The heady aroma assails you as soon as you step foot in entrepreneur Lopamudra Lahiri’s home. Part woody, part floral, the scent defies description and permeates every corner of her beautifully decorated home which she shares with her husband and two children. It’s from here that she sells one of the world’s most elusive and valuable fragrances— Agarwood or oud.
Agarwood or Oud is a tar-like resinous heartwood used in fragrances. While the core is odourless, the aromatic resin produced as a self-defence mechanism by the tree when infected with fungus or mould. One in every ten trees in the wild gets this inoculation and results in an aroma which is very unique to that tree.
“The fragrance is spicy, and has a calm allure that keeps you wanting more,” says Lopamudra Lahiri who retails the oud fragrance under the name MAYA. Packed neatly in custom jute bags tied with a ribbon, the small sachet of 150 gms fragrance comes to you in waves. Lopamudra’s love for perfumes goes back to childhood as she watched her father involved in different chemical processes to make perfumes at his factory in Bundu, Ranchi.
“My dad dealt in Seedlac and Ambrodolite, which are used in perfumes and as preservatives in various medicinal and luxury products. I grew up watching him but neither my siblings nor I got into this line of work. I guess it was waiting for the right time to blossom. MAYA is a tribute to my father and my childhood memories of spending vacations in the misty, lush green and aromatic surroundings of beautiful Bihar,” shares Lopamudra.
Unique agarwood may be, but it also hard to come by, predominantly found in India and Southeast Asia, the first grade wood is one of most expensive raw materials in the world. One reason being the depletion of the wild resources.
“One can’t just take any agarwood that comes your way, quality depends a lot on the geographical location, botanical species, the age of the specific
tree and the maturity of its natural inoculation process in the particular part of the tree,” explains Lopamudra who spent a lot of time trying and testing different combinations before settling on five fragrances with agarwood as the base-honey, vanilla pods, camphor, and two others which she doesn’t reveal.
“Initially, I was just playing around with the mixture at home, one day I ran out of it and added some camphor to the remaining agarwood mixture. When I burned it, it created an almost loban like scent in the house. I started making some for my friends who then encouraged me to start retailing it,” recalls Lopamudra who is a freelance corporate trainer. Equipped with her management skills, she came up with the branding and marketing of the product and launched her products in her first exhibition, India Stories in Kolkata in 2016. From there, she was able to develop a steady stream of loyal customers who loved the niche product she offered. She makes the mixture in bulk which takes her two-three hours and then fills the sachets with them.
Unlike synthetic air fresheners which come packed with chemicals and other derivatives, agarwood has many therapeutic, medicinal and psychoactive properties. “It calms the body, dispels negative energies and fills you with a feeling of vigour and harmony. It’s fragrance help to open the third eye and the upper chakras calming the entire spiritual system,” adds Lopamudra who made her own brass diffuser to enhance the effect. With plans to register her brand soon, she currently sells her products in the lifestyle exhibition, ‘Absolute Style’ in the city.