Meet the maker: Himala Kapur – Tiki-ah!
Himala Kapur has always been a bit of a rebel. A lover of animals and creator of bath and beauty products extraordinaire, the 29-year-old’s brand, Tiki-Ah! makes completely natural and organic products that are 100% vegan, as well as completely chemical and cruelty free. If you’re impressed already, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We sat down with Himala to learn more about her beliefs, her love for animals, and how she repeatedly defies the odds with Tiki-ah!.
Read the works of any sage and the first practical advice is usually about not letting your personal beliefs dictate your professional life. While most follow that adage to a tee, Himala Kapur has always been a bit of a rebel. A lover of animals and creator of bath and beauty products extraordinaire, the 29-year-old’s brand, Tiki-Ah!, makes completely natural and organic products that are 100% vegan, as well as completely chemical and cruelty free. If you’re impressed already, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We sat down with Himala to learn more about her beliefs, her love for animals, and how she repeatedly defies the odds with Tiki-ah!.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Australia and brought up in the quiet and beautiful hills of Kumaon, in a small town perched perfectly in the Himalayan foothills, called Nainital. Both my parents are scientists working on the Himalayan Environment and Development and share a common love for the mountains and hence the name ‘Himala’ — the daughter of the Himalayas. I am an only child and to compensate for a sibling, my parents got me my first dog, Elsa, when I was four years old. My love of dogs and animals in general has only grown manifold since! I have had the pleasure of sharing my home and heart with several dogs, cats, parrots, a monkey, a turtle and several fish, most of them being rescued animals, for pretty much all my life. My husband and I currently live in the blissful company of our two ‘Desi’ dogs – Sage (rescued as a month old puppy from the busy streets of Mulund in Mumbai) and Champ (the only surviving pup from a litter of 5 in our society in Gurgaon, adopted after he met with a terrible accident at the age of 10 months) and two guinea pigs – Biki and Hutoo.
I hold an MBA from IBS – Hyderabad in Human Resource Management and a bachelor’s degree in Botany from Miranda House, University of Delhi.
Tell us a little about Tiki-Ah!.
Well, Tiki-Ah! was born after a ‘shaam ki chai wali discussion’ with my husband and a cousin. In all honesty, I was never meant for the mundane, monotonous nine-to-five job. Bluntly put, it bored the living bejesus out of me. When my husband got a job in Gurgaon, we had to leave Mumbai which meant I had to quit my job. That is when I decided to take the leap and Tiki-Ah! was born.
Traditional bath and body care products are boring and unappealing to the eyes. Tiki-Ah! was created to break the stereotype; to add a dab of glamour and a burst of colours to your life. We aspire to change the way people look at baths — a daily chore. With the help of our products, we want to make it fun and colourful.
How did it all begin? Where do you draw inspiration from?
When I got married and moved to Mumbai to join my husband, I met a lady through an animal welfare NGO who made her own soaps. She was kind enough to teach me the art of making soaps and there has been no stopping me since. I spent over a year doing my bit of research on ingredients and formulations, and my husband was kind and patient enough to be my guinea pig all along! Today I make a range of skincare products — from balms to body butters and so much more. I started by hijacking a part of the kitchen, but now I have an entire room to myself. A bigger studio is under construction where I hope to shift by the end of this year.
As for my inspirations, well, it’s really easy to inspire me. Just show me some stunning colours and half the job is done! From a beautiful butterfly to a pretty cupcake, anything can inspire me to create the next gorgeous bar of soap.
What’s your creative process like? What materials do you use? How long does it take to create the perfect bar of soap?
I don’t really have a process per se, but I do spend a lot of time scouring the internet for pictures of cakes, flowers, and whatnots, which really gets my creative juices flowing. I use a variety of vegetable grade oils of olive, coconut, palm, neem, almond etc along with butters, natural clays and botanicals in my products. Making the product is a relatively easier job. The difficult bit, as far as a soaps go, is designing them. Some soaps are intricately designed and it can take me up to two days to make a perfect bar — so a lot of effort is involved behind the scenes.
A little birdie tells us that your products aren’t tested on animals and are 100% organic.
I have better news: all my products are vegan! Respect for fellow beings on the planet has always been my priority, and that’s exactly why Tiki-Ah! produces only vegetable oil based and vegan-friendly handcrafted bath and body care products. I refuse to use any animal products or byproducts in any of my creations. There’s no milk, no beeswax, no animal based oils in any of my products. Finding vegan substitutes is tough, yes, but absolutely worth it! Animals hold a rather special (and the largest!) place in my heart and I am grateful for all the love they give me in return.
Then again, with great love comes sacrifice too. My husband and I don’t take holidays and if we do, we ensure to go only to pet-friendly locations where we can take the entire paraphernalia with us. We don’t go out for movies or dinners because we hate leaving them alone. Our pets come first no matter what! Both of us are vegetarians and aspiring vegans and when Punjabis give up meat, ‘doodh and dahi’, they means serious business!
What does ‘handmade’ mean to you?
Every winter I would wait desperately for a parcel from my aunt who would send me a hand-knitted sweater, some of which I have stowed in my closet even today. I think, in a way, by recognising the kind of efforts she put into knitting those sweaters, it made me fall in love with the idea of ‘handmade’.
I still possess handwritten notes from friends, letters from my cousins, handmade cards in a box. I love collecting them. Anything ‘handmade’ is full of a lot of thought, love, and hard work. As opposed to majority of people, I still prefer to make cards on my own and write letters. It’s a labour of love — much better than store bought greeting cards or emails!
What variety of soaps do you sell? What’s your most popular product?
I sell a varied range of soaps — from soaps with butters to pure glycerine; soaps with natural clays and pure olive oil soaps too. We also sell a range of Ayurveda inspired soaps where I use a lot of neem, turmeric, cinnamon, essential oils, and multani mitti — and people seem to love them! My specialty is the ‘Coffee Soap’, which is my bestseller and thus, almost always out of stock. No matter how many I make, they are gone before I know it. I recently launched a lip scrub and that has been doing tremendously well too. It is a simple formulation using various oils and organic sugar. Thanks to the matte lipsticks that are so common now, you need a lip scrub to get rid of all the gunk on your lips.
What is the hardest bit about running a business like the one you do?
I am an introvert by nature and running a business of your own means meeting a lot of people, interacting with them, and even throwing a sales pitch into the mix every now and then. That, personally speaking, is the hardest — but I think I am getting progressively better at it. Furthermore, for a small home run business, it can occasionally get pretty overwhelming to do everything yourself. Right from sourcing ingredients, designing the labels, to packaging the products and cleaning up thereafter is what my job entails — so it’s quite a stressful task.
What goals do you have for Tiki-Ah!?
At the moment, I want to focus on increasing Tiki-Ah!’s footprint in India along with its online presence. The ultimate aim is to see Tiki-Ah! in everyone’s bathroom! We want to be in your makeup kit, your dressing table, in your handbag, everywhere! All in all, we just want to fill your life will colours, fragrance, and love.
You can learn more about Tiki-Ah’s products here: http://engrave.in/tiki-ah
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