“Our aim is not only to bring the same quality of fragrances that are available in the West to India,” Sheth explained. “At the same time we wanted to adapt it, try to have Indian ingredients in it.”

The range features jasmine, rose and sandalwood, among other local scents, and is priced between Rs1,000 and Rs2,000 for a 100ml bottle of eau de parfum, much lower than foreign brands. And that was a very conscious decision, made in order to convince locals to use perfume on a daily basis, instead of saving it for special occasions or relying solely on deodorants to smell good.

Many Indian consumers have taken note; Sheth says the company recorded month-on-month average sales growth of 40% in 2016. And that echoes the overall growth in demand for fragrances in India.

Local luxury

With growing disposable incomes and greater exposure to foreign trends, Indians are investing in good grooming, and the market for perfumes and other fragrances has boomed as a result. Between 2010 and 2015, fragrance sales in India, a category that also includes deodorants and aftershaves, tripled to around Rs1,800 crore, according to a 2016 report by Euromonitor International. The market is expected to hit Rs3,300 crore by 2020.

Much of this growth is being driven by the increasing popularity of premium fragrances, notably from brands such as Bulgari, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein. But as urban Indians develop more discerning tastes, they’re also becoming more receptive to the idea of local luxury.

“I think in general now the trend in India is people are more than confident to support home-grown brands, to experiment with brands which are made in India or which pay homage to Indian culture and Indian traditions,” Manan Gandhi, founder of Bombay Perfumery, told Quartz.

Gandhi, whose family has been supplying ingredients to foreign fragrance houses for 40 years, worked in Grasse and spent the last five years travelling around the world looking for rare ingredients. In that time, he witnessed the growing popularity of independent perfumeries in the West and thought the time was right to do something similar in India.

“What has happened in the last few years is people understand that just because you’re a good fashion brand or you have a runway show in Paris, that doesn’t make you a perfumer,” Gandhi explained, adding that his goal was to introduce Indians to more “progressive” and cutting-edge fragrances.

So, in October, 2016, Gandhi launched Bombay Perfumery with a range of eight luxurious fragrances produced with India as inspiration. The perfumes feature a number of unconventional scents, including notes of pepper and chai, that are designed to celebrate India’s heritage.

Perfume inspired by India’s favourite beverage.
Perfume inspired by India’s favourite beverage.
Image: Bombay Perfumery/Facebook

Priced at around Rs4,000 for 100ml, the perfumes are sold online and at a handful of high-end stores in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, as well as Jaipur, Chennai, and Kochi.

Similarly, The Perfume Library, founded by Jahnvi Dameron Nandan, also takes an artistic approach to designing fragrances, inspired by everything from a Ladakhi proverb to Turkish literature. Though originally trained as an architect, Nandan went on to study perfumery in Paris and Versailles, and began selling her own fragrances in India in 2014, shuttling between the two countries ever since.

“For me, perfumery is art, first and foremost. The creative process is very artistic,” Nandan told Quartz. “It’s not so much about the brand, it is about getting the best smells, the best ingredients, and the best compositions to the public.”

The Perfume Library’s Aphtoori perfume, inspired by a Ladakhi proverb.
The Perfume Library’s Aphtoori perfume, inspired by a Ladakhi proverb.
Image: The Perfume Library/Facebook

The Perfume Library offers five fragrances that are made with foreign and local ingredients, including Jasmine sambac, a variety from Tamil Nadu, and a scented oil designed to pay homage to the rituals of using attar. Sold at Good Earth in Mumbai and Delhi, the fragrances are priced at around Rs9,000 for 50 ml.

But while both Gandhi and Nandan say their products have received a strong response from Indian customers, it’s clear that there’s still a long way to go.

“Bombay Perfumery and The Perfume Library represent a minuscule niche,” Geeta Rao, creative director of beauty blog Geeta’s List and former beauty editor of Vogue India, said in an email. “But they understand the need to tell a story, and to answer the new millennial consumer’s search for authenticity.”

And in that sense, they’re marking the beginnings of India’s own luxury fragrance industry.

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