In My Experience… Astha Suri, founder and CEO, NASO Profumi
* Astha Suri created NASO on two principles: healing and sustainable luxury.
Using just a few ingredients with healing properties at the start, the company created a set of diverse and exquisite fragrances.
The brand gives a modern twist to the age-old tradition of attar, which has a wider appeal in a market dominated by mostly western brands.
Taking gender out of the equation to ensure everyone can try the perfumes has only made the brand more popular, especially among the younger crowd.
NASO focusses on storytelling and educating the consumer about the ingredients used and the rigorous production process behind each perfume they buy.
As each perfume has a classical essential oil base, one does not need to spray copious amounts at fixed intervals. A little bit goes a long way. This brings the principle of sustainable luxury to the forefront.
Be aware of your surroundings, is the founder’s advice to young entrepreneurs.
Fragrances can have a profound effect on memory. Certain scents can evoke memories or even heal. India has been a treasure trove of healing fragrances and herbs that are now known across the globe. However, the country does not have many luxury brands that sell traditional Indian perfumes.
NASO, a luxury brand that sells green artisanal perfumes, is a trailblazer in this regard. In this interview, founder Astha Suri speaks on the importance of the healing properties of desi fragrances, sustainability and how the brand does not believe in gendered fragrances. Excerpts:
Q: Can you take us through your journey of launching the artisanal perfume brand NASO.
A: The main idea behind NASO is to heal. The idea came to me in my final year of university while I was interning with a sustainable luxury fashion brand. We studied green designs in school but outside, brands did not follow them. That gave me an idea about selling eco-friendly luxury. On returning home, I wanted to focus on healing. I mapped out some ingredients, rose, tuberose, jasmine, sandalwood, orange, neroli and lavender, as my basic ingredients that could fit every palate and had healing properties. I chose ingredients that were available in Indian households and in western markets. Herbs and spices have been used since time immemorial in the country, are now being sold everywhere.
Everyone, including millennials, know about them now. The idea was to place these ingredients on NASO’s forefront and create these edible fragrances, and break the gender bias surrounding them.
Our perfumes have a classical essential oil base that people between 20-25 years of age don’t often use. Stress levels hit the ceiling in your late teens and twenties. It becomes very important to control stress, sleep and soothe your mind. Everyone needs to incorporate these aromas in their lives to healing.
Q: The brand aims to reinvent traditional techniques and serve a global audience with modern sensibilities. Can you tell us how are you making the brand relevant to today’s global audience?
A: There are many established designer perfume brands in the market. Penetrating that market as an Indian brand and trying to sell the traditional Indian attar, is extremely difficult. So we took the quirky route. Our team is very young and we keep brainstorming.
We launched a campaign called ‘scent for sex’ which are scents for intimacy, which appealed to the younger crowd. They can also purchase our scented candles, experience the scent and then decide if they want to buy the same perfume. We ensure our range is unisex. Ingredients shouldn’t be gendered and should be open to experiences. That has helped us break into the market because a lot of my repeat customers are men.
Q: How are you marketing your brand in today’s time, where we are obsessed with International perfume brands?
A: The current narratives of luxury brands are different from two years ago. It’s all about storytelling and educating people about the ingredients and the process. Education takes centre stage because it’s important for people to know what goes on behind the scenes. The process is a handmade, homegrown process. With modern marketing tactics, we try to highlight that process.
It was a task to make people across the globe experience a scent online, given the pandemic. We’re a young brand and we’re stuck in a lockdown. So, we adopted a different approach. I sent a select group of people a little ‘make your own perfume’ package that had small vials of base essential oils. Through the different notes, we educated the customer about us and gave them a chance to blend their own perfumes.
Competition does not scare me. If the storytelling is strong, competition will not deter you.
Q: What are the three things that are essential for a brand to truly be considered a luxury?
A: Storytelling is most important. The connection the brand builds with the consumer through the narrative plays a profound role.
Physical aesthetics is important for the brand to be unique.
The durability of the product is the third most important thing. It has to last and not fade in use too quickly.
Q: Over the past two years, NASO has committed itself to becoming a pioneer of sustainable green perfumes. Can you tell us more about the initiative?
A: The term ‘sustainable’ has been overused in the Indian market. I don’t want to call our business sustainable because we are not 100% sustainable. What we can do is ensure our main product is green.
I always tell the consumer that we’re selling highly concentrated green fragrances that you don’t need to spray on yourself dozens of times. Our fragrances can be sprayed 4-5 times a day and the smell can last 16- 24 hours. That’s where we’re sustainable. We make sure you use luxury in limited amounts and you don’t waste. Even the waste generated from the production process is used as fertiliser to grow the ingredients.
Q: What one thing would you give as a piece of advice to an entrepreneur wanting to get into the Luxury world today?
A: One should be aware. They should know their surroundings and the products out there. They should be true to themselves. Storytelling is crucial. Be aware of your surroundings and you won’t fail.
NASO has left a profound impression on a market dominated by western brands. This young company is on its way towards creating a legacy in the luxury world.
To watch the full interview with Astha, please click here and visit our YouTube channel where you will find a whole series of conversations with inspiring and interesting India entrepreneurs.