In 2016, after a bout of chikungunya, Veena Malhotra (64) started experiencing an unusual amount of hair fall.
She recalls that she tried various kinds of oils and remedies, but nothing seemed to help her. The illness was followed by knee surgery, which resulted in even more hair fall.
An ardent follower of Ayurveda, she turned to experimenting with and infusing various herbs with oils, trying to find what would suit her hair best.
These experiments would, five years later, lead to her establishing Veena Ji’s Hair Oil, a venture born in her home kitchen in Gurugram.
Launched in October 2021 with an investment of Rs 10,000, the business today sells over 30 bottles of hair oil every month. Each batch is handcrafted and 100 per cent natural, she tells The Better India. “The one thing that I will never compromise on is the quality of the hair oil I am selling.”
A search for the perfect hair remedy
With sporadic hair colouring, Veena found that the texture and quality of her hair took a severe beating. “My hair was dry and fizzy, and the usage of hair colour only further destroyed the quality. I tried several home conditioners to make my hair soft, including eggs and curd. While these would provide relief for a while, the texture never changed for the better.”
When she stopped getting her hair coloured, she noticed that the new hair growth was all white. “This, I was told, is a fallout of stopping hair colour. Not wanting to go down that path again, I stopped colouring my hair.”
It was during this stage that she was struck with the idea of making her own hair.
She started by using infusing dried curry leaves along with other herbs like ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) shankhpushpi (morning glory), methi dana (fenugreek seeds), kalaunji (black caraway), kala til (black sesame) and amla powder (gooseberry) with olive, mustard, sesame and coconut oils.
With each new ingredient she added, she studied the impact on her own hair.
“It took me almost five years to come up with a formula that nourishes the hair and aids growth. These infused oils also have to be used as per the climatic conditions. For example, one cannot use coconut oil in the winters, given that it hardens quickly,” she adds.
Veena claims that the ingredients used in making the oil promote hair growth, stop premature greying and hair fall, cure dandruff, and help heal the damage due to pollution. The oil can be used by men, women, and children.
The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and Kanika Kush, one of the many happy customers of the hair oil, says, “Having tried multiple different hair oils over the years, I can say with surety that this one is good. The consistency of the oil is a distinguishing factor, and it feels great on my hair. I have been using this consistently for some time now and am happy with the results.”
She adds that it is also a great oil to use for a good nourishing massage. “Not just me, even my husband is a fan now.”
Each 100 ml oil bottle is priced at Rs 220, along with a delivery charge of Rs 60, depending on where you are based. The products are shipped pan-India and are available online. “While I am happy to sell the oil in larger quantities I want to make sure that the customer is happy with the product before they spend more money on it. The 100 ml bottle is perfect to get that feel of the product,” Veena notes.
‘There’s no right age to start’
“This is my post-retirement venture. I have worked all my life, and after retiring, the thought of sitting idle did not appeal to me. When I started making this hair oil, it was just to ensure that I find a solution to my own personal hair fall issue. When I started giving out the hair oil to women in my own local community, the response was amazing,” she says.
The women started urging Veena to sell the oil so that they could purchase larger quantities. “None of them wanted to continue taking it for free. They wanted me to put a price to it and start it on a commercial scale,” she adds.
This is where Veena’s daughter Shefali Malhotra entered the frame.
Besides helping the business gain popularity on social media platforms, Shefali also handles the marketing and sales.
Shefali says, “As a child, I never loved my hair and did not believe in any of these home remedies. But at 40, I have not only embraced them, but am also seeing the kind of difference they have made to the texture and volume of my hair. The bonus is the shine.”
On the life her mother has led, she says, “It hasn’t been an easy life for mom. She survived an abusive marriage and stuck around until my brother and I were old enough to be by ourselves. We have seen her suffer, and to today see her stand on her own feet and do something to call her own is so inspirational.”
She continues, “It was because of her resilience that my brother and I managed to do well. We are the first engineers and management degree holders in our family. That speaks volumes of how well she brought us up. Her spirit and perseverance has taught us both so much.”
Her “biggest achievement,” says the entrepreneur, has been in getting close to 10 women from her local community to give up chemical colours for the hair. She says, “It also means that fewer packets are making their way into our environment. If a handful more follow in their footsteps and give it up, I will be happy. This is my way of giving back to the environment.”
Veena, whose journey of self-worth and finding her purpose even at 64 is truly inspirational, also displays child-like enthusiasm to learn more about social media platforms. Presently, she is working on increasing engagement and reaching out to more people. Shefali says, “That enthusiasm in her is truly infectious. She has never been one to say ‘I cannot’, and is always keen on exploring.”
Keeping a true sense of being “a business with a heart”, Veena Ji’s sets aside 50 per cent of all its earnings for “worthy causes”, say the mother-daughter duo. “I am hopeful to be able to increase this percentage as and when I grow the business,” Veena says. One such charity is the Sar Shabd Mission that, besides running a free dispensary, also conducts many free food donation camps.
Meanwhile, Shefali says her biggest learning from her mother has been that there is never any age to learn or achieve something. And as Veena notes, “If you feel like doing something, go ahead and do it.”
To reach out to Veena and place an order, click here.
Do note: This is a small home business and all products are made fresh. You might have to wait a while before the oil can be made and delivered to you.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)