Interview with Rishabh C. Kothari, Vice President-FAFAI
In a free-wheeling conversation with Incense Media, Rishabh C. Kothari, Vice President - FAFAI & CEO of the Kolkata based CKC Fragrances speaks about perfumery, business in India and his vision for the future. Here are some excerpts.
IM – Congratulations on being elected as the Vice President of FAFAI. What is your vision for the future of the Fragrance Industry in India?
RCK – Thank you very much. This is a huge responsibility as the industry is going through a huge metamorphosis with multiple challenges and opportunities. Indian industry is at a critical juncture and as I have mentioned this is both an opportunity as well as a threat.
IM – Apart from the various roles you plan in the F&F fraternity, you are also a member of the National Board of MSMEs, formed by the MSME Ministry of the Central Government advising the Government of India on various aspects related to the MSME industry in India. What are your thoughts on this very critical aspect of the Indian Industry.
RCK – As I have mentioned earlier, the Indian Industry is at a very critical juncture. In less than 12 months we have seen 2 very bold initiatives by the Government of India, demonetization, followed by the implementation of GST. Both these initiatives have thrown up large scale challenges, especially in the MSME space and this is certain to impact growth.
However, we must look beyond 2-3 quarters to actually assess the qualitative impact that these initiatives have had on the economy. While demonetization sucked out the liquidity from the lower end or the informal segments of business, GST is saddled with extremely difficult compliance and regulatory challenges which is a huge burden on a small or even medium enterprise or trader.
IM – So do you feel that GST is going to be beneficial to the MSME sector, especially the Fragrance and the Agarbatti Industry?
RCK – The GST as a concept and a law is undoubtedly very beneficial to all segments of the economy. It eliminates the cascading effect of multiple taxes and in the long run promotes efficiency and competitiveness. However, the devil is always in the detail. And here on how it is being implemented. For example, electricity and fuel, which form a very large part of the input cost of several industries cannot be set-off. So even though GST is an excellent idea or concept, the effect becomes lop-sides in its case compared to say, a FMCG company.
Coming to Agarbatti and Perfumery Industries, given the size of operations for most of the players, compliance and paperwork will be a challenge for a large number of players, especially the smaller manufacturers of agarbatti. Having said that, we have to see how these units adjust and adapt to the changed regulatory environment before we can assess the impact this has had on them.
IM – Where do you see the Indian Agarbatti Industry from here in the next 1 decade.
RCK – I personally see an exponential growth of demand for agarbatties as the demand and usage goes beyond traditional worship. Today the consumers are trying newer fragrances, experimenting with newer notes and we have seen agarbatties selling at various price-points which were unheard of earlier. The key to success for any enterprise is going to be product differentiation and innovation, experimentation and finally the right messaging.
Agarbatties has transformed itself from a small scale to like any other typical FMCG business and while the market itself is expanding, it will take much more than ever before to compete and succeed in these circumstances.
IM – What is your opinion on the latest fragrance trends for Incense Sticks?
RCK – As marketers we are obsessed with mapping trends for all businesses and while this is a very serious science, I personally feel that the fragrance business has a much more deeper connect with an individual’s psyche which goes way beyond market surveys and marketing charts.
Therefore, I feel that any fragrance which can evoke or touch the right chords in an individual has the potential to do very well if presented well. Having said that, natural notes, and newer and more exotic natural notes are likely to grow more and more in size as consumers savor all things natural in ever greater quantities.
Gourmand fragrances are another trend which is likely to appear in more and more fragrances as consumers seek to satiate their olfactory experience with more and more exotic notes expanding the traditional palette of the agarbatti perfumer beyond recognition.
IM – Apart from running a very successful fragrance industry, you are also involved in teaching meditation to thousands of people. Tell us more about it.
RCK –All knowledge is first based on experience, either our own or somebody else’s. Therefore, in that sense we are always learning from what life is teaching us each day. And we need to realize that there is much more to life than just making a living, which is not what ‘living’ is all about.
I was blessed very early in life to have come across a very simple yet extremely effective system of meditation called Heartfulness Meditation (www.heartfulness.org). This meditation has enabled me to approach life with a sense of balance and enquiry, both within and outside. The global guide of Heartfulness, Shri Kamlesh Patel, who is also affectionately known as Daaji (www.daaji.org) has beautifully suggested that ‘everything that we need, is within us’. If we are able to explore the unique treasures that are present within us, our lives outside will be simple and yet full of accomplishment.
I will be happy to help any interested reader in achieving their true inner potential through Heartfulness Meditation and they are welcome to get in touch with me regarding the same. This practice is offered absolutely free of charge and the only qualification required to practice it is our own willingness.
IM – Last but not the least, what is your message to all our readers.
RCK - We are blessed that the very nature of our business, which essentially is fragrance, is so beautiful, elevating and joyous. Let us build our businesses and lives around these very principles, touching hearts and lives through the beauty of our fragrances. Similarly, let us build our lives around these very principles, allowing our inner beauty to emerge from within and touching the lives of all around us.