Not too many electrical engineering undergraduates end up running haircare brands, Akash. Was it an obvious transition for you?
In some ways! My father’s been an entrepreneur in the beauty industry for 40 years. He used to take me to board meetings from a very young age. I’d sit in the corner, just listening, so in that sense I was trained in entrepreneurship – and beauty – without realising it.
At school, though, I was a studious type – if I wasn’t studying in class, I was doing extra tuition. I was good at maths and physics, so an engineering degree made sense. When I got to university, I struggled. I went from being a grade-A student to failing my second year. It was quite a reality check. I realised I needed to do something I enjoyed and was passionate about, because those are the things you put time and effort into. While I was waiting to retake my second-year exams, my dad got me an internship doing digital marketing at Burberry. I loved the mix of digital and beauty so, from then onwards, I said no more engineering.
What was it about digital that excited you?
While I was at university, I also did a bit of music. I was a singer, going into studios and trying to get signed properly with Sony. To do that, I was told I needed a social media presence. That’s when I built up a following online – one or two songs got to a million plays – and that experience gave me something different when I got a job at Estée Lauder. They’d never had an employee with 200,000 followers before, who could be an influencer from within the company.
Was the goal always to start something of your own?
I was never in a rush to be an entrepreneur. I always said, let’s see where this journey takes me. I knew I needed to learn and train, so I worked at Dior for three years. At the same time, my sister was working with my dad on little side projects. More of them failed than succeeded, but there was one about creating a beard oil, that turned into creating a hair oil, that got us thinking. India and hair go together – something like 90% of the world’s wigs are made in India – but there’s no big Indian brand in the haircare market, nothing like Morocco has with its argan oil.
And that’s what prompted you to strike out with Fable & Mane?
That was the business reason. I always think there are business and personal reasons for doing something. The personal reason here was to create something that contained our childhood memories of our grandma and the hair oil she made for us.