Lucknow-based Vidushi Vijayvergiya launched Isak Fragrances to continue her family’s business of making and selling perfumes. These fragrances are artisanal and vegan, and aim to popularise the forgotten trend of Indian perfumery.
In the 1850s, Shri Chunnamal Vijayvergiya, moved from Rajasthan to Lucknow and began his perfume business in the land of nawabs. Today, in the 21st century, 39-year-old Vidushi Vijayvergiya, the descendant of Chunnamal Vijayvergiya, is manning the operations of her family’s 160-year-old legacy — the first woman in her lineage to do so. In 2017, she re-launched her family’s brand under the name Isak Fragrances, which sells a variety of handcrafted, vegan, and artisanal perfumes.
Vidushi was born and raised around perfumery and spent much of her time in her father’s brick and mortar store in Lucknow. She says she was always a bit of an introvert, so after school, she’d head straight to the store, where her father would encourage her to interact with the customers coming in, or with the people around the shop. After completing a course in luxury and lifestyle business management from IIM-A, Vidushi did a course on aromatherapy in Switzerland. However, she says joining her family’s business was never her original plan.
While Shri Chunnamal’s perfumes had been a hit with the royals at the time, the popularity of Indian perfumes deteriorated as French and other foreign perfumes entered the market. Aware of the perception that these imported brands are superior to Indian ones, Vidushi says she wanted to popularise homegrown fragrances.
Vidushi began her business with help from her chachi (aunt, father’s brother’s wife), and utilized resources from her chacha (uncle – father’s brother), Vishal Vijayvergiya. “I started Isak to take the business forward in a way that would be both profitable and help commercialize our fragrances,” she says. “The name of the business has changed over the years — during my great-grandfather’s time, it was called Vijayvergiya Industries, and the name was later changed to CMRD Agencies. My father takes care of the store under the CMRD name. It’s a tiny store in an old part of the city.”
It was around the 80s that the Vijayvergiyas began supplying to retailers — up until then, they were mostly selling to industries directly. Today, Isak ships to various parts of India, as well as internationally, including France, London, Ireland, Australia and the Middle East. “We’re not a very big company, but trying to stay true to our roots,” Vidushi says.
Isak has two collections — the Signature Collection, and the Royals of Awadh Collection. These include scents of lavender, patchouli, sandalwood, musk, rose, jasmine, saffron, lemon, clove, nutmeg, ambrette seeds, oudh, and agarwood, to name a few. Isak also offers a DIY kit to personalise the perfumery experience.
Speaking of the challenges she faced along the way, Vidushi highlights how it was initially hard for her family to stomach that a woman wanted to take the otherwise male-dominated legacy of the business forward. “It was a bit of a challenge to convince my father to let me start a business of my own. Of course, now he’s come around. Even in our extended family, there were questions such as ‘Why do you have to start a business?’, because I’m a daughter. A lot of people have assumed that this is my husband’s business, because they have a hard time accepting that a woman can run a business or work even after marriage. People often wonder why I’m continuing to run a venture with my father despite being married.” But everyone has come around after her success.
Credits: The Better India
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