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Anju Rupal

Taking multi tasking to a whole new level

 

There are no words that can accurately describe how excited I was to sit down with Anju Rupal for an interview. I have been watching, learning, understanding, and supporting Anju and her brand for a while now. My relationship with her and her brand, Abhati Suisse, has become personal, and I am proud to say, she is now my friend. Don’t get me wrong, I was TOTALLY fangirling for a while there….. 🙂 

 

I love speaking to Anju, because she’s one of those people who is so set in her path, and speaks with such certainty that her thoughts come out like poetry. There is also a cadence in her voice that is musical. So, while her words are extremely thought provoking, listening to her SPEAK is calming. I say this as a friend,  but maybe I need to interview her daughters to see how they feel about their mom’s voice. 

 

With that, I am so happy to share with you a song that I WISH you could hear. By reading this, I hope you will feel these thoughts and learn the intention behind everything Anju is doing and that her passion resonates with you. When you click away from this page, I hope you leave inspired. (If you don’t, message me b/c I will absolutely help you find someone who you can speak to about your black heart.) 

 

For those of you who are “meeting” Anju for the first time, she is a former social worker turned philanthropist and the founder of Abhati Suisse, a brand that marries both ancient Indian knowledge and processes with Suisse technology. Anju’s brand is a parallel to her personal life, marriage and family. Anju, being of Indian heritage, is married to a Suisse man – they have 2 daughters whom, like Abhati, seem to have inherited and taken in all the best of both the Indian and Suisse lineage. 

 

Like me, Anju is of Indian ethnicity, and like me, she grew up in a country where the majority of people looked different than she does. It seems that no matter where you grow up, if you look different than the majority of the people around you, bullying happens. I have lived this, Anju has lived this. Unfortunately, this trend does get passed on to the next generation. Experiencing this as a child is hard, and Anju and I were able to discuss how we are both experiencing this from a parent’s perspective now, and while it’s frustrating to see that some things haven’t changed, we both agree that pushing for that change to happen is a life calling that neither of us is ready to back away from. 

 

 

Something else that happens when you come from a “minority”  culture is that it’s natural or almost normal for people to have nicknames that are easier for the majority of the population around them to say. For example, Anju could have quickly introduced herself as “Angela” and not have gone through the production it can be for people to pronounce her name correctly. We all know the guy (okay, all Desi people know this guy)  named Krishna or Kishan that goes by Kris…. if you don’t know that guy, or about that guy, you do now. My point: sometimes it is easier to just keep the peace and let the masses call you what they are comfortable with, rather than teach people around you to say your name correctly and honor your heritage. 

 

Within the first 5 minutes of our conversation Anju said, “I am fascinated by women like you who are proud of their Indian heritage and do business under their name.” 

 

My brain kind of exploded.  Hold up! Wait, what? Anju Rupal fascinated by ME? Like, me, me? The me who had cilantro stuck in her teeth for at least 3 hours today and had no clue! (Seriously, adult braces are going well.) To me, Anju is in ways larger than life and most days I feel like I’m barely holding it together, so to have her say she was fascinated by me for anything (that had nothing to do with cilantro in my braces) was a great compliment.

 

Let’s get back to what this post is about…Anju Rupal and Abhati Suisse. As a brand, there are many layers to Abhati, so I’m going to attempt to peel them back, layer by layer so you all can understand the depth of this brand and how there is not one decision that Anju has made that does not have weight to it. 

 

Abhati Suisse, the brand I credit for bringing my hair back to life post thyroidectomy, was born out of passion, ancient Indian knowledge,  & the understanding that education is key to pulling up not only oneself, but can impact an entire community. So, let’s start at the beginning – the developing stages of Abhati.  

 

The team that brought my hair back to life

 

Anju was first introduced to the plants & people that would later become crucial to the Abhati brand on a trip to India. When this introduction took place, Anju knew she wanted to do SOMETHING with them, but just did not know what that something was. So, she packed her suitcase full of oils, brought them back to Switzerland and let her mind wander down the path of possibilities. 

 

 

I found the entire process of how the products come to life to be fascinating, so I asked Anju, “How did Abhati happen?”

 

“Serendipity played a large part in making my vision real. I was in India for Neo Institute, the foundation I launched from my home,  to address climate change in 2009. We were looking to partner with farmers and pay them to plant trees. Trees are the best technology to cool the earth. Neo institute later was renamed “WeForest,” and a talented CEO came on board and took the foundation to great heights.”

 

 Anju returned from India with a suitcase full of natural oils she had found there. Somewhere along the way the oils spilled all over her clothes. (I can relate y’all – this would one hundred percent happen to me.)  The story fast forwards – Anju just happened to be invited to a dinner in Paris (just casual, right?) A product formulator happened to be present. Anju took the opportunity to tell him about the oils, and her thoughts on what she could do with them to make her product idea work. Despite the fact that he was an established beauty formulator,  he had never handled these types of raw materials. When he came back with what they now call Chambal, the sacred hair oil, Anju recalls “I knew I was onto something but I couldn’t get enough supplies to make a sizable amount of hair oil to sell, so we had to figure out something else. The idea of Chambal stayed on the backburner until the supply chain could be figured out,” because as Anju explained, “you cannot cut corners if you are building a sustainable brand. So for the first 3 years of life,  Abhati only had one product to start – a hand wash.” 

 

Abhati Suisse Hand Wash

One Hand Washes the Other – the first product released by Abhati Suisse

 

Since then, Abahti has grown to carry many products for hair, skin,  and body care.  All are designed with the same intentionality and integrity as its first product. The inspiration behind the product line is personal for Anju;  it is derived from ancient Indian knowledge and rituals. Anju has memories of her mom and grandmother oiling and combing her hair to keep it healthy and strong; this is somewhat of a ritual among many Desi families.  “I wanted to build a brand to showcase my heritage and all the beautiful knowledge and wisdom that lives within the Indian culture.” The idea behind our products is that one should “not wait until your hair or skin is damaged, you should take care of it, always. Then it will remain healthy.” 

 

You’re probably saying to yourself, just like I did, but where is the TIME to oil my hair….I hardly have time to wash it!!! The reason these products are SO great is because they are simple to use. There are not 5 steps to take before anything works.  It’s minimal, efficient, effective, and gets the job done – all while supporting farmers in India and contributing to the education of girls in India as well. (Like, y’all – the fact that I can help the world become a better place when I buy my shampoo – Anju Rupal has taken multi tasking to a new level.)

 

But it could not have all just seamlessly come together, right? There must have been challenges – and I know all the founders out there reading this are thinking – great, ANOTHER glossed over story where no one talks about the nitty gritty –  you KNOW I’m not going to present you anything like that and Anju isn’t trying to sell that either. So when asked what challenges she faced, she took a deep breath and explained again, that building Abhati was a process. They wanted to employ the farmers in India, and wanted the plants and oils used to be at their most natural and effective state for the brand.  After years of being told they needed to use fertilizer to help their plants grow, the farmers had to replenish their soil to its natural state so that it could hold the strong natural minerals, organic matter, water, and air that would make their plants stronger and have higher levels of “the good stuff.” And y’all, Anju Rupal and Abhati Suisse were there to help them do just that. They waited, patiently, until the soil was at its most natural and raw state…and then they started growing. 

 

 

Imagine the PATIENCE one would have to possess to do this. 

 

 

During this time of “waiting” Anju laid the groundwork for Abhati Suisse to work with non profit organizations that make a difference in the world and raise up the community. She set the standard that ALL farmers who work with Abhati must send their children to be educated. She established relationships with www.educategirls.ngo and www.weforest.org

 

So fast forward, plants are grown, products are made in India and shipped to Switzerland…..but when they arrived, they were not as luxurious as the Abhati team had hoped. After researching, they discovered this was due to the minerals in the water in India. The idea to integrate Suisse technology to product development came to life. To date, certain processes remain to be completed in India, because you cannot replicate the nutrition and antioxidant levels of the plants & processes.

 

Now, let’s TRY to address how Anju Rupal built a brand that multi-tasks in a way that makes the world a better place. 

 

The many layers of Abhati Suisse look like: 

 

  • Using ancient  Indian knowledge, plants, and ideas. 
  • Employing tribal farmers and farming co-operatives, both in India and farmers in Switzerland
  • Sending girls to school by partnering with organizations like www.educategirls.ngo
    • One part of Abhati’s mission, which is near to my heart, is to offer support to young ladies who struggle by spearheading local education programs, making it possible for them to attend school, where none existed before. Abhati also requires that everyone who works with them send their children to school as opposed to having them work in the farm fields, which is a HUGE move forward for the Indian population. To date this brand has helped 389,000 girls to acquire an education, and each time you purchase a product you are supporting this mission. 
  • Implementing Suisse technology 
  • Creating products that are efficient & effective
  • Making an impact on the world by teaming up with www.weforest.org to create a sustainable brand. 
    • Abhati is aware of its impact on the planet and remains intentional about decisions on packaging & Branding. www.Weforest.org, is an initiative which has been instrumental in planting over 15 million trees on the planet. 

 

As Abhati continues to bloom, it has now added a new product line: Shampoo bars. Anju says, “Our shampoo bars were made using the knowledge of the tribal farmers, who were kind enough to share their natural self care with us. – Did you know that shampoo originated in India?”  When hearing about the shampoo bars I couldn’t help but laugh inside. If my dad heard this he would have had the proudest “I’ve been telling you this…” moment ever….but –  in my defense, my dad, like most Indian dads, says EVERYTHING is from India.” Anju continued on and explained that in its original form, shampoo actually was shampoo bars. Abhati is just taking it back to its roots y’all – and with the shampoo bars, they have introduced different formulations based on hair type and needs. 

 

 

I truly could go on and on about how amazing Anju and this brand she has built are, but in the interest of being somewhat brief. Here is the last question I asked Anju. “When did you know you have done it? When did you have that ‘Oh my God, I’ve done it moment?’”  In my head I’m thinking….”Was it the Ted talk? Or being interviewed on the female founder podcast? How about when you walked away from having investors because everyone agreed they would change the integrity of the brand?”…..but in Anju Rupal style, she was sure in her answer and even that left me inspired: 

 

She replied, “I have not had that yet. My goal is to send 1 million girls to school through our partner, Educate Girls, and when I’ve met that goal of 1 million, I will keep going.” 

 

And that is when, in my head,  the story that I hear as  a song through Anju Rupal’s voice stopped, and (in my head,) the mic was dropped.  

 

I can’t wait to hear the next verse. 

 

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