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Malavika Kalauny, fragrance development manager at Titan Company, speaks about her passion for translating ideas into perfumes

Malavika Kalauny insists her job, as fragrance development manager at Titan Company, is not as glamorous as it sounds and says it is hard work. No two days are the same for Ms Kalauny, who enjoys her job because of the high level of creativity involved.

How is your day like?
The first part of Ms Kalauny’s day is usually spent in studying the raw material, and fine fragrances from other perfume houses. She explains, “I come in around 9:45am and begin my day by re-visiting the raw material. I have access to a lot of perfumery raw material and I like to go back and study it every day.”

Raw materials — such as essential oils — and fine fragrances are studied in the perfumery business. This study is ideally done before lunch because perfumers believe the olfactory sense is heightened before you are satiated with food.

Depending on what she is working on, Ms Kalauny studies the notes of a particular raw material, its intonations, and the interactions that it could have in the perfume with other notes. She explains, “A study is an olfactory observation of the note. For example, if I am looking for something to provide freshness, I will pick out all the raw materials that I think will meet the objective. If they fit the bill, I study them further: What is the release like? Is the character of the note what I want it to be in the perfume? What is the initial aspect of the note and how does it develop over time?” Armed with this information, Ms Kalauny is able to create olfactory masterpieces that please the senses. Ms Kalauny also studies fragrances from other perfumery houses for inspiration and to stay abreast of the latest trends.

How is this transformed into a new product?

The second half of Ms Kalauny’s day is usually reserved for communication with other stakeholders like perfumery houses and the perfumer and working on briefs for new fragrances. Ms Kalauny says, “If I am working on a brief on product development or fragrance development, I first get hold of the marketing strategy because the olfactory strategy is very closely tied to the brand strategy. My development starts at the brief level because I am putting together a story that I want in liquid format.”

Developing the olfactory strategy is a lot like creating a collage of notes that coalesce together to create the perfect aromatic symphony. She adds: “What I do is purely communication, written or oral. To put it very simply, it involves translating an idea into an actual perfume.”

What else goes into bringing a fragrance into the market?
A large part of Ms Kalaunys day is spent in evaluating the fragrances developed by the team. When the product is at a certain level, multiple rounds of evaluation are done till the objective is achieved. She adds: “Usually, I evaluate the product on a neutral surface — like a blotter paper — to minimise interaction with external factors. I evaluate it on my skin because a lot of notes and nuances are revealed differently on the skin. When I evaluate a product on my skin, I take certain precautions — like not eating something with too much garlic, etc — to try and keep my natural odour as pure as possible.”

Ms Kalauny evaluates the product by consciously smelling it over a period of time. She explains: “I check to see if the fragrance is complete and identify which other raw materials would help achieve the olfactory objective. I consciously study the fragrance and make notes for the perfumer.” Ms Kalauny also wears the perfume for a period of time to see whether it lasts all day and whether all the notes are pleasant.

What do you like about your job? How did you end up in an offbeat , unconventional and cool career such as this?
An important part of Ms Kalauny’s day is spent at the Titan store and other large format stores, observing consumer trends. India is not considered a top perfume market yet, but it is a fast-developing category. Ms Kalauny says, “The Indian market is very impressionable. If the consumer is attracted to a certain type of visual language, we make a note and try to incorporate it in our product. I observe every little intonation and aspect of consumer behaviour.”

Having been in the industry for the past 11 years, Ms Kalauny loves her fragrances. She says, “The best part of my job is when I interact with consumers and the best part of my day is when I am doing research and keeping abreast with the latest trends in creative fragrance management.” After a busy day at work, Ms Kalauny likes to retreat to an aroma sanctuary of vanilla candles or sandalwood fragranced incense. Clearly, her olfactory senses never take a break!

What did you study?

I graduated from Bangalore university and my first exposure to fragrances was as Senior Evaluator at Givaudan India Private limited followed by a stint as Fragrance development manager at IFF (International Flavour & Fragrances).