Rishabh C. Kothari President, Fragrances & Flavours Association of India


Could you start by telling us a bit about your role as President at Fragrances & Flavour Association of India? Please highlight your career journey, major hurdles overcome and milestones achieved so far.

Rishabh C. Kothari. I have been associated with the Fragrances and Flavours Association of India for more than 2 decades. I first joined the FAFAI Managing Committee in 1999 when I was 24 years old and have been part of the FAFAI Journey ever since including serving as the Regional Secretary for East India as well as editing its prestigious and internationally renowned quarterly publication, the FAFAI Journal. My association with FAFAI has been an extremely enriching one, helping me learn and absorb from events and people, and it is here that I have made friends across ages and geographies around the country and abroad. While I am sure there have been road-bumps in this journey, looking back I cannot think of any major hurdle. Each FAFAI activity or event is filled with joy, satisfaction, camaraderie and learning and each of them have been in their own way a milestone in this journey.

However, I can say with pride and some amount of satisfaction that we have done a good amount of work in the position we are in, although the real credit for all that we have been able to achieve so far lies with very many people. It lies with all my predecessors, all the Past Presidents and their Committee members who established a strong foundation for the Association. The credit lies with the unwavering contribution and support that I have received from all my office bearers, all the members of the Managing Committee, members of the FAFAI Secretariat who have behind the scenes supported me in very effort and endeavours. And finally, nothing is ever possible without the support, interest and active participation of all our members, which we are fortunate to have received in abundance, and for which we are ever grateful. So while the President may be what you can call the ‘public face’ of the Association, all the credit and achievement is not of one man alone. When our Managing Committee took over in July 2019, we had several plans and programmes in mind and have ever since made efforts to work in that direction.

India is a large country and we have our membership spread over in just about every nook and corner of the country. Therefore to facilitate greater member participation, we wanted to take FAFAI Workshops, programmes and events to every part of the country where our members are. We started this programmes in Indore, Kannauj and Kanpur the same year . We had firmed up plans of conducting events in Nagpur, Bengaluru, Cochin, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Ankaleshwar in 2020 but they had to be put on hold because of the pandemic. However the ball has been set rolling and we shall resume whenever the situation becomes conducive.

Once the pandemic began, we moved our events online. Since one of our aims has been to facilitate greater member participation and make our programmes and events accessible to our members in every part of the country, the virtual mode made it possible with much greater ease. In lieu of Trade Shows that take place, we also organised a Virtual Bazaar earlier this year. While we were apprehensive about such an event, as Fragrances and Flavours are related to the senses, I am happy to inform you that while our regular biennial Seminar has around 1,500 delegates, registrations for the Virtual Bazaar crossed 4,000!

Please run us through more details of your organization, its inception and history.

Rishabh C. Kothari. FAFAI was established in 1949 when a small group of people who were extremely passionate about the world of aromas came together to set up an organisation to promote fragrances and flavours in India. In these next 7 decades, FAFAI has grown exponentially both in strength and stature, in India as well as overseas, with more than 850 members covering all aspects of the Fragrances, Flavours, Aroma Chemicals and Natural Essential Oils business. We have members from the entire value chain, from manufacturers, cultivators, distillers, traders, agents and representatives and even scientists.

As the Covid-19 pandemic shakes the global economy and disrupts the way we live, work, and conduct business, leaders are scrambling to manage the immediate fallout. As President of FAFAI, what is your vision for the future of the Fragrance Industry in India?

Rishabh C. Kothari. Well, Covid has affected all of us in more ways than one can imagine. It has also impacted the way in which we perceive and consume products and the Fragrance and Flavour Industry is a reflection of these changing consumer behaviours and patterns. The Industry has been grappling with challenges related to supply, logistics and pricing of both natural and synthetic raw materials which I feel will continue for some time as industries across the world adapt to the new normal. While there may be temporal blips, the per capita consumption of Fragrances and Flavours are likely to see a continued upward momentum and it is for each player to seize the opportunity and benefit from it.

The Fragrance and Flavour Industry has always been cognizant of consumer preferences and their safety has always been paramount in whatever we do. It was the interests of consumers as well as the need for transparency and clarity that motivated us to publish the Indian Reference List of Ingredients. This is a 1st of its kind compilation of more than 9,000 ingredients which are being widely used and generally considered safe by the Indian Fragrances and Flavours industry. This is a 1st of its kind compilation of more than 9,000 ingredients which are being widely used and generally considered safe by the Indian Fragrances and Flavours industry.

This compilation is based on inputs from all the Fragrance and Flavour Manufacturers of India and lists all the ingredients that they use and can be an authoritative guide of all ingredients being used in India. We were also grateful to receive words of praise and encouragement from our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji for this publication.

How has the second wave of the global pandemic impacted the Fragrance Industry?

Rishabh C. Kothari. Like all industries, the pandemic has deeply impacted the Fragrance Industry as well. The continued challenges with respect to logistics, container movement and their costs have had a huge impact on all industries including F&F. Supply chain disruptions have had an adverse impact on both productivity as well as balance sheets and the industry, which is dominated by MSME players, struggles with ever rising costs.

What initiatives have you taken to stay relevant in the industry and among consumers during these times?

Rishabh C. Kothari. As I mentioned earlier, the Fragrance Industry is extremely dynamic and have been innovating, developing, adapting and producing a ever changing palate of consumer preferences and tastes. For example, post pandemic, there is a much larger demand for natural essential oils as consumers seek solace and comfort in natural remedies and products and the industry has risen to the occasion.

Considering the unprecedented year, we dive forward to a year of gratitude, healing, and reconnecting – something we all so desperately crave. According to you, what would be the top trends that will be most influential in shaping the fragrance industry in 2021 and beyond?

Rishabh C. Kothari. The fragrance Industry is often a bell-weather or indicator of the changing consumer mind and the product we produce are a reflection of the changing priorities and preferences of these consumers. As you have mentioned the words gratitude, healing and reconnecting, these are likely to influence or propel the consumer’s mind and decisions. With heightened hygiene consciousness, products that demonstrate care and protection will be preferred and this care is not only related to the self but also the environment and the planet. Hence there shall be a strong preference for not only natural products but ecologically sustainable products and the fragrance industry will mirror these changing times in the fragrance notes we produce or the ingredients we source.

Meditation practice was associated with decreases in negative emotion. We have heard that you are also involved in teaching meditation to thousands of people. Tell us more about it.

Rishabh C. Kothari. Well, I would not associate Meditation only with the decrease of negative emotions only! As far as I am concerned, I have been involved with a Meditation practice called Heartfulness (www.heartfulness.org), which I have been practicing ever since I was a teenager. It is my conviction that inner peace and balance is a pre-requisite for the achievement of ever greater virtues. Think of it this way,

  • Can one be happy and joyful without peace?
  • Is peace possible without harmony?
  • Is harmony possible without having a contemplative mind?
  • Is contemplation possible without a focused mind?
  • Can your mind be truly focused without training it through meditation?

So whether it is creativity or professional success, a happy family life or a harmonious society, it is we individuals who make the society a whole, and the society is a reflection of what we are as individuals. Since 1945, the Shri Ram Chandra Mission has offered Heartfulness Meditation to interested seekers, free of charge. Heartfulness is based on the ancient system of Raja yoga, which is known thus because meditation regulates the mind, and the mind is said to occupy the kingly position within us. This kingly mind, however, is itself governed by the intentions of the heart. By purifying the heart, we regulate the mind. That is how, through the practices of Heartfulness Meditation, we train individuals to make use of their inner capacities and shape their destinies. Originally present in only a few districts of Uttar Pradesh, Heartfulness is now practiced by over 4 million people in 165 countries, and its wide range of self-development modules have been adopted by thousands of schools, colleges, corporations, non-governmental, and government bodies worldwide. To better connect with today’s aspirants, Heartfulness maintains a familiar online presence and has made its ancient methodology freely available to seekers through a variety of smartphone apps and instructional videos. The activities of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission are supported by a large volunteer base, including over 14,000 certified trainers who are passionate and selfless in their efforts to help individuals learn the art of meditation and spread peace wherever they go.

Is there anything else you would like to add as we wrap up? Any message that you would like to share with us?

Rishabh C. Kothari. Well, my only message to one and all would be that there is every challenge could also be an opportunity. Whether it is our economy, our geographical integrity, or simply the preservation of human life, the last 18 months have been extremely challenging for our nation. This situation has challenged our resilience as a civilisation and it is in throes of such adversity that opportunity emerges for us.
What is important is that we believe in ourselves, we believe in what the future holds for us, and of course endeavour to redeem that pledge, only this time in full measure. Ideas such as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ needs to move beyond mere slogans, beyond narrow personal and commercial considerations, into an article of faith for our countrymen to support one another as India moves towards reclaiming its rightful place in the world and history.

As Mahatma Gandhi has said, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’ and it is upon each and every one of us to be ‘vocal for local’ in every aspect of our businesses and encourage and support our fellow brethren.