Mira Kulkarni is the founder of Founder & Managing Director of Forest Essentials – India’s most sought after luxurious Ayurveda brand. “Essentially Mira” is a memoir of the woman behind this luxury brand and her journey into creating Forest Essentials from a small in-house garage to a brand that exists in more than 10 countries all over the world. Her clientele today comprises of celebrities like Rekha, Donald Trump & Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Shilpa Shetty Kundra etc.
Born in a Punjabi family, in the foothills of Himalayas, with an expensive education from Loreto Convent Tara Hall, Shimla, Mira takes us through her childhood spent in Himachal Pradesh, Delhi & Chennai.
At 18, she rebelled and chose to get married instead of choosing to study at the Cambridge. Her short lived marriage life with her late husband ST and the eventual divorce makes the readers feel her struggles as a single woman. With little finances, Mira chose to return to her parent’s home at Delhi. By the time she was 28, she lost both her parents and was left with her two kids and a sister with serious mental health condition.
When life was busy throwing one setback after the other, Mira was busy attending to her sister’s mental health condition serially for 15+ years along with feeding her family, and keeping the family finances in check.
“Survival” – taught her to never give up on her dreams and with strong conviction Mira started her journey into making customised candles. Having tasted initial success, she moved to explore into the arena of handmade soaps. Once she got the knack of preparing beautifully scented handmade soaps, she explored the narrow lanes of Delhi to dig deeper into ingredients like pure almond oil, castor oil, scented oils etc to create her first line up of handmade quality beauty products.
After facing stiff resistance from the market and also the mass market of cheap soaps and SLS filled shampoos, it took her a while to convince people around her to sell the idea of a beauty product that is made of 100% pure skincare products that would only do nothing but good to her skin.
When the mass market was busy manufacturing soaps and shampoos with toxic chemicals and cheap packaging, Mira focused on handmade wrapping, handwritten notes and heavy personalisation. Her main goal was to educate customers, elevate their experience when they walk into her stores and provide best customer engagement.
Mira’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to love your work and insists on making this love an overwhelming part of one’s life. Her love towards Forest Essentials attracted major brands across the world for the first time to look upto luxury Ayurveda as a new venture. It came as no surprise that Estee Lauder has bought a minor stake in this brand due to the relentless work that Mira has poured into making Indian brand appeal to the global skincare market with 0% adulterated ingredients and 100% quality based formulations in each product.
Her childlike curiosity led her to grab deals with all major 5 star hotel chains across India. Forest Essentials is a known name in hospitality industry today.
In a world of startups with cash-burn rate inversely proportional to their innovation, Mira Kulkarni controlled costs with innovative ideas and multitasking at many levels. For her, if a business is not profitable then it does not justify itself. To increase visibility of her brand, Mira chose her store locations carefully even when the rents were high. Eg: Khan Market Store at Delhi. Mira realised that the better the visibilty, the more revenue it will generate. Khan Market Store proved it right when she had attracted all the big customers from Lutyens Area in New Delhi including Priyanka Gandhi and many others within short span of time.
Mira is not a businesswoman who focuses only on expansion. She is a visionary, who took the bold step to stay away from the herd of cheap cosmetics and treaded her way to the top with her attention to details. Her products are a testimony to a single woman’s conviction to create a big brand even when everything in her life was not going as per her wishes.
Read this book if you are looking for some serious inspiration to create your own product in the market. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.