are.
Rishabh C. Kothari with Shri Kalraj Mishra
Incense Media - That was very well put. In all our conversations with you, you have this immense amount of positivity and have the ability to always see the glass half full in all circumstances. How do you manage to do that?
RCK - I don’t think I make any effort on being positive, I suppose it is about just being what I am. Quite honestly, the person that I am, the world view that I have, my personality and my character, everything was shaped through a Meditation practice called Heartfulness which I have been practicing ever since I was a teenager. It is my conviction that inner peace and balance is a pre-requisite for the achievement of ever greater virtues. Think of it this way,
Can one be happy and joyful without peace?
Is peace possible without harmony?
Is harmony possible without having a contemplative mind?
Is contemplation possible without a focused mind?
Can your mind be truly focused without training it through meditation?
Incense Media - That is extremely insightful. Tell us more about this practice of Heartfulness Meditation that you have been following.
RCK - Since 1945, the Shri Ram Chandra Mission has offered Heartfulness Meditation to interested seekers, free of charge. Heartfulness is based on the ancient system of Raja yoga, which is known thus because meditation regulates the mind, and the mind is said to occupy the kingly position within us. This kingly mind, however, is itself governed by the intentions of the heart. By purifying the heart, we regulate the mind. That is how, through the practices of Heartfulness Meditation, we train individuals to make use of their inner capacities and shape their destinies.
Originally present in only a few districts of Uttar Pradesh, Heartfulness is now practiced by over 4 million people in 165 countries, and its wide range of self-development modules have been adopted by thousands of schools, colleges, corporations, non-governmental, and government bodies worldwide.
To better connect with today’s aspirants, Heartfulness maintains a familiar online presence and has made its ancient methodology freely available to seekers through a variety of smartphone apps and instructional videos. The activities of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission are supported by a large volunteer base, including over 14,000 certified trainers who are passionate and selfless in their efforts to help individuals learn the art of meditation and spread peace wherever they go.
Incense Media - That is very inspiring. We do hope that our readers will also try this practice which you advocate so passionately and benefit from it.
Now changing gears, it has been a year since you took up the mantle of being the President of the Fragrances and Flavours Association of India. And you have been amongst the most active of Presidents and taken FAFAI to new heights.
RCK - Thank you for your very kind words. The credit for all that we have been able to achieve so far lies with very many people. It lies with all my predecessors, all the Past Presidents and their Committee members who established a strong foundation for the Association. The credit lies with the unwavering contribution and support that I have received from all my office bearers, all the members of the Managing Committee, members of the FAFAI Secretariat who have behind the scenes supported me in very effort and endeavours. And finally, nothing is ever possible without the support, interest and active participation of all our members, which we are fortunate to have received in abundance, and for which we are ever grateful. So while the President may be what you can call the ‘public face’ of the Association, all the credit and achievement is not of one man alone.
When our Managing Committee took over, we had several plans and programmes in mind and have ever since made efforts to work in that direction. India is a large country and we have our membership spread over in just about every nook and corner of the country. Therefore to facilitate greater member participation, we wanted to take FAFAI Workshops, programmes and events to every part of the country where our members are. We started this programmes in Indore, Kannauj and Kanpur last year. We had firmed up plans of conducting events in Nagpur, Bengaluru, Cochin, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Ankaleshwar but they had to be put on hold because of the pandemic. However the ball has been set rolling and we shall resume whenever the situation becomes conducive.
Another important aspect was to strengthen our partnership with Indian and International organisations and bodies which would open new vistas for the Indian F&F Industry. We concluded an arrangement with Allured Publications, the publishers of the reputed Industry publication Perfumer & Flavorist and also the organisers of landmark industry events such as World Perfumery Congress (WPC) and Flavorcon. This arrangement covered various aspects such as knowledge share, where articles published in Perfumer & Flavorist could be reproduced in our in-house member publication The FAFAI Journal, event support wherein free advertisement space and coverage was offered to FAFAI for its events including our biennial Seminar, and member support where FAFAI members would receive special pricing and discounts to attend international events like the WPC and others organised by Allured.
In the last one year before the pandemic began, we partnered on almost a dozen occasions in supporting the F&F and allied Industry events and obtaining preferential pricing and other benefits for our members. The idea has been to leverage our large membership base and offer them the opportunity to participate in and benefit from such associations and partnerships.
We have also started working very closely with the All India Agarbatti Manufacturers Association (AIAMA) which represents one of our largest F&F consuming industries and have co-hosted 3 events with them. I am confident that this association is not only mutually beneficial, but will go a long way in increasing the synergy and productivity between both these industries.
Our latest partnership is with the British Society of Perfumers (BSP) and we shall be co-hosting a very interesting programme on Perfumery with them. I am confident that this programme, for the first time with an International Partner, will be the beginning of many more of such initiatives which should benefit our members immensely.
Rishabh C. Kothari with Baba Ramdev
Incense Media - Yes, these partnerships and the number of programmes have not only been extremely useful but is being appreciated by everyone in the Industry. You have also recently released a very important publication. Please tell us more about it.
RCK - This was also amongst our plans and I think the global pandemic, with people worldwide getting more and more conscious of the products they consume, simply propelled our resolve to work on this. The Fragrance and Flavour Industry has always been cognizant of consumer preferences and their safety has always been paramount in whatever we do. The interests of consumers as well as the need for transparency and clarity motivated us to compile and publish the positive list of ingredients used and generally considered safe for Fragrances and Flavours. This compilation is based on inputs from all the Fragrance and Flavour Manufacturers of India and lists all the ingredients that they use and can be an authoritative guide of all ingredients being used in India.
In this effort we were fortunate to receive the unstinted support of the Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre (FFDC) and its dynamic director Mr. Shakti Vinay Shukla who partnered with us in this endeavour. We received constant inspiration and guidance from Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, the Chairman of the Technical Committee PCD 18 related to Fragrances and Flavour of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
The icing on the cake was of course to receive words of praise and encouragement from our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji. Modi ji is not only a national icon but a source of inspiration for every Indian and receiving such a message from him has motivated each and every member in my team to strive and do even better for the industry, our consumers and for our great nation. FAFAI is actively promoting our Prime Minister’s vision of both ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and is proactively spreading this message to all its members.
Incense Media - Our congratulations to you for this initiative. We understand that it lists more than 9,000 ingredients and we are sure that it will be extremely useful to the industry and regulators alike.
What else is FAFAI planning to do? We are all eagerly waiting for the FAFAI Seminar. When are where shall it be held?
RCK - Thank you for your wishes. As I mentioned earlier, safety, whether it is of our consumers or our members, is of paramount importance to us. Therefore, as long as the situation does not change, while we have several plans, we shall try and implement whatever we can through online and digital means. Apart from the online event we are organising in partnership with the British Society of Perfumers, we have several other plans for workshops, product presentation events and maybe an interaction with a very senior international perfumer on the cards. We shall continue with online events as long as necessary until it is safe for people to travel, gather and meet.
Most unfortunately, this also means that the FAFAI Seminar, which would have celebrated its Silver Jubilee Edition, which we had planned to host in Kolkata in January 2021 is for the moment postponed. We have not targeted any alternative date for the moment and are watching the situation very closely and will decide on the new dates at the appropriate time.
Incense Media - We all earnestly hope that it will be sooner rather than later and await the announcement from you.
You are also involved in other Industrial forums and organisations. Please tell us more about it.
RCK - Well, when the honourable Shri Kalraj Mishra ji was the MSME Minister at the Centre, he nominated me to a special consultative body formed by the Ministry, the National MSME Board and we have tried to advise and support the Ministry and the Union Government on MSME Policy and its implementation. While Kalraj ji has now moved on to becoming the Governor of Rajasthan, we have now as MSME Minister the visionary and very dynamic leader in Shri Nitin Gadkari ji and it is an honour and privilege to serve in the board under his stewardship.
I also happen to be the Vice President of one of the oldest Chambers of Commerce in the country, the 119 year old Merchants Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) which has been in the forefront of taking up issues of Commerce and Industry, especially from the Eastern part of the country, with special focus on MSMEs, with Central and State Governments. It is a very interesting and enriching experience to learn about so many varied industries and business and understand their nuances and I am grateful for this opportunity. It also give me the possibility to meet with officials at the highest levels of the Government and interact with them which in itself is of great learning.
Incense Media - That is excellent. You don so many hats. How do you manage your time given that you also manage CKC Fragrances which is one of the leading Fragrance houses of the country.
RCK - Well, as I mentioned earlier, we find time for whatever we are interested in, so it really depends on us. Ever since I joined business, it has been an endeavour to professionally manage my company and that has held me in good stead. Whatever I have learnt of business, I am fortunate to have learnt it first-hand from a person who is not only a self-made man but a true karma yogi for whom work was worship and who imbibed similar values in me. My father is not only my mentor but my role model and his journey of creating something out of nothing against all adversities and disadvantages is my constant inspiration.
Incense Media - We also heard that you are inaugurating your new factory very soon. Tell us more about it and the future plans of CKC Fragrances.
RCK - Yes, we are moving to a new and much larger facility very soon. In fact our plans have got delayed because of the pandemic but now it is a matter of a few weeks before we start manufacturing from our new plant.
Fragrances, as a product, despite miniscule dosages, add enormous value to the end product. At CKC Fragrances it is our constant endeavour to add value and create value for our customers and ultimately their consumers. The key ingredient in this quest for value has been innovation, whether in terms of the fragrance palette we produce, the choice of ingredients we use or the target pricing we are able to offer, we strive to innovate and create value for our customers.
It is this innovation, coupled with a sincere and personalised approach, where our customers are our partners, and we in theirs, and equal stakeholders in the success or failure of any product, which has been the hallmark of CKC Fragrances and the secret of its success. In our organisation, the customer is placed at the centre of every endeavour and every process and the sole reason for the organisation to exist. My father has always put relationships above everything else, and this approach has led our customers to become our friends first and our co-partners in our mutual success.
Incense Media - This has been a most interesting conversation. However, no conversation can today end without analysing the COVID situation in the country and what you think the future holds for all of us.
RCK - I had mentioned this quote from our First Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru for a very particular reason. I was not even born when his era got over, so I don’t think I can really judge his period as the Prime Minister of the country and much less understand the situation and circumstances of those days. I look at this quotation not from any political angle and perhaps the person who has said it may also be irrelevant, but my interest in it is purely from an intellectual sense. It speaks about India’s tryst with destiny and it is fascinating to relate that to the very unique circumstances and challenges facing our country today. Whether it is our economy, our geographical integrity, or simply the preservation of human life, the last few months have been extremely challenging for our nation. This situation has challenged our resilience as a civilisation and it is in throes of such adversity that opportunity emerges for us.
What is important is that we believe in ourselves, we believe in what the future holds for us, and of course endeavour to redeem that pledge, only this time in full measure. Ideas such as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ needs to move beyond mere slogans, beyond narrow personal and commercial considerations, into an article of faith for our countrymen to support one another as India moves towards reclaiming its rightful place in the world and history. As Mahatma Gandhi has said, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’ and it is upon each and every one of us to be ‘vocal for local’ in every aspect of our businesses and encourage and support our fellow brethren.
Incense Media - Thank you for that very inspiring thought. I am sure that it will also inspire our readers to pursue this vision which can mean the greater development of India and all Indians.
It was a pleasure to have spoken with you and we are grateful to you for all the time that you have given us today.