Interview: Amita Agrawal, Director, Mysore Deep Perfumery House (MDPH)

Amita Agrawal Director Mysore Deep Perfumery-House-MDPH

Know how this women entrepreneur has been formulating tons of innovative agarbatti fragrances since 30 yrs.

Who is Amita Agrawal?

More popularly known as the discoverer of unique fragrances millions of people celebrate everyday in the form of Zed Black incense, she is Mrs. Amita Agrawal.

She was born in Hathras (UP) on 11th August 1964. She completed her Bachelor in Arts (BA) and got married to Mr. Prakash Agrawal (Co-Founder-MDPH) in 1984 Since the establishment of Group MDPH in 1992 she has been the strength of the organization.

She is in charge of the perfumery division & has always been an inspiration & strongest supporter to her fellow female employees.

  • The employment of women in the manufacturing industry is very low and wanted to see if they could do something in a small way.
  • The unit houses 650 machines to make agarbattis and each machine is run by rural women. Supporting Make in India, Zed Black is doing 100% indigenous production of raw- agarbatti which was earlier being imported from Vietnam.
  • 80% workforce is women, supporting women empowerment & livelihood in Indore (MP)
  • The women-driven artisan/ workforce are the backbone of this colossal agarbatti-making business and is dependent largely on rural India. This avenue has given women, who come from economically deprived areas, leverage to have a greater say in household and local economics, and now they no longer need to toil from dawn to dusk just to make ends meet.
  • The tasks of assorting, rolling, drying,and processing flowers to make incense sticks are mainly performed by women workers, as they constitute 80% of the workforce in the factories This provides them with stable livelihoods, and also creates in them a sense of empowerment. They are trained meticulously for activities like hand rolling of agarbatti, bamboo splitting, and are also briefed about its machinery usage and packaging.

In an exclusive interview with Sugarmint, Amita Agrawal explains How she start her journey with MDPH’s Perfumery?

Tell us about your academic background? How did you start your journey with MDPH’s Perfumery division?

Amita Agrawal: I have done my Bachelor in Arts. My journey with the Mysore Deep Perfumery House (MDPH) Perfumery Division started in 1999-2000.

As you are aware, perfumery is a whole day job and it usually consists of old family traditions or contains secret formulations that we have, and which is only entrusted to be done by a family member.

It is a precise job with a lot of concentration required. Most of the formulas and ingredient names are in English and since I was relatively good at English and my husband Mr. Prakash Agrawal needed some help in preparing the formulas, he asked if I can take care of the Perfumery section and I agreed without any hesitation. And since 1999-200, I am heading the Perfumery division at MDPH.

Being a wife, mother and entrepreneur, how do you manage things?

Amita Agrawal: I am not only a mother now but also a grandmother. I have three grandchildren. My own mother-in-law and father-in-law take care of those who are above 80 years now.

So, we need to be very hands-on with everything. Even today, my morning starts early at 5:30 AM by doing Yoga and then by taking care of the in-laws, from taking care of the kitchen to checking whether the kids have been fed properly, only then I head to the office.

I also manage to give time for my friends, relatives and all the relations across. Being an entrepreneur, one has to be good at multitasking and time management.

According to you, how migrant women working in factories see themselves in relation to their work?

Amita Agrawal: MDPH is based in Indore, and we have provided employment to women from nearby villages who do not have to travel far to reach the workplace.

We did keep our employment doors open for people who were returning home after losing their jobs in various cities during COVID pandemic. We provide a secure work environment where any employee can benefit. 

What initiatives are you taking to boost women employment opportunities?

Amita Agrawal: At MDPH, out of the total workforce 80% workforce is women, and especially on the machines it’s 100% women who are in charge of manufacturing agarbatti’s. Since the beginning, MDPH have been supporting Female Empowerment whether it’s from my mother-in-law who was handling the workers initially, then I started handling the Perfumery Division.

We have undertaken several initiatives to boost female empowerment and we will continue to support women who want to create their own identity in the workplace.

Even 3 key departments in MDPH are headed by females. For eg Jyoti Iyer head Sales division where 300 sales persons report to her.

Tell us about the innovations you are doing to discover new fragrances?

Amita Agrawal: The agarbatti industry is constantly evolving with new fragrances. At MDPH, we keep experimenting with new fragrances and we have come up with innovative fragrances and concepts like the Pineapple fragrance is one of the biggest sellers, Parfum series is based on different well-known perfumes.

The newest innovation is the Aromix series which is a blend of two different fragrances like Green Apple and Jasmine or Apple and Cinnamon. I keep on trying and testing new fragrance combinations to suit the market.

The agarbatti industry is now getting more organised, and the consumer’s fragrance choices are also changing. How Zed Black is playing a leading role in empowering a positive change for artisans?  

Amita Agrawal: As a company, MDPH has been proactive with innovation whether it is in the fragrances or packaging or even the size as we have recently launched long Dhoop Sticks which is a first for the agarbatti industry.

We have launched a lot of products which are first for the industry like Dual scented agarbatti, and more. MDPH has always made it a point to understand the consumer and its psyche.

We have come up with a lot of products, and their packaging based on real-time feedback from consumers and our sales teams.

We are aimed to bring the best innovative product range to the consumers nationally as well as internationally.

What obstacles did you face as a woman industrialist and how did you overcome them?

Amita Agrawal: Obviously, I had to face a lot of obstacles when I started coming to the factory every day in 1999-2000, as people were not ready to accept a woman on the factory floor.

I even had to face resistance from within the family. It was the time when we didn’t had cooks in the house so I always ensured that everyone was taken care of, the food is prepared, etc and only then after settling everyone I used to head to the office.

I’ve always overcome challenges and have always contended them without giving up. That’s why even after 22 years with MDPH, I am able to handle all my responsibilities very efficiently.  

Zed Black is a perfect example of a women-led sustainable business. Please share your model of women in agarbatti  business.

Amita Agrawal: We have 80% women workforce. The overall In-charge of all the workforce is a woman who has been working with us for 30 years.

My mother-in-law still comes to the factory occasionally to talk to the employees, I am heading the R&D Division for MDPH.

There are lots of females leading several departments like Ms. Sapna who is handling Modern Trade Division, Product Development is headed by Ms. Bansi, the national sales head Ms. Jyoti iyer who is handling our 300 strong sales force, Ms. Babita Jaishwal heads the whole workforce of 2000-3000 workers in MDPH.

Also there are many other women supervisors who have 100-150 labours under them, both make and female. MDPH believes in being an equal opportunity employer as we have women in managerial and decision making roles as well.

Tell us something about your purpose driven brands like Nature Flower Gold & Gauved where we see more women joining hands with you

Amita Agrawal: Our purpose-driven brands come with a cause so the brands do employ a fair amount of women workforce. Our main target for MDPH are the women aged 35-45 years who are the decision makers in the household. This helps us reaching out to the right audience who understand the need of using these brands in their home.

Share some inputs on your micro-units in Cuttack & Jabalpur besides MP and your CSR Outreach towards women empowerment in other states.

So, apart from Indore we have three units, which are in Jaipur, Raipur and Cuttack where we employ a large women workforce.

We as a brand and me being a woman understand the need to make a woman self-reliant and not dependant on others in her family.

Working for herself gives any woman a sense of freedom and pride and gives an extra much needed boost to strive harder and work towards her own freedom from finances and dependency.

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