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14 Lakh Orders, Rs 1 Cr Funding in Shark Tank India: How a School Dropout’s Attar Is Earning Crores

Adil Qadri started his eponymous brand in 2019 selling premium attar and perfumes. With no formal education, he skilled himself in digital marketing, getting over 80,000 orders per month. He appeared on Shark Tank India season 3 and received an investment of Rs 1 crore.

14 Lakh Orders, Rs 1 Cr Funding in Shark Tank India: How a School Dropout’s Attar Is Earning Crores

Before the prevalence of online shopping portals or even the internet, one of the most requested items to be brought from abroad by a family member or a friend was perhaps a perfume

Similarly, in Bilimora, Gujarat, to be given the latest perfume as a gift from abroad was a hot topic amongst Mohamadadil Asif Malkani, fondly called Adil, and his friends. These discussions and the whiffs of these perfumes left a deep impact on the young man.

When he started his eponymous perfume venture selling Attars and perfumes in 2019, his goal was to offer the same premium fragrance to customers at home. Starting with his father, who worked at an Attar company for over three decades, the entrepreneur’s vision was to make traditional fragrance appealing to the younger generation.

Attar or ittar, is said to have been derived from the Persian word itir which means perfume. Working out of his home, Adil spent months perfecting the formulations and fragrances which would be liked by his buyers. He would send free samples to friends and family in Bilimora and make changes as per their feedback.

The Class 5 dropout used his business acumen and digital marketing skills to build a good website and get word out. Starting with 20 orders in 2019, Adil Qadri has sold over 14 lakh orders so far with a monthly average revenue of Rs 7 crores. He has opened 15 stores in India and Dubai, and sells online too.

Adil is an example of what one can achieve with hard work and perseverance, and proves that one doesn’t need a fancy degree to succeed. He recently appeared on the Season 3 of Shark Tank India and received an investment of Rs 1 crore from Vineeta Singh. 

A childhood spent at the hospital

Adil had to drop out of school in Class 5 due to asthma
Adil had to drop out of school in Class 5 due to asthma

Since birth, Adil had a rare, serious strain of asthma, which made it difficult for him to attend school and play with other children. While most children spent their time at playgrounds, this 29-year-old spent the first 10 years of his life in the hospital. 

“I spent 10 days of every month in the hospital, missing school. I was admitted into a school much later than an average child is, and management also made special adjustments for me. I was allowed to go to school after 9 am as I had difficulty breathing in the mornings,” Adil tells The Better India.

To take care of his medical expenses, his mother started selling mehendi cones, essentially taking care of his hospitalisation costs and medicines. His father worked at an attar shop where income was scarce. 

This meant that he had restrictions when it came to playing with other children. Spending his evenings indoors playing video games, his situation soon turned grave and attending school became increasingly difficult, leading to him dropping out of it eventually. 

After intensive therapy for a few years and with age, Adil’s asthma got better. The entrepreneur recalls that his parents were willing to support him, but he wanted to make a name for himself. He started doing computer and mobile repairing courses and worked in a few local shops. 

The real turning point in his life came in 2014, when his uncle told him about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). “He told me that SEO was the future and that I should learn it and website designing,” adds Adil. 

Adil at one of his stores
Adil at one of his 15 stores

Adil first built a mehendi designs website, which earned him an income of $1,000-1,200 per month. Thus began his journey into digital marketing and e-commerce. 

From 2014-2018, he experimented in a lot of different avenues. He tried drop shipping, affiliate marketing, worked with digital marketing agencies, tried selling t-shirts, women’s dresses, shoes and mobile speakers. 

“Nothing was scaleable. I experienced failure multiple times until 2018 when I started a Muslim fashion store by the name of Adil Qadri. But even that didn’t work,” he shares.

Making Gen Z fall in love with attar 

With one failure after another, the youngster was lost. Just as he scratched his head about what he could do next, he found that the answer had been right in front of his eyes — his father’s mode of rozi roti (daily bread). 

“I decided to experiment with attar. We always find foreign perfumes cool. I wanted to make attar cool and relatable to youngsters like me,” he adds.

At first, he started selling other brand’s attar but soon started making his own. 

But didn’t the strong scent work against his asthma? “It doesn’t bother or trigger me so,” Adil clarifies.

“Usually attar comes in traditional fragrances like oud, sandalwood, and rose. This is used only by older people. I wondered what people like me would like. I experimented with the fragrances and the packaging. Traditional attar is given in small bottles and packed in front of you. I wanted to make it premium as perfumes as generally gifted,” he says.

Working in a 100 sq ft room of their house, Adil and his father spent hours perfecting the products. His father would create and pack the perfumes while Adil worked on customer care, digital marketing. He invested about Rs 50,000 of his savings to start his business.

Starting with free samples, orders slowly started coming in. From 20 to 50 to 100, the Adil Qadri perfumes saw steady growth in the first year. Today, his brand sells over 80,000 orders per month and has attars, perfumes and incense sticks with an average revenue of Rs 7 crores per month.

Today, he works out of a 10,000 square feet warehouse and office and employs 50 people. With an Instagram following of 1.85 lakh, he is the face of the brand. What worked in his favour is his never-say-die attitude and facing every challenge head on.

“I faced a lot of negativity when I started. People in my town said that big businesses are built from big towns. I was told that I couldn’t make it big because I’m not educated and don’t know English well. I never listened to the naysayers. I never stopped. No problem or challenge scared me. I wanted to stand apart and so I took the risk,” he adds.

When he felt low about his illness and not being able to have a school education, he looked at the success stories of CEOs and entrepreneurs who made it big without professional degrees. He proudly calls himself a student of life today. 

From a small town, he has managed to build a huge business selling 125 orders per hour with 30 lakh people visiting the website daily. 

“I had confidence in myself and the product. I learnt from my previous failures and knew that this would work,” he adds.

For every aspiring entrepreneur, he says that consistency is key. 

“Update your skill set. Learn marketing and video making. Even without an MBA, that’s how I made it. Be patient and don’t compare your Day 1 with someone’s Day 1,000,” he says.

Adil is a testament to the power of believing in yourself and your dreams. You can order his perfumes here. 

Edited by Padmashree Pande

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