Shahnaz Husain 

  • Founder & CEO, Shahnaz Herbals Inc. (Beauty)
Born 1944, founder and CEO, Shahnaz Herbals Inc.
“The biggest success for any entrepreneur is innovation. You can never, never, never rest on past laurels.”

 Full-length video (accessible to holders of a valid Harvard ID)


Shahnaz Husain is the founder of Shahnaz Herbals, a beauty company based in India. Known for selling what she calls “Indian’s civilization in a jar,” Shahnaz Husain’s products are inspired by the ancient Hindu medicinal system known as Ayurveda that emphasizes the use of natural, organic ingredients for bodily health. In this interview, Husain reveals the origins of her entrepreneurial endeavor which made her one of the pioneers of the natural beauty market in India.

Husain explains how worked as a freelance writer for a beauty magazine to earn money to attend beauty school. After attending beauty school, she heard stories of the damaging effects of beauty products using chemical ingredients, and this framed her belief in the merits of herbal and natural beauty products. She began by making each product by hand in her kitchen, eventually moving her business to factories as the demand for her products grew. As of 2016, the company has formulated over 375 different beauty products, including natural skin whiteners.

Although Shahnaz Herbals is primarily sold into the premium market, more recently it has created a line for the mass market after Husain was approached by a woman complaining that she could not afford the products. Instead of paying for advertising, Husain notes how she attended trade shows and press conferences to spread brand awareness. Attending international trade shows and holding press conferences in foreign countries also helped her company become known outside India.

Husain also describes how employing a franchise model both allowed her business to grow, and served as a provider of employment and empowerment for women looking to make money. The company now has over 400 franchisees. As her business grew, Husain also became active in corporate social responsibility programs, the importance of which she discusses at length.

Download Transcript


  • Mayu Saini and Shahnaz Husain, "A Growing Herbal Empire," Women's Wear Daily, December 29, 2010, Vol. 200, Issue 134.
  • Shahnaz Husain (lecture, Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, April 24, 2012),
  • Elizabeth Flock, "Shahnaz Husain: 'If It Bears My Name, It Catches On,'" Forbes India, September 29, 2009.
  • Geoffrey Jones, Beauty Imagined. A History of the Global Beauty Industry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Global Market Information Database (GMID), Beauty and Personal Care industry statistics, 2015.
  • Shahnaz Husain,
  • Interview citation: "Interview with Shahnaz Husain, interviewed by Sunil Gupta, March 31, 2016, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School,"