Shabia Walia – the lady needs little introduction today. Founder of one of India’s best skincare brands, Wild Earth, Shabia is a powerhouse. A powerhouse of all kinds, I mean. Of wit, of compassion, of determination and of a sheer lust for life. Today, Wild Earth is an internationally recognised brand for cruelty-free, paraben-free and sulphate-free body care products.
Still in her early 40s, Shabia is a living textbook for many lessons. Here are a few that I can share with you, after my unforgettable tête-à-tête with her recently.
No learning is ever wasted
Shabia Walia began working very early in life – as a student. She conducted tuitions and directly put to use what she learnt. A chemistry graduate, Shabia employed all her learning in making the first few batches of Wild Earth products.
This was after 25 years of an undefeated career in television. Shabia was a name to reckon with in the media and still is. She gracefully walked out of this aura to establish her own enterprise. She applies all her marketing, PR and creative skills to Wild Earth today. Random dabbling on Pinterest and other such platforms helped her learn more about products and packaging. Leveraging what you have learnt at the right time is key to success.
Helping others is always profitable
I don’t just mean monetary profit. When Shabia set out creating skincare products, it was out of a desire to safeguard people from contacting harsh chemicals. It was to safeguard the environment from more polluting onslaughts.
After an initial amateur batch of scrubs that got her rave feedback, a mother approached her with a serious problem. Her young son of 4 was suffering from severe eczema. Nothing had worked so far. Shabia Walia – the chem student, the creative thinker and the compassionate human – made a bespoke soap. The child was cured within 10 days.
So what did Shabia earn? The confidence of a consumer, the loyalty of customers and the goodwill of a mom – the key decision maker. That, you would agree, is profitable for the long term.
Do it like you mean it
We see hordes of entrepreneurs and corporate heads dabbling in social activities. Few involve themselves for a lifetime with the effort it truly needs. As founder of The Bluebells Community, Shabia devotes herself to social service. This is service of a formidable kind. I was enthralled by her narrative of accruing Rs.3 lakh as funding for a well in faraway Beed village. After crowdsourcing the funds, Shabia actually travelled to Beed to handover the money, spent a day with the orphans being looked after there and returned with stronger determination.
Shabia was also in the news in 2015 for aiding a Karachi-based girl for medical treatment, via Bluebells. No amount of political pressure could faze the lady. She saw human need for what it was and went ahead. ‘ I was even threatened by political parties but I stuck to my guns’, Shabia admits.
If you’ve got to do something, for yourself or for the world, do it like you mean it. End-to-end solutions bring more shine to the cherry on the top.
No matter what you may have learnt there’s always more to reckon with. Shabia was faced with dizzying doubts when it came to investor-talk and taking Wild Earth’s next big step. What did Shabia do? She went to people with her questions and asked them unabashedly. She sought out mentors from amongst her ex-colleagues, sat them down with her queries and didn’t budge until she was satisfied.
Many of us think asking aloud reflects badly on our acumen. We shy away from the basic questions, not realising that these are where we need to sort ourselves out first. No one knows your business as well as you do: you created it! So your questions are always warranted. Ask away.
Be You. Period.
All hard work is rewarded. All passion finds its gratification. Today, we may see ourselves at the brink of many successes. And also have many a well-wisher conditioning us to change some aspects of our personality – speak more, speak less, dress like this, use that pen, be seen here – you know the drill. Shabia’s chat taught me that being oneself is an entrepreneur’s greatest asset.
Wild Earth runs with the tag Signature Beauty Potions by Shabia Walia. It is she who runs in every product’s vein. The maverick, the over-zealous, the kind-hearted and all that is India’s answer to Anita Roddick. People know, buy and recommend Wild Earth because of Shabia. And she prides in that. She doesn’t change what she is for investor meetings, start-up mentorship forums or casual interviews like these. Keeping your USPs intact gives you that added edge. Learn from competition but don’t transform to an unrecognisable or un-relatable brand all of a sudden.
Shabia keeps her product pricing competitive yet affordable. ‘If my maid would like to pamper herself with one of my soaps, once in a while, she should be able to’, she says. Now that’s something.
Leave a little bit of you in all that you do. Like Shabia does. Don’t regret any learning – it always comes handy. And, never forget, when you’re out there benefitting yourself, create ripples of benefit for the world too. That makes entrepreneurship truly exciting.
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