Mother at 16, CEO at 26: Shahnaz Hussain, the maverick of our times

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The journey to success is always a bitter path to walk on, and especially for a Woman in a country like India, this journey is no less than a roller coaster ride. Seemingly things have changed a lot lately, yet we have miles to go. Fighting all the ills and troubles, finding her route to fame and success, back in the 1970’s makes Shahnaz Hussain one maverick, who redefined the meaning of women empowerment. 

One of the first female entrepreneurs of the country, Hussain is a household name today, who merged care with cure and introduced her magnificent line of cosmetics. In the very competitive market, surprisingly her products are ruling with negligible advertisements.

Life before being the brand

Born in a royal Muslim family, Hussain is the daughter of Nasir Ullah Beg, the former justice of Allahabad high court. She received her schooling from an Irish convent. Shanaz always believed in the idea of an independent working women but circumstances flipped and she was married off at an early age of 15 and was a mother of a daughter by the age of 16.

Her determination to find her identity amongst the masses dint let the flare die and she resumed her studies after a year of her marriage. She pounded upon the chance to study Ayurveda, when her husband was transferred to Iran. There was no looking back after this, soon she moved to London and completed her training in cosmetic therapy and cosmetology from leading institutions of the West, such as Helena Rubinstein, Schwarzkopf, Christine Valmy, Lancome and Lean of Copenhagen.

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She came back to India and decided to open her own salon. Her father lent her Rs.35,000 to open her shop in the residential premises. A board hanging near the shop displayed her degrees and services she was offering at that time. Within a short span of few days, she was booked for the next 6 months and was compelled to remove the advertisement board from the house.

Lack of awareness and inorganic beauty treatments and styling, eroded the skin and hair and gave make up a bad name. Hussain was concerned about the effect of such treatments and decided to find her own solutions to fight the cause. Since then, there is no looking back, and today she is an international brand.

She was accolated with several awards like Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur from FICCI, Leonardo da Vinci Diamond Award by International Biographical Centre at Washington DC and Glory of India Award in Dubai for outstanding innovations in Ayurvedic beauty care.

How Shahnaz became a household name?

Shahnaz understood “Women empowerment” quite well. She was motivated to influence other passionate women to define their identity. Very soon salons under the banner of Shahnaz Herbals Inc. came into existence in several cities. This gave women an opportunity to work without leaving their houses and household responsibilities. Shahnaz never thought of coming to the retail world maybe that’s why she never advertised her products. Her products were usually sold in her salons in Delhi and NCR. But soon, the demand increased and her products flew not only to domestic but also to the international markets.

Shahnaz always abhorred chemical skin products and wished to use Ayurvedic hacks, in order to do so she set up a beauty school called “Woman’s World International” which follows a broad syllabus. Free trainings are also provided to the hearing, speech and visually impaired people.

She has been making India proud with her international media presence. She represented India at the CIDESCO World Beauty Congress in New York in 1980 and was appointed as the President of the congress proceedings, at CIDESCO World Beauty Congress. She was also featured by the Indian Government on a television series for the United Nations established “Woman of the Decade”. And countless other awards she have received ever since. Today, her daughter, Nelofar Currimbhoy, supports her work and is helping in expanding her business. Nelofar went ahead writing a biography on her mother by the name, “Flames”. Today the company has a chain of 600 Franchises clinics & 400 Distribution Partners widely spread across 139 countries. She has also been awarded with Padma Shri in 2006 by the government of India.

Some dark struggles:

In 1997, She lost the love of her life and husband, Nasir Husain. Later, she was married to Raj Kumar Puri. Her only son Sameer Husain, who was a rapper, allegedly committed suicide in 2008. Despite facing such great losses she never deviated from her work and took the company to the major heights. She is no less than a legend.    

The journey of Shahnaz Hussain was full of ups and downs. Her struggles and achievements are nothing less than a magnificent experience of learning. Even being a child bride and mother, Shahnaz was determined enough to pursue her dreams and conquer all the odds.  

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