Born in Kashmir to a family that has been in the hotel and hospitality industry for over a century, Zahara Nedou grew up in Delhi where she was educated at The British School, and then went on to complete degrees in Business Management and Marketing. After working with a number of luxury brands, Zahara recently branched out on her own -- combining her Kashmiri heritage, marketing prowess and interest in skincare into an organic and natural skincare brand. The brand sells products which contain zero chemicals, are 100% natural, no animal testing, and are organically grown and harvested.

“Growing up as a Kashmiri, the valleys vast natural beauty and resources always intrigued me,” Zahara tells Lokmat Times. “The products are based on age-old family recipes from traditional Kashmiri and Arab beauty regimes. All or most of the raw materials that go into making the products are grown on the family farms or are procured from certified organic farms in Kashmir.” Zahara adds, “As part of the company policy each consumer who buys the product is contributing to giving back to the under-privileged of the valley.”

We sat down with Zahara to discuss her brand’s journey, Kashmiri beauty secrets, organic produce and more.

How did you get into skincare?

My English and Kashmiri grandmothers were my biggest influences, watching them every day make something out of pure recall of what their cultures of parents did, was for a 6 year old almost a miracle! At the age of 9 I already knew what Cleopatra did as a beauty regime and would fill my bathtub with milk and roses and was very well aware that it would moisturize and lighten my skin!

So I grew up replicating and adding to what I knew in organic skin care. However it was not until 2014 when I met with a 17 year old girl in an hospital ICU whose only fault was that she consumed chemicals her entire life - be it in her food on her skin. That was the big game changer for me.

What has the response has been like?

I tested my products in Dubai UAE when I first started making it and it was there where I realized that what Zahara skin care is actually capable of and what it can do as an organic skin care company. I came back to India with the same zest and it has been a positive if not a similar response like I had internationally. It is slower but positive as the awareness of using or switching to an organic lifestyle is limited. Also why chose a cream that may make you acne go away in 4 days when there is another that makes it zap in few hours! As I say with everything in life “hustle till the end”.

What are the next steps?

Haha! Be an everyday necessity product for everyone! Make it as simple as buying toothpaste!

The next steps are to be in stores in the middle - east, and selected stores in India – the ones that have the same beliefs as the brand - to promote a healthy and organic living. To be available on various online shopping platforms so that I could reach as many people as possible!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes! Which brand hasn’t. I was fortunate to have access to organic goods and material to make that conscience switch – at least as much as I could. However one of the challenges was that in India when you spoke to people men or women about the harmful effects of cariogenic products the response usually would be that it’s expensive and not easily available online or in stores. And how does one trust whether they are true and pure?

The challenge was to develop a brand which isn’t a luxury organic brand, which most of the organic skin care market is flooded with, but an easily available and well priced product. So that when you are at the supermarket or shopping online, it’s easy to choose between organic and chemical products.

What baffles me is that in India where till today our “go to” remedy for a flu is what we knew our “grandma’s did or ayurvedic medication, it’s still hard to educate the consumer about real and true living. But I’m sure with time and enough information, the market and consumer will get more and more aware of the benefits.

Three products from your range that you think are a must-have?

1.Shine bright like a diamond: It’s a glow pack with a history of hundred of years of Kashmiri culture.

2. Spring Scrub: A rose and oatmeal scrub just the right amount to give you a scrub and a soft rosy glow

3. The Botox in the bottle: This is a traditional Arab recipe for removing fine lines and plump your skin for that young look

And three products, not from your brand, that you can’t live without?

1. The rose water spray from Kama, it’s one of my favorite rose water sprays till date!

2. SK II facial treatment mask

3. Herbivore - pink clay exfoliating mask

Any beauty tips for our readers?

First off you have to feel beautiful from the inside. But if I had to give some advice or a trick for anything regarding the skin it’s “HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE” – water is the tastiest treat! Stay as hydrated as possible make it a strong foundation of your skin care regime.

Two, Use almond/apricot/coconut /argan oil as a substitute for a moisturizer. Three, once a week, give your hair some nutrients by applying any oil of your choice to your scalp and leave it on for 25-35mins at least. And finally, make that one holiday in a week (Sunday) YOUR beauty day.

For more details, check out the website.