Manan Gandhi’s tryst with fragrances began early in his life. Coming from a family which has been in the business for 40 years, supplying ingredients to some of the most reputed fragrance houses all over the globe, Manan’s tipping point came after he finished his studies. He decided to continue living in France and start his own business of selling perfumery ingredients. Living there, be observed a gap in the market. Though all the big fragrance brands were making use of the amazing Indian ingredients, yet there was no Indian luxury perfume brand in the market. It was then he decided to launch ‘Bombay Perfumery’.
Today with a team consisting of international perfumers such as Jacques Chabert, Alexandra Carlin and Pierre Kurzunne, he has created concoctions which give a very personal experience to the world.
From his favorite locales around the globe which inspire him, to his early days living and working in Grasse, France, he tells us all. Read on.
What are your earliest memories of perfume/ fragrances which prompted you to start ‘Bombay Perfumery’?
M.G: I grew up in a family that has been entrenched in the Indian fragrance business for 40 years and that instilled a deep passion for the art of perfumery from a very young age. After completing my masters from Skema University, I decided to continue living in France and set up my own business of selling perfumery ingredients to fragrance houses in France. I witnessed the growth of the independent perfumery houses while living and working in Grasse, France. Customers were increasingly interested in high quality and niche perfumery houses and often paying a lot of attention to the ingredients that go into fragrances.
With my background in ingredients, I always felt, why weren’t there any contemporary Indian fine fragrance houses that put a spotlight on these beautiful Indian ingredients. I also saw it as a great way to build something from the ground up, creatively. Therefore, for me, it was a two-fold opportunity: a commercial one and a chance to do something interesting and fulfilling.
Your perfumes are unique concoctions which reflect your personal relationship with a few places. Tell us about those locales which inspire you and your work.
M.G: My work often takes me to some of the most exotic locales around the world and so, some of the fragrances in our range pay an ode to the places from where I sourced the primary ingredients for those fragrances. For instance, Les Cayes is a small port in Haiti which grows the finest crop of Vetiver, so I ensure that I personally travel there at least once a year to source it. Likewise, Sulawesi is a small island in Indonesia from where we source the patchouli which is used in our fragrance- Sulawesi. I’m also very inspired by Bombay- the city where I grew up and fell in love with the art of perfumery, it’s a place that inspires creativity and entrepreneurship and the idea of setting up my own fragrance label in the metropolis prompted my return.
How was your experience living and working in Grasse?
M.G: It was challenging initially- it’s not easy to set up your own business in France given the tight bureaucracy but it was a time of great learning and overcoming all those personal challenges has only helped me on my journey with Bombay Perfumery. Living in Grasse, which is the heart of the perfumery world gave me a chance to interact with the niche fragrance houses and perfumers and learn a lot about the process of perfume creation and the technology which I was able to bring on board while setting up Bombay Perfumery.
What gap did you observe in the global perfume market which pushed you to start your personal perfume brand?
M.G: In India, I felt there were two extremes- either the consumer could opt for an international fragrance label or then there are more massy Indian brands which are less expensive. I felt then that there was a need for a luxury perfume label which could bridge this gap and provide the audience with a contemporary, international experience while still being accessible. Niche perfumery as a concept is established in Europe while it was completely missing in India. People still buy fragrances without truly understanding what they’re purchasing- they will invest just because it is a ‘label’. With Bombay Perfumery, we’re trying to change or at least influence how consumers look at buying perfumes. We’re focusing our attention on what’s inside the bottle rather than packaging and providing consumers with a label that can truly boast of using the highest quality of naturals.
Madurai Talkies, Chai Musk, and Calicut, all three perfumes have distinct notes and evoke a sense of nostalgia, is it your conscious effort to give your clients such a personal experience?
M.G: In my opinion, wearing perfume is a very personal experience. I might like something, you might not. My effort is to provide consumers with a range of fragrances that are distinct and very unique in the experience they provide. We have used the best quality of naturals in our fragrances in very interesting olfactory combinations and each fragrance is bound to take you to a different place or evoke a very distinct memory when you sample it.
What are the fragrance houses you look up to?
M.G: Tom Ford, Byredo, Penhaligans