STIL Interviews ANITA & BITTU KAUSHAL
STIL: Bittu - you described Mauli Rituals as 'Ancient Wisdom Redefined'. For those who haven't yet heard of Mauli, what does this mean?
BK: Nature stands the test of time and paradoxically our greater scientific advances, the more we come to see that what we needed was there all along. However, we have to be realistic and make ancient rituals and wisdom relevant and accessible today. For example; daily massage and oil pulling are two excellent mind and body strengthening rituals, but I appreciate people do not have as much time to spend on these, as they once might have, so we adapt these and give our customers practical advice and efficacious products that make these workable and indeed pleasurable.
STIL: Anita, the Supreme Skin Face Serum is our No.1 best-selling Face Oil. It leaves the skin silky soft and truly does keep fine lines at bay. What differentiates this oil from its competitors?
AK: That’s a good question and thank you for sharing our Serum with your customers. The serum harnesses the most rare and refined natural botanicals from India and they are quite simply miraculous. My mother only ever used oils on her skin and is living proof their power to heal and rejuvenate skin. The magic is in the mix of highly nutrient dense oils and the masterful formulation alchemy. Once tried, there is no going back.
STIL: Bittu, my personal Mauli 'can't do without' is the Dry Scent Oil.....if I'm in a hurry it just goes everywhere! Face, body and the ends of my hair. It leaves a lovely sheen and smells divine. How did this incredible product come about?
BK: We wanted to create a product that would give the time-poor all the benefits of a long and lavish ritual without any of the fuss or need for too many products. As with everything we develop, we look to see how our products can serve individuals on a physical, spiritual and emotional level. The challenge with Sacred was striking the right balance to make it as efficacious for hair, body, skin and senses, while being unisex and I believe we have achieved that. We get a lot of comments from people who say that they dislike cloying perfumes and see this as a natural scent.
STIL: Anita, you bathe daily in Mauli's Pink Himalayan Bath Salts, why are these salts so helpful to our wellbeing?
AK: Himalayan Salts are like no other in the world, in that they come from the mountains that have remained untouched by pollution for over three million years. The mineral rich salts have over 82 trace minerals in them, zinc, copper, magnesium to name a few. As salt absorbs into the skin, so too do these precious minerals. They at once remove toxins and replenish mind and body. Ours are infused with 13 exquisite therapeutic oils; each one known to uplift and calm. Finally, the salts are laced with rose quartz to bring a sense of love and compassion. I like to bath in them and for older people, I recommend a foot soak that targets the healing reflexes of the feet. They also make a beautiful gift, as the steel vessel gives joy long after the last of the salts sink into the skin. I like all our products to be multi-purpose and sustainable.
STIL: Bittu, I believe your personal Mauli hero product is the Grow Strong Hair Oil. What are its benefits?
BK: The people of India use hair oil as readily as we use face oil out of the knowledge that one cannot grow strong, healthy hair on a dry scalp. The oil is made in England using a traditional Ayurvedic method of maturation that is a real labour of love; much like tending to a garden. I enjoy seeing the batch evolve from start to finish and it’s a joy to receive such positive feedback. The herbs and the way they are blended is a unique to us and Grow Strong truly does what is says on the tin. Beyond this, we have been working on an all-natural shampoo and conditioner and I’m pleased to confirm, it will launch in late September to give our customers a complete hair rescue range.
STIL: Anita, Mauli is stocked in only the best retailers: Net-a-Porter, Space NK, STIL Lifestyle and Bulgari Spa. Is there a point where you will close the books on further retail to preserve the exclusivity of the brand or would you like to see Mauli Rituals on every high street?
AK: We are in the fortunate position of being approached by potential retailers on a daily basis but more often than not, we have to turn them away. It’s not as much exclusivity, as it is values and Mauli is a collection for those who respect the power of nature and appreciate genuine quality.
STIL: Bittu, you personally welcomed STIL to Mauli. You are the only founder of a brand to have done this in five years. How do you choose the select Independents that are lucky enough to stock Mauli?
BK: Ours is a partnership and we just know when it’s right and it’s as much about the founders as anything else. Your passion is clear to see in everything you do and you clearly know your customers better than we ever could, so thank you for gifting us the opportunity to reach them, as it is a privilege for us.
STIL: Anita, High Street versus Online. As a supplier to both, is the high street getting left behind?
AK: I was just out shopping on Regent Street yesterday and I confess I returned feeling like the whole experience was soulless and a waste of my time. I could not even find anyone to help me, let alone make eye contact. There is a place for retail and now more than ever, as we seek connection. It’s an absolute joy to go into a beautifully curated boutique, where the owners and team know you and greet you as a friend. If I lived closer, I would doubtless be loyal to you as I can see your taste is exquisite. The advantage of on-line is I can shop with you, as your style resonates and I also like online for essentials – life is too short to go shopping for non-stick pans. If retail is to thrive, they need to be looking at your model, as opposed to the multi-chain, faceless brands.
STIL: You have just launched your Plant Alchemy supplements. As with the body oils, Kapha, Pitta and Vata come into play. How essential is it to know your body type when using the supplements and body oils?
A&BK: Great and invaluable question as it can be confusing. Each body/dosha type displays certain physical and emotional characteristics when out of balance. So those with the a Vata imbalance will present with nervous system issues; Pitta imbalances relate to the endocrine system and for Kapha, the imbalance tends to relate to immunity. Given not everyone knows their dosha (we do have a questionnaire on our site), our blends and oils names relate to the manifestation. For example, Vata may cause mind fog, anxiety, insomnia and dry skin. We can each suffer from Vata imbalances depending on lifestyle, age and stress levels, so the key is to read the symptoms.
STIL: Do you have very separate areas of expertise within the business?
AK – I focus more on new product development and customer facing.
BK - I tend to focus on systems and support.
You know what they say – behind every great women!
STIL: You work and live together, how do you separate the office from the home?
A&BK: Not only do we have a separate office from home; we work in separate offices. Bittu is in an office that’s in our garden, while I’m in offices not far from home. That way we can connect but are not physically together all day and I think that’s healthy. Besides Bittu has this ability to work with pod casts playing in the background and I just can’t do that.
STIL: What are you reading at the moment?
AK:I like to read biographies and spiritual books – I’ve just read Russel Brand’s book on the 12 Steps. I’m a member of a reading club and sometimes Manav and I will read the same book; currently - The Hurt You Gave, which my son has just read and I’ll now read.
BK: I’m reading Moby Dick, which is proving a little challenging. Also reading Prisoners of Geography, which is absolutely fascinating.
STIL: Anita, your son Manav is (14) How are you managing to navigate the era of social media, mobile phones and screen time?
AK: It’s not easy as this is the world my son and his peer group live in. Also, with teenagers one needs to strike a fine balance, so they feel they have some autonomy but have not been left completely to their own devices. I can liken it to a person being able to read, but not necessary understanding the narrative. Modelling is key, so by putting my phone away, he is more likely to do the same. Fortunately, he is not into posting on Instagram and is quite content with followers who happen to be actual friends and family, but he does spent too much time on the ipad and on computer games. I keep a distant watch and when he opens the door for conversation, be it while we walk the dog, or go on a car journey, I grab the opportunity to talk and touch base with his world. During term time, I ask him to hand over ipads etc by 9.00 but on weekends, we don’t fuss too much.
STIL: Bittu, you and Anita are both of Indian heritage, in what ways is this rich heritage important in how you are bringing up your son?
BK: My hindi is a bit rusty, but Anita tries her best to speak it at home and also when with her family. I pass our rich heritage on through Mauli and encourage our son to stay over at his grandfathers house from time to time. Given my father is an Ayurvedic doctor; he is more than happy to share his wisdom with his grandson and I don’t think it gets better than that.
AK: On a superficial level, I’ll encourage Manav to watch the odd Bollywood epic with me. On a deeper level, we have so many rituals and festivals and he enjoys leaning and participating in these. Also on a more subtle level our Ayurvedic practices teach him every day. Keeping our heritage alive is important to me and I see it as my responsibility as a parent to give my son as wide a breathe of interests and knowledge as possible, but ultimately I think it all comes down to values.
STIL: It’s obvious to see that you have the strongest and most beautiful of relationships. Thirty years together through sunshine and storms. Can you share the secret?
AK: If I’m honest, social media does show the best of us and we do have days when it’s a conscious effort to make it work. I would like to take equal credit but Bittu is the one who really makes it work because he is an exceptionally kind, non-judgmental man. He has never once in all these years asked anything of me as it does not bolster his sense of self and he believes we are each responsible for our own happiness. He goes with the flow and will take joy where he finds it. For him, life is always perfect, whole and complete.
BK: Anita is a very passionate women and who seems to get things done with least effort. She is also curious, sensitive, kind and funny and I adore her for being bold enough to make mistakes and learn from them. The more hurdles we have crossed, the stronger she becomes and we become.
STIL: Anita, if you had the power to change one vital thing for the world, what would it be?
AK: I would remove the veil, so people could see we are enough and love is the only truth. With that there would be no separation and all the damage fear causes would just melt away.
STIL: Bittu, if you had time to write a book, what would you choose to write about?
BK: Anita is the writer in our family and has written two books. I would write about the power of letting go of all attachments and expectations, as this does not diminish love; it strengthens it.
STIL: You both have impeccable style. Anita do you have a style tip for STIL customers?
AK: Thank you. Know your style, accentuate the positive and mix and find a boutique that knows your style. I can walk into 202 on Westbourne Grove and be sure to find something I will love. The older I get, the more I want to wear well-made clothes and own, fewer, better things. I can wear cheaper Zara type cotton tops in the summer and they do last, but cheap winter jumpers are a false economy. I think style comes from being comfortable in your clothes and above all else, being comfortable in your skin.
STIL: Bittu, our first 'beauty tip from a man'?
BK: Get your beard professionally groomed if only occasionally, as it will then develop a great shape and grow stronger. Use a beard oil as the skin under a beard can get very dry and itchy. Use hair oil to nourish the scalp and take time to have a regular massage; it’s important to lubricate internal organs and what we put on the skin goes into our blood and bones, so natural is key. I also regularly do many Ayurvedic rituals such as oil pulling, nasal oil pouring, breathing exercises….and for men as well as for women, being in the now is the best beauty tip.
Thank you Anita and Bittu for sharing your time with us.
In 2012, Anita and Bittu lost someone very dear to them. Mauli Rituals was created to honour those they have loved and lost. £1 from every on-line Mauli sale goes towards children's charities. The target? One million pounds. What a phenomenal legacy.
Ever since I came across Mauli and started researching it, I have been intrigued and somewhat in awe of 'the founders'. Their brand is 100% natural, and it is utterly exquisite. If you haven't read the Mauli story, please go to their website and read every section. You will fall in love with Mauli Rituals and the philosophy behind it whether you use their products or not.