They hit it off instantly when they met on the sets of Shark Tank India on Sony in October 2021. Mentor Namita Thapar, executive director, Emcure Pharma, and mentee Aishwarya Biswas. Salt Lake girl Aishwarya is the founder and MD of the wellness brand Auli who returned funded from the iconic reality show that sees hundreds of ‘aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world pitch their business models to a panel of investors and persuade them to invest money in their idea’, by Namita, a ‘shark’ on the show.
On her recent trip to Kolkata, The Telegraph caught up with the ebullient Namita at JW Marriott Kolkata and chatted about the city, Auli and what women should do for one another. Aishwarya stood listening like an obedient student and later told us why Namita has her heart.
How did your Kolkata trip go?
This is just my second time in Kolkata and today has been a crazy day. I woke up at 4am today, took a 6am flight and then I had a doctor’s advisory board, a conference, founder’s meeting and then this interview, but when you are doing stuff that you enjoy, it energises you. So, it’s been a great day.
Auli is your Kolkataconnect now. What do you love about the city?
It’s called the City of Joy for a reason. Now, I have new friends in the city and their lovely teams. So, I feel I have an extended family here... they are such bright, warm and incredible people. Now Kolkata means a lot more than just sandesh for me! (Laughs)
Aishwarya is a bundle of energy. And every time we speak she is full of praise...
We have mutual admiration and love for each other and we clicked on Day One. It started with us wearing the exact same outfit. Right there we knew we had some connect. The real stuff was I really liked her spirit and spunk. She came and spoke with a lot of passion. I loved her products. Though I didn’t try her products, I loved the packaging and the ingredients and the way she spoke about what she was doing and why she was doing it and she is the best model for her product because she has absolutely beautiful skin. When you look at her skin, you feel like trying her products. I loved the way she stood up for herself. Some people may feel she is intimidating and not easy to work with. I have had exactly the opposite experience. I think she is the warmest person and she is so open to feedback and is so much fun to be around. It started off as an investor-founder relationship, but now honestly we are good friends and I can bug her for anything I need. Her products are phenomenal. I have tried a lot of her products. I made my mom, husband and father try them. The gels are non-sticky and the colours are beautiful. I like her facial oils. For women my age, you want hydration at night. While you are sleeping, it is working on your skin. Her vitamin C and Blue Blood are fantastic. I love her sunscreen. People in India need a lot of education about sunscreen. They don’t get it that sunscreen is something you need to wear every day. If you have to wear it every day, it has to be non-greasy and non-white residue. I am a product junkie and I travel a lot and I am always picking up products. So, I know what I am talking about. I enjoy her products. I like the fact that they have active ingredients and Ayurveda. I am a big believer in Ayurveda. So, the whole package... female founder who is so passionate, speaks her mind, a range of products that’s fabulous and has differentiators, and an industry which is very hot right now.... Women in India are slowly learning to spend on themselves and prioritise themselves. I was very sure that this is a company I wanted to be a part of.
What have been your tips for her so far?
I think it’s a good balance because she has got a lot of energy and new ideas and I, because of my years of experience, I am a bit more seasoned. I think we need to find that balance with Aishwarya. We need to let her run with that passion but at the same time at times, I have to pull her back. Sometimes I give her the feedback and sometimes it’s through other investors that I make her meet. Launch less products, focus more on the ones that are doing really well, double down on them. This is what you do in terms of marketing. This is where you need to focus and she is absolutely open to feedback and willing to learn, listen and try new things.
What is your vision for Auli?
Auli should become a pan-India brand first and then at some point become global. Ayurveda is India’s gift to the world. Auli should also be symbolic of the power of women entrepreneurs of India.
Aishwarya with Namita
I think women need to support each other. A lot of times we feel lonely and they become a support system for each other where they can share their learnings, biases, judgements, tough times. There is an enormous sisterhood that we don’t end up tapping into as a country
Shark Tank India has made you a household name…
I knew what I was signing up for. I knew that I would have no private life. It became way bigger than any one of us anticipated and we are very happy that entrepreneurship has become dinner-table conversation. They are doing a wonderful job of storytelling and are making difficult MBA words easy to understand. It has cut across ages and classes and geography. So, from a Metro to a Tier 4... are watching it. It’s wonderful that it has given a masterclass in business and entrepreneurship to the whole of India in a fun and engaging manner. Entrepreneurs have a new-found respect. Their lives are not all glitter but a lot of personal sacrifices, failures and setbacks. So, it has done a wonderful job of showcasing both.
What have you learnt in the process?
It’s lovely. They are bringing such new ideas to marketing. Pharmaceutical is a traditional legacy business and I feel I have evolved as a leader after doing Shark Tank. So many of these new ideas I am bringing to my team. We are doing this kiosk at 6,000 gynaecs, which are AI enabled and you just take your phone there while you are waiting at the clinic and you can get an entire patient journey of breastfeeding, menstruation and anaemia. I thought of something like this because of Shark Tank.
What would you tell all those women who think they are not good enough?
Trust me, everyone likes to portray that they are a hotshot. I am not. There are days when I feel really down, feel demotivated and low. No one is perfect. Neither am I. It’s a journey. As long as you are at it, you keep growing year after year. I coined this word ‘flawsome’. You are awesome in spite of your flaws. Basically, you just have to get rid of guilt because if you have chosen a certain path, do it. I don’t think women prioritise themselves. They don’t go for their annual health check-ups. So, they need to make themselves a priority. Most importantly, you’ve got to stop listening to the world and start listening a bit more to your inner voice. I think that’s something we are not good at doing.
Who inspires you?
My mom inspires me. She’s been a big reason for who I am and I am lucky that I have three mentors who have been wonderful in terms of teaching me life lessons and helping me become more authentic and a kinder person.
What do women need to do for each other?
I think women need to support each other. A lot of times we feel lonely and they become a support system for each other where they can share their learnings, biases, judgements, tough times. There is an enormous sisterhood that we don’t end up tapping into as a country.