Setbacks in life don’t slow us down. On the contrary, they give us the thrust needed to pursue something that has always been lingering in the back of our mind !

Shreya Taral Patre, our next pathbreaker, Perfumer at Iberchem, Global Fragrance Manufacturer, creates engaging scents for brands.

Shreya talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about an unfortunate incident that drew her interest in Naturopathy and Herbs, leading to a career in Fragrance Development.

For students, our natural world is gifted with so many products that have their own unique scent and smell. Take up a career exploring their subtleness through unique fragrances.

Shreya, tell us about your background?

I come from the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Amravati city. The entire region is closely associated with Agriculture, Forest, Cotton, Oranges, Sports and Education.

My family always believes in and supports education  and Sports. I  would like to acknowledge the support and guidance of my parents and family in pursuing my studies and career. I grew up witnessing a healthy social life , good relationship ethics, agricultural activities, farms, and crops along with my 2 younger siblings, a sister and a brother. My mother is a homemaker and she always tried to make the 3 of us better as a person, caring by heart, and instilled moral values in us.My father is an all rounder,multi talented person who graduated in Mathematics. He is a Farmer by soul and is involved in many social activities for the betterment of farmers. He always inspired me to study and choose a different field.

I was average in studies and more involved in extracurricular activities and sports. I enrolled into NCC in 8th class – (National Cadet Corps) is a national organization which inculcates in the cadets a spirit of courage, confidence, self-reliance, selfless service, patriotism, which are essential to make the youth disciplined and dutiful.I was very much involved in NCC and won the “Best Cadet “ title as all rounder personality for actively attending most of the camps in 2 years.

I was interested in firing/shooting and it is still my passion.

I was selected for Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling for a 1 month camp which was one of the best experiences of my life. I won 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.

Participation in these camps and various competitions/sports developed my confidence, imparted discipline, focused approach and leadership qualities during my school days. 

I feel very lucky and grateful to my parents- Family – Friends who supported and helped  me in shaping my personality and at the same time keeping my roots intact.

During 11th standard  I was introduced to Jessie’s club responsible for talent search in  beauty and personality development. A tomboyish sports girl like me entered the beauty zone for the 1st time and won the “Miss Amravati” runner up title.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

During my school days, I dreamt of joining Army/ Navy services. However due to more interest in Biology/ Anatomy and physiology, I chose Paramedical as an additional subject, hoping to become a Gynecologist/ Pediatrician and started preparing for the PMT exam. However, just after the 12th finals/PMT exam  and before the results, I got caught up with Typhoid-Malaria and severe Diarrhea which was a “near to death” experience for me and my family. I scored 1st class in 12th. Though I scored good marks in the PMT exam, it was not enough for free MBBS admission, and I never wanted to get the seat in medical with donations.

While recovering, I developed an interest in Naturopathy and Herbs and also came across a new course related to cosmetics known as B Tech in Cosmetic science. It was a new and different course and I got admission into BTech Cosmetics, an undergraduate course in Cosmetology (Bachelor of Cosmetic Technology) at Vidyabharti Mahavidyalaya Sant Gadgebaba University, Amravati. 

The course gives extensive training in Cosmetic Formulation, Manufacturing, Analysis and Marketing. Industrial training and Educational tours are two essential components of the course. Graduates in Cosmetic Technology can seek jobs in Production/Marketing/R and D in cosmetic companies. The focus is to provide Formulators, Chemists, Heads of Research and Development at the forefront of Product Development, with concise comprehensive information on the latest raw materials, laboratory procedures, and testing methods available worldwide. During 3rd year I was lucky enough to get an internship in Loreal INDIA Pvt Ltd in Chakan, Pune for 3 months which helped me to understand and learn new technologies and procedures.

With the goal of pursuing my career in a technical area ( such as R&D specialist) after BTech, I developed interest in Essential oils and Herbal science and wished to go for PG with Essential oils. That is when i came across a new course only available in Mumbai at Vaze Kelkar college.The Post Graduate Diploma in Perfumery and Cosmetics Management(PGDPCM) is the first of its kind introduced in India in partnership with the globally reputed French Group, Institute Superior International of Perfumes, Cosmetics and Aromatic Alimentaire(ISIPCA), which is backed by the Chamber of Commerce and University of Versailles.

This unique course offers dual competencies to the students – technical know-how and managerial training required by the industry. The course aims at developing employable manpower – middle level technical and managerial- for the fast growing cosmetics, perfumery and allied industries in India and abroad.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

I always wanted to choose a different field for my career, as my family has had a rich history of education and talent, several holding PhD degrees and are Gold medalists in their field. So I wanted to continue that chain of achievements.My love towards nature and smell influenced me right from childhood.

I have always wondered -Is it possible to capture the mesmerizing smell of the first rain?

All our rituals and traditions are so much related to plants, flowers, spices, herbs, leaves, roots and their fragrance. Being the daughter of a farmer, my childhood was filled with wonderful experiences associated with smells related to greenery, rain and mud, while swimming in the river and well, plucking oranges from trees and eating, pretty much the same with tomatoes and other veggies/crops. 

Later, amazing smells of spices used in cooking, the smell of plucked flowers offered to god by my grandmother, the smell of turmeric pounded in the backyard of house, and the amazing smell of Tulsi while worshiping in evening, all of them mesmerized me.

Beautiful fragrances of Nivea, Ponds, Cinthol, Denim, Attars , Incense Sticks, Dhoop, Sandalwood and so many other things always inspired and influenced me. 

They say that “Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”

Since childhood, my parents (Mother Mrs Savita Shrikant Taral) always inspired me and taught us the importance of self worth and self respect. My Father Mr Shrikant Vishvasrao Taral, my hero, always taught me about staying fit, healthy, happy and a peaceful person all through life,. He has inspired me to read a lot. My Maternal Aunt Mrs Vaishali Chaukhande Ghudhe always pushed me towards selecting proper subjects and scoring better in all the exams.   

About my professional career-It is very difficult to get chance to start your carrier as trainee perfumer. I consider myself lucky and fortunate to get my 1st job due to approval of  Mr. Kedar Vaze, CEO of S.H Kelkar company (KEVA), who also trained me initially and also helped me understand basics.

Mrs. Rasika S Bhide, Sr Perfumer, KEVA was my mentor for 7 years. She always encouraged me as senior and as friend. I am very thankful to her.

 I have always adored and admired my mentor Mr. Shankar Narayanan (Senior Perfumer Ex- International flavours and Fragrances IFF) who has taught me perfumery in detail and I am glad to have had a mentor like him who has guided me and shaped my career in the perfumery world.

All the Camps that I attended and time I spent analysing perfumes are important events which added fuel to my career.

My training in the Netherlands under the Master Perfumer boosted my confidence to work on projects independently. It imparted deep knowledge and skills that a perfumer should possess to create unique fragrances

During my school I so much wanted to be in the Army or Navy, serving the country. But to score good in 10th I had to give up my dream. That was my 1st turning point. Heavy Heartedly I shifted my focus towards studies and scored enough so as to get admission in higher studies.

The 2nd turning point was just after my 12th. In spite of scoring good marks in 12th and PMT, my inclination towards choosing something different led me to choose BTech in Cosmetics.

The 3rd turning point was developing interests in essential oils and fragrances and deciding to pursue PG after I came to know about Perfumery and Cosmetics Management. 

The 4th and last turning point was aiming to work in a technical R&D role and develop amazing cosmetic formulations. I got placed in SH Kelkar Perfumery Pvt Ltd through college recruitment and my journey towards becoming a Perfumer Started.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

While I was studying in BTech Cosmetics, I secured my 1st internship with Loreal INDIA Pvt Ltd in Chakan, Pune which I got through my father’s friends who are from Pune.I was very fortunate to get this opportunity.

I learned lots of new techniques, methods and proper procedures and protocols during my training in Production, QC department and Microbiology lab.

During (PGDPCM) my PG in Perfumery and Cosmetic management, I underwent 3 days training in fragrance creation at Kannauj- FFDC( Fragrance & Flavors Development Center). I visited various Distilleries and Attar ( perfume) Industries.

It was an amazing experience smelling the Legend Attar, learning aspects of sandalwood and mitti attar distillation and getting to know absolutes and raw materials,essential oils etc.

I got my 1st job in S H Kelkar and company Ltd (Keva Fragrances) through campus hiring.I was associated with them  for almost 9 years. One has to have a good nose for cracking the selection process.I was fortunate to join as a trainee in the Perfumery department. Perfumers are considered to be the backbone of the fragrance industry. I enjoyed my tenure in Kelkar and learned a lot from Perfumers -Senior Perfumers and Master Perfumers and self learning as well.

In 2015-2016 I went to Barneveld, Netherlands for “on the job” training for 3 months, under the Master Perfumer, which involved fine fragrance training, various field visits and visits to some of the perfume houses, one of which to mention is- “Guerlain” a French perfume, cosmetics and skincare house, which is among the oldest in the world.The house was founded in Paris in 1828 by the perfumer Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain.

 What were the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

To accept change and face the situation is the main challenge, the process requires great efforts and determination.

Challenge 1: Recovering, gaining back confidence and physical strength from a “near-death” experience due to Typhoid-Malaria and severe Diarrhea after 12th was the biggest challenge, but family support, positivity and reading brought a change in my personality and made me what I am today.

Challenge 2:Transition from the Cosmetics field to Perfumery was the biggest challenge for me as both the fields are entirely different. However I took it as an opportunity to master it and focused on training and learning.

Challenge 3:Perfumery training taught me to be patient. I kept up my morale during challenging times when you think of giving up. Every journey is different and unique. I got the title of Perfumer after 9 years of hard work and training, and I truly value it. 

How did you get your first break?

I got my 1st job in S H Kelkar and company Ltd through campus hiring

Where do you work now?

At present I am working at Iberchem as Perfumer. Iberchem is a leading global fragrance manufacturer, creating engaging scents for brands. It was founded in 1985 in Spain

Being a creative perfumer, my primary responsibility is to create a blend which helps to mask the unpleasant odors and impart fresh and desired fragrance throughout. 

Perfumers must have a ‘good nose’, a natural aptitude in science and an education in chemistry or cosmetic science. In addition to the scientific knowledge, which is needed to create new products, perfumers must have an insight into the nature of consumers and how the cosmetics industry works.

A perfumer is an expert in creating perfume compositions,due to their fine sense of smell and skill in producing olfactory compositions.

To be a good perfumer, it’s important to have two assets. One is the creativity; the second is the technical ability. If you don’t have creativity, you can be a good perfumer, but you will never truly triumph. 

Perfumers are known to create emotions..

Creativity, Patience and Passion, Proper utilization of knowledge and finding Inspiration in nature around you  are most essential skills for Perfumer.Then a perfumer has to remain entirely up to date on the market trends. Many events take place around new product releases and upcoming trends, as in the fashion industry. These events allow us to show the latest trends to our clients.

A perfumer must have a keen knowledge of a large variety of fragrance ingredients and their smells, and be able to distinguish each of the fragrance ingredients whether alone or in combination with other fragrances. As well, they must know how each ingredient reveals itself through time with other ingredients.

What is a typical day like?

Every day is creative and filled with evaluation of fragrances.

This is all about olfaction. You are always sniffing, studying the character of raw materials and manipulating ingredients.

Being a perfumer every day is a day of learning. There are 1500 listed ingredients and many more. And you have to build up an olfactory vocabulary for them. Even if you don’t know each of them entirely, you need to identify specific components and you have to know its smell.

 What is it you love about this job?

I love every bit of my job. I am able to pour my emotions in my every creation and what one needs.

Nature is created by almighty god and I believe he has chosen and given me the best abilities to create new fragrances which will make the world more beautiful and a better place for every single living species through the sense of nice smell.

I get to create and that’s the essence of my living.

How does your work benefit society?

Our entire nature is filled with Perfumes, Fragrances, Scents, Attars. Just imagine a flower without smell. The use of perfume is mainly associated with mystery, fantasy and imagination. We wear perfume to please others, to leave a good impression, to surround ourselves with a pleasing, lingering scent. People sometimes use fragrances not only to make themselves smell nice, but also with hopes of reducing stress, energizing themselves or just lifting their mood. Aromatherapy is the practice based on the notion that scents can affect mood and well-being  

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Countless trials, modifications and efforts when blended together, result in a beautiful fragrance.

I created a sandal fragrance for my parents and gifted them which they liked and those memories are close to my heart.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Based on my experience, I would like to suggest students-

Family always comes 1st and then the rest.

Failure helps in making us stronger, more capable and confident,always embrace failures and learn from them. 

Step out of your comfort zone. New challenges and opportunities are just one step ahead of the comfort zone, everyday gives us opportunity to become the best version of yourself. 

Always self-evaluate yourself to know your strengths and weaknesses.

Parents and siblings are our best friends. Speak to them, they will always guide you the best.Trust yourself.

Future Plans?

To provide better technical knowledge and train upcoming freshers and budding perfumers to create better fragrances for the future world. On a personal level I would like to take initiative to support girl’s education from rural areas for their higher studies..

Being a farmer’s daughter, I would like to support farmers by providing awareness of our industry where they can start farming of essential herbs and species which are effectively used in the perfumery world as key contributors in creating fragrances and would like to utilize Agricultural strength of Vidarbha area for betterment of this society.