Shark Tank Fame, Adil Qadri's success story of building Attar Empire

Adil Qadri Perfumes, a brand featured in the first episode of Shark Tank India Season 3, has its roots in Bilimora, a small city in Gujarat, aiming to shine a light on traditional attars in India.

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In Bilimora, Gujarat, according to Adil Qadri, a resident, half of the city's population leaves every morning, either catching the 6:30 a.m. train to Mumbai or the 9 a.m. train bound for Surat. The reason is simple: Bilimora lacks significant employment opportunities despite hosting a few industries, compelling its residents to seek livelihoods elsewhere. However, this same city is now poised to become a hub for a business with a turnover in crores, all thanks to Adil Qadri, the founder of Adil Qadri Perfumes. In a conversation with Local Samosa, he shared his vision of spreading the aroma of traditional attars in the world of perfumes and deodorants.


Adil Qadri pitching at Shark Tank India Season 3.

Qadri has been making waves on social media, particularly on LinkedIn, with numerous businesspeople discussing his growth as a case study. This discussion persists even three weeks after his appearance on Shark Tank India Season 3, a reality TV show aired on Sony. Whether it's his background hailing from a small city or his pitch to investors where Qadri boldly declared himself 'the gunda of the Attar industry,' reminiscent of a popular line by Aman Gupta from an earlier season, Qadri and his business have become topics of recent conversation. This surge in attention is evidenced by the increasing number of customers flocking to the brand's outlets, a trend observed by the founder. 

Countless miseries in a small house 

Speaking to Local Samosa from his factory unit in Bilimora, Qadri describes his hometown as a quaint place with multiple houses but not many employment opportunities. "Even a Domino's outlet was opened just two years ago," Qadri says, expressing relief that the internet support enabled his business to flourish, which wouldn't have been possible otherwise in Bilimora. Back in time, his father worked at an Attar shop, while his mother made mehendi cones, providing their livelihood.

However, life wasn't easy for the Qadri family. They lived in a congested, small house, and Adil struggled with asthma during his childhood. "My parents often took me to Surat for treatment, and the infrastructure wasn't good at that time, making the journey from our town to Surat take hours," recounts the 29-year-old. Despite financial difficulties, Qadri mentions that his parents ensured he and his siblings attended the only convent school available, which was designed for the elite. However, due to Adil's illness, he was unable to continue his studies beyond class 5 and dropped out of school.


Adil in his childhood days.

After completing his education later, through coaching, Adil began his experimentation in 2014 after a relative suggested he pursue a course in Digital Marketing to understand the functioning of SEO, a mechanism to increase search results on search engines. "I started with the courses and later experimented with various websites," Qadri says. "It's this knowledge that even helped me create a unique pitch for Shark Tank India, where I aimed to make it go viral," he chuckles as he says this.

In an attempt to find his calling in business, Qadri tried various business ideas across product categories, ranging from t-shirts, shoes, and even a Muslim fashion store with his name, until he found success with what he had seen his father doing for years.

Trying to fill in the gaps in the Indian Attar industry

Qadri, like many familiar with ittar or attar, always noticed these liquid perfumes being sold in small, colorful glass bottles with little emphasis on packaging. This lack of attention to packaging is what Qadri aimed to change, along with his focus on fragrance selection. As we browsed through his online store, we noticed bright-colored premium packaging for all the attars and perfumes. "When consumers order products online, they have high expectations for packaging. They anticipate receiving a thank-you letter along with the package, and these expectations are generally met by all brands," he explains, noting that the same level of expectation isn't typically seen with offline purchases. "I felt it was important for attars to be suitable for gifting purposes, which served as the basis for premium packaging at my store," he adds, reflecting on the brand's inception in 2019.


Kannauj is called the 'Perfume capital of India'. Source

Attar traces its origins back to Persian influences introduced to India and has remained an integral aspect of dressing since the era of royalty. While Hindi, Urdu, and Arabic poetry have long celebrated attars, these fragrances have also found their place in cinema and television, depicting sensual emotions. However, in contemporary times, they seem to have lost significance among people, particularly the younger generation. Whether it's the prevalence of dominant perfumes or deodorants, these colorful bottles are mainly associated with Kannauj, often referred to as the perfume capital of India, or small shops in local markets nationwide. According to Qadri, the primary reason for this decline is the lack of awareness, especially among young people, about traditional attars.

"It's peculiar that while we, as Indians, often request relatives or friends traveling from attar-popular regions to bring back a bottle, we tend to overlook our own traditional attars," opines Qadri.

Despite the challenges, Qadri has consistently aimed to promote attar awareness among the youth through his brand. To achieve this, he has tailored his fragrances to suit different age groups' preferences. "Unlike sandalwood, rose, or musk, the younger generation tends to prefer fragrances like Oudh," notes the founder, highlighting how aligning with these preferences has benefited his brand.

Undoubtedly, the inclusion of traditional fragrances alongside newer preferences has contributed to Adil Qadri's best-seller, Shanaya. Its base comprises Woody notes, Musk, and Amber, with the middle notes consisting of Oud, Caramel, and the top notes featuring Rose, Saffron, and Pimento.


From Adil Qadri's new outlet in Infiti Mall, Andheri in Mumbai.

When discussing the potential growth of the attar market in India, he emphasizes the strong and long-lasting nature of attars, which aligns with the purchasing behavior of Indian consumers. "The typical mindset regarding a product involves its durability. In the case of perfumes, people desire fragrances that endure longer than usual, and attars possess that quality," he explains. As Qadri has observed, such a preference has contributed to the success of his flourishing business, where 90% of his customers are men. The major contributors to his customer base are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Hyderabad. The brand, which employs around 50 individuals, operates a factory unit in Maharashtra.

Shark Tank's fame and the success that followed 

However, the size of the attar market, as well as that of perfumes in general, remained one of the prominent reasons for other Sharks to refrain from investing in the brand. The exception was Vinneeta Singh, the CEO and co-founder of Sugar Cosmetics, who made an offer of Rs 1 crore for a 1% ownership stake and a royalty, stating that she would receive a 1% share of the company's earnings until her Rs 1 crore investment is recovered. Others withdrew their interest upon hearing about the company's Rs 6 crore debt, while Namita Thapar, the Executive Director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals, chose to opt out because the strength of the attars did not appeal to her. "People have various preferences, and I respect that. Just because someone finds it 'strong' according to their preference, does not make my product inferior," says Qadri, reflecting on his experiences with the Sharks.


Vineeta Singh decided to invest in Adil Qadri Perfumes on Shark Tank's episode.

Based on his experiences, which he terms as "good," Qadri also feels that he could have given better answers to a few questions. "Sometimes, you realize that you had more fitting replies that you could have delivered, but only after the time is over," he says, but he also adds that he doesn't have many regrets. Speaking about other brands that might be pitching to investors, Qadri suggests that one should be aware of the terminologies and the numbers related to their brands and industry. "Ultimately, it's a TV show, so brands tend to understand if something is said wittingly or playfully, and you must be confident about your work," he says, adding that one should not be disheartened even if the sharks do not invest as the show does not judge the hard work put in by the brands.

However, the show has brought immense attention to Qadri, not only on social media but also in his offline store, where even people from older age groups have started to come to see if there is anything for them. This attention has also led to a few criticisms online, as per the norms of the current times, but Qadri seems accustomed to such experiences. "People in my hometown would say that big businesses are done in big cities. Now that I have established myself and even after the Shark Tank episode, people have called out my religion, financial companies have mentioned my debt, and the list goes on," he says, adding that he filters such comments.

Meanwhile, e-commerce, which contributes the most revenue for him, has seen a 500% increase in regular orders, hinting at potential growth for the product. "The market for certain products like coffee or cakes for all occasions was never there but has been created in India to the extent that people even cut cakes on their divorces," Qadri says with a laugh. "Similarly, I will create the market for Attar," he adds.

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