Padma Shri winner Shahnaz Hussain may give the appearance of an empress of herbal products. But there's more.. as she reveals in a heart-to-heart with Amita Amin-Shinde. While she is here to launch a men's fairness cream.
A men's fairness cream? Does it really work?
Yes, absolutely. I think men need more skin care. And why not? Fair One for men doesn't mean that one will become fair overnight. It evens out patchy skin that has hues of different colouring.
You started your business after you got married and had a daughter.
Yes, I did. I had studied only till the 7th grade then. Papa showed me a picture of a boy and I got married in 1968.
Sounds like a tough journey…
It was. After marriage we went to Tehran. I wanted to study beauty but the fee was 10 times more than my husband's salary That's when I . started writing for a magazine. I wrote under different names.. sometimes cover-to-cover.
<b1>From a small veranda business in 1971 to a Rs 1,000 crore brand… 600 franchises in India and abroad.. how does it feel?
Aah, yes. It has been a long journey I started out.. (pause).. proba . bly when I was 19. My papa, Chief Justice N U Beg, paid for it by trading his National Savings Certificates. But not many know that the first time he lent me money, I was robbed. I was scared to tell papa. Somehow he got to know. He lent me some more money and said, "Go ahead."
What do you think of herbal products in the western world? India is very respected abroad.
Though I must say the foreign market wasn't easy the toughest was .. France. But I managed to conquer that too. I am just back from London, after opening a shop at Harley Street.. A bastion that I'd wanted to conquer for quite some time now.
Would you call yourself Shahnaz Hussain the family person or a herbal queen?
I think the latter, though I'm very family-oriented. I made sure that I'd always have time for my children. I remember one instance: Sameer was 15 and I had to go to Goa. After work, Sameer and I hired a bike for Rs 100 per hour, and rode on the beach. We even got lost on our way back. It was fun though..
You used to also write poetry for your children. Do you still do that?
I do. But usually I take to poetry writing when there is a death in the family or if I am depressed. My daughter writes poetry too.. I think hers is better than mine. Mine is more melancholic.
Mr Hussain's death must have been quite a blow..
Those were trying times. My husband died of cardiac arrest in 1998. When he passed away, my whole world collapsed. I couldn't think of a life beyond him. It wasn't easy to reorganise my life. I was at very disturbed stage. You know, we were married for about 30 years!
And then you found love the second time..
(Smiles) I met Raj (Puri) in the course of events. He's a co-partner at A F Ferguson. The moment I met him, I broke down. I was in mourning.. 40 days of black veil. I needed someone to take over a huge part of my work. If I'm alive today it's because of him. I don't think a person like him exists. He's perfect.. really I don't . think I deserve him. That's the biggest compliment I can give him.
How was it to start your life all over again?
Remarriage was a natural thing for me even though it's not for the world. I couldn't go on being insecure and unhappy And Mr Puri's . companionship is fun. I would rather live a happy life than brood about the past.
You've built such an empire.. what keeps you going?
My work is my addiction. I love what I do. In return, if I am appreciated and loved.. that's enough. I look at life differently… others may count life in the number of breaths they take, I count life by the number of occasions when you can take the breath away.
Who is the real Shahnaz Hussain?
A very sentimental, emotional person. I tend to cling. I look like a very independent person, but I'm lonely at heart.
Unless I have someone with me.. (pauses).. I can't live alone. I need somebody with me.