Meet the maker: Karishma and Shefali – Bliscent
Bliscent, founded by Shefali Shah and Karishma Gupta, produces an impeccable range of soaps, scrubs, oils, and butters by using ingredients in their purest form.
Step into any market today and you’ll find yourself facing a full range of what is dubbed the ‘luxurious soaps’ collection. The truth, however, is that there’s nothing special about these commercially produced soaps. If anything, actually, they’re quite harmful for the skin, and also affect your overall health in general. Handmade soaps, on the other hand, are completely organic, natural, and full of benefits, devoid of the chemicals that affect your skin for the worse. And if there’s one brand that can be deemed ‘luxurious’ in the handmade department, it would be Bliscent. The baby of Shefali Shah and Karishma Gupta, Bliscent produces an impeccable range of soaps, scrubs, oils, and butters by using ingredients in their purest form. Be it products for everyday use or gift hampers for baby showers and weddings, Bliscent offers something for us all. Mightily impressed by what they had to offer, we sat down with Shefali and Karishma to learn more about their brand…
Tell us a little about yourselves, the owners of Bliscent
Shefali: My name is Shefali, and together with my best friend Karishma, I own and run Bliscent. We’ve been friends for a very long time — we go, way, way back. We went to the same boarding school in Ooty, but went our separate ways after. I went to study in the UK, while Shefali was studying in Mumbai itself. Then we came back and ended up working at the same place, did our respective MBAs, and then ended up working at another place together again! We always wanted to do something by ourselves, so we ended up starting Bliscent.
Tell us a little about Bliscent. What the story behind the name?
Karishma: If we’re honest, we struggled a lot with the brand name — it took us three weeks to settle on one. We both had tons of ideas, actually, but the other would immediately shoot it down! Finally, though, we settled for Bliscent, which is a portmanteau — combining the words ‘Blissful’ and ‘Scent’. As a brand, we didn’t want to include generic words like body or skin in our brand name because we realised that whatever we are making it should reflect what we do — that is, working with scents.
Tell us a little about the beginnings. How did it all start?
Shefali: Like we said, we always wanted to do something on our own, and so three years ago, we started making soaps as a hobby. Initially, we only made them for our friends and relatives, until one day, a friend told us she had a requirement for dinosaur shaped soaps. Now at that point, we were still employed, so we didn’t have any free time at all, but we started researching nonetheless. How many types of soaps could one make? What kind were we going for? We wanted to figure out the details — how to could go about it, the problems we’d face, and also our limitations, because we’d never done a bulk order before. In the end, we actually didn’t end up taking up the order, but our research gave us confidence to give it a shot, and voila! Six months later, Bliscent was born. So all in all, it sort of just snowballed, really — we didn’t have any particular plan in place because we just started with the soaps, but from there on we progressed to body scrubs and butters. Today, we have 13 categories with a variety of products that come in an array of flavours and scents.
What’s it like working with a business partner who also happens to be your best friend?
Karishma: Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly easy, actually. We’ve worked together at multiple places before, in the same team, doing various kinds of jobs, so we know how the other’s mind works without having to try very hard. It’s incredible how our career paths have repeatedly found a way to align, and we thus know each other’s nature, strengths, and weaknesses extremely well. What really works best for us, though, is that we never have any ego clashes because we always handle our differences easily. We know that above everything else, at the end of the day, the brand comes first.
What’s your creative process like? How do you go from a pile of raw materials to the perfect body cream or bar of soap?
Shefali: We order our raw materials from various suppliers, assemble our ingredients, and then decide on a flavour that we think will be appealing to everyone. When we’re about to launch a new product, we try it on ourselves first — because we believe that we need to fall in love with our products before we can put it out in the market. Following that, we give it out to ten people and take feedback. Family members make the best guinea pigs, while friends and other relatives are always on the lookout for free giveaways, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Once we have our feedback, we tweak our products accordingly so as to get rid of the flaws. All the products are made at Karishma’s place, so our products are homemade and completely handmade by us, without any external help of any kind. It’s been a tough journey getting here, too. The curing process for any soap is four to six weeks, but we got overexcited and washed our hands with the soaps within the first two weeks to see if it lathers or not. So while getting the hang of working with oils, we ended up losing close to 10 to 15 kgs of soap — which is a lot! Design wise, too, we’ve made some errors and weren’t happy, so yes, it’s taken us a while to perfect our creations. Having said that, it’s always a learning process — so even if we make a cupcake soap today, we feel like we can improve our creation, and we’re trying to do that every single day.
What’s the biggest difference between a handmade soap and a commercially produced, cheaper variety available in the market?
Karishma: The harsh chemicals, and the preservatives. While making our products, we use no more than eight ingredients, while the commercially made soaps use at least sixteen — if not more. And because these soaps are mass produced, it’s easier to add harsh chemicals that allow the soaps to last longer. Our handmade soaps tend to not last very long because there are none of those chemicals in them, but they’re packed with nutrients that a commercially produced soap can never match up to. In fact, it doesn’t even come close!
What’s your best selling or most popular creation, in your opinion? And which one is your favourite?
Shefali: I like the Walnut face scrub best, and it’s pretty new too!
Karishma: Mine’s the Hair oil — that’s for sure!
As for popular products, our Coffee body polish was one of the first products we launched that continues to be a massive hit even today. Apart from that, the chocolate face mask is always in demand, and the Peppermint foot soak is pretty popular too.
What’s the hardest bit about running a business like yours? And also, what makes it fun?
Karishma: Launching new products — definitely. The creative process is too long, so that can be tricky. Furthermore, we do everything by ourselves — packaging, labelling, marketing, handling the finances — so that takes a toll because it’s so time consuming. We could have lots of new product ideas, but it takes a lot of time, testing, and a lot of patience before it can actually, successfully, make a transition into becoming the perfect product. Having said that, what makes it fun is working with one another. I don’t think I can be this comfortable with anyone else — we can be silly with each other, and being from the same social group, there’s tons to talk about, so there’s never a dull moment when we’re making our soaps. Furthermore, experimenting and innovating is fun too. It’s incredible to see something that was a mere idea take life thanks to your own hands. And of course, positive customer feedback is the best reward there is. It’s a great feeling knowing someone appreciated something that was made by you!
What can we expect from Bliscent in the future?
Shefali: We have a few new product ideas, including a series of miniature products for travels or gift packs. We also want to expand our range, and you’ll hopefully see many more products from us this year. As for the long term future, we want to create more awareness about the incredible benefits of handmade products. We don’t want people to shy away from our products simply because they didn’t know any better. Furthermore, we want to increase our offline and online reach so that our skin loving treats can be used as widely as possible, and thus improve more lives for the better!
You can learn more about Bliscent’s incredible range of products here.
To read stories about all our makers, click here.