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  • Writer's pictureAkasha Usmani

Rishi Kher: adding Ayurveda to hand sanitisers, winning awards

Rishi Kher is the co-founder and CEO of a hand-sanitiser company called Holy Sanity in Australia. The products of his company are created from plant-based bioethanol rather than petrochemicals and are based on Ayurveda principles, which is an Indian medicinal system. Kher was named Young Professional of the Year 2022 at the India Australia Business Community Awards. Holy Sanity uses Ayurvedic principles to provide lavish experiences that enhance well-being, good health, and beauty in the most organic way possible.

Rishi Kher (middle) with the Deputy High Commissioner to India Sarah Storey (to Kher's left) and a staff member of the embassy in New Delhi.

Akasha Usmani (AU): What made you come to Australia?

Rishi Kher (RK): My parents shifted to Australia from India shortly after their marriage. They both come from a royal Indian heritage but made the decision to leave everything behind looking for new opportunities and better prospects for their kids. When my mum was pregnant with me and close to delivery she traveled back to India to give birth. I'm so grateful for this decision as it helped form a deep connection to both countries, having been born in India and raised in Australia.

AU: How did you come up with the idea of ‘Holy Sanity’?

RK: Holy Sanity began in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Health was getting a lot of attention and hand sanitisers all of a sudden became a staple commodity. I happened to meet Dr. Rani Samant during this time, who had the Ayurvedic and chemistry background to formulate a moisturizing hand sanitiser that was pleasant on the hands and easy on the nose. The name Holy Sanity, is a play on words with a common Australian phrase. Sanity also ties itself into sanitiser, our first product.

We spent months formulating, sampling and getting our products just right. Many cold wintery nights were spent in our factory and lab, but to be where we are now with 16 different stock keeping units - SKU (including a range of Ayurvedic face, hair and body serums), the whole journey has been worth it. Our team has since grown and we have added an invaluable third co-founder in George Janev.

AU: What impact did the pandemic have on your business? What all difficulties did you face in building your brand at that time?

RK: The pandemic actually brought Dr. Rani and myself together. I'm a Chartered Accountant and I was assisting Dr. Rani along these lines through my CA firm. As we became closer and I understood the wealth of Ayurvedic knowledge that she had, one thing led to another and we became business partners. We had to tread carefully during the pandemic however because there was great uncertainty around the state of the economy. The biggest change that we noticed was where we sourced our supply chain for ingredients and packaging. The delays in global shipping meant we put a greater emphasis on trying to source Australian made products and ingredients.

AU: What impact will the India-Australia free trade agreement have on your brand?

RK: ​​The India-Australia free trade agreement has already led to positive impacts for Holy Sanity. In July this year I traveled to India and met with many stakeholders in businesses that are interested in stocking Australian made Ayurvedic products and selling them to Indian consumers. The free trade agreement has meant that businesses in India are willing and interested in speaking to Australian based companies. There still is a long way to go with the free trade agreement in expanding what products are captured within it, but it has been a promising start and we look forward to it strengthening.

AU: What led you to get ayurvedic products into the Australian market?

RK: The contribution of traditional medicine such as Ayurveda, to national health systems is not yet fully realized. Around 80% of the world’s population is estimated to use traditional medicine, such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, yoga, indigenous therapies and others. Traditional medicine is also part of the growing trillion-dollar global health, wellness, beauty, and pharmaceutical industries. Furthermore, over 40% of pharmaceutical formulations are based on natural products and landmark drugs, including aspirin and artemisinin which originated from traditional medicine.

Ayurvedic products are getting a lot more attention and interest because the human stories of successful treatment are now being shown and shared across social media. At Holy Sanity we are taking the time to educate people about Ayurveda in Australia, may it be either at local market stalls we attend or via our website, videos or blogs. Ayurveda is not for people who want to experiment and move on to the next fad. It is for the people who value their health and wellbeing. We believe anyone who is serious about their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing will find their way towards Ayurveda and embrace our Holy Sanity personal care products as an integral part of their life. The results of our products are currently marketing for themselves!

AU: You have won the "Young Professional of the Year" award. According to you, how can your business contribute to strengthening the ties between the two countries?

RK: First of all, I am extremely humbled to have won "Young Professional of the Year". The India Australia Business & Community Awards (IABCA) is the most prestigious award celebrating the Australia India relationship while simultaneously contributing to its development. I always wanted to thank my parents for the sacrifices they made coming to Australia from India to start a new life for me and my brother. I dedicate all that has come since to them, and it was very special for me to have them attend the awards ceremony in Sydney earlier this year.

I see Holy Sanity being able to showcase the best that Australia and India has to offer. Australia is known for its quality, excellent standards, and commitment to research and development. India is known for centuries of untapped medicinal and beauty care science that has yet to properly reach the western world.

AU: What inspired you to use Ayurveda in a hand sanitizer? What's the procedure here like?

RK: At Holy Sanity we are trying to integrate traditional Ayurvedic principles, which are backed up by science, in our beauty and personal care products. We believe conventional beauty and lifestyle products should be based on Ayurvedic principles. That is our vision when we make our products.

During the pandemic, we noticed a lot of the hand sanitizers that were out in the market were alcohol-based with minimal moisturizing properties. We worked hard to source bioethanol that originated from sugarcane in Queensland, Australia. Furthermore, we added aloe vera and neem to our sanitizers to make it gentle and moisturizing on the hands. Very quickly, we were known as the company that had the beautiful smelling, soft, and nourishing hand sanitizer.

AU: What is the status of Ayurvedic philosophy in Australia?

RK: We were at the Mind Body Spirit festival over the last two months in Brisbane and Sydney and we had an incredible turnout of people come to our stall, ask questions about Ayurveda and try our products. We also had people come back two days later after purchasing the product and telling us how amazing their skin felt and responded to our saffron, brahmi, manjish and ashwagandha serums! As our products are all formulated and made by Dr. Rani Samant, a co-founder of Holy Sanity and an Ayurvedic doctor herself, people trust the science behind our products.

We make all of our products in Australia and only use premium ingredients in our products. We also only follow best practice industry guidelines which gives confidence to the market on the quality of our products. Consumers are looking for organic alternatives to their beauty regime, and as a result, we are seeing Holy Sanity being embraced positively in western and Indian households. Our vision is to instill Ayurveda into every household and have it embraced as being an integral part of their lifestyle.

AU: How can Australia’s Indian diaspora community impact and make contributions to the trade and investment relationship between the two countries?

RK: It starts with a desire of wanting to do business between the two countries. Once that desire exists, it is about forming connections with people on the ground and utilizing the cross cultural heritage that now exists between the two nations to advance relations. I was very fortunate to be invited to the office of the High Commissioner of Australia in India earlier this year, and it was very apparent to me that both governments are keen to help facilitate trade and foreign investment. Off the back of my visits to India, I developed great belief and trust that trade investment between the two countries is not just for big business but also opportunity exists for new entrants and those that are looking to enter the market.

AU: Do you have any plans for Holy Sanity to be in India?

RK: Yes, we are looking at selling our Australian made Ayurvedic serums to the Indian market. We are in talks with online beauty platforms as well as high end retail stores that are looking at stocking our products.

AU: What's your vision for the future of your brand?

RK: Our vision is to instill Ayurveda into every household and have it embraced as being an integral part of their lifestyle. We plan to release many more beauty products in the coming months and want to have our own retail stores across the world.

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