Love your natural texture — whatever your hair type is, don’t try to fight it. Learn to bring out the best version of it.
As a part of our series about “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sisters Shaz Rajashekar and Kiku Chaudhuri who describe their bond as built on encouragement, care, and laughter — and their hair care company SHAZ & KIKS reflects that celebration of connection. SHAZ & KIKS draws inspiration from the sisters’ experiences with traditional Indian Ayurvedic practices that are as effective as they are culturally meaningful. SHAZ & KIKS haircare products are created with nourishment in mind, using scientifically-backed ingredients and holistic solutions, well-being is at the forefront of everything Shaz and Kiku create.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
SHAZ: We’ve been seeing a continuous rise in wellness and care trends in the West for the past few years. Many of these practices originate from ancient Eastern practices, including Ayurveda, the world’s oldest healing system, which is how we personally learned to take care of ourselves as Indian-Americans. Growing up, we spent all of our summers visiting our family in India. Our grandma taught us how to harness the power of plants to holistically take care of our bodies, which is a pillar of Ayurveda beauty. We felt that a lot of these trends were lacking the correct attribution and storytelling to represent the thousands of years of history behind them, and we really wanted to fill that gap.
KIKU: So, as we’re having conversations about filling that gap, we’re visiting our parents back home in Houston. We usually always go back home after our parents come back from their yearly India trip, and every year our mom brings back a suitcase filled with different Ayurvedic skin and hair products, which we excitedly try out all weekend. Afterward, we were chatting about how our hair feels the healthiest when we use these Ayurvedic ingredients and how there’s nothing like these products in the US… and that’s when the lightbulb went off. India is the originator of haircare (that’s where shampoo comes from!) and we knew we had to bring these ancient hair rituals to the modern world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
SHAZ: I think it’s interesting how both Kiku and I have had multiple career lives. I started as a chemical engineer, then went into the world of consumer goods, and then eventually transitioned to medical devices.
KIKU: And I started in the non-profit realm, then moved to data science, and then worked in media tech. Now both of us are in the start-up world, creating our own beauty company. I think what’s most interesting is that we’ve never chosen one path.
SHAZ: There’s a common thread between us where we both leverage our skill sets, but our industries and roles have changed as we’ve grown. The world is fast-paced and being flexible and finding new opportunities is crucial.
KIKU: We also find a lot of joy in our work, so we always want to make sure we’re happy throughout our careers. We always check-in and ask ourselves, do I find meaning in what I’m doing? Am I learning and growing?
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
SHAZ: I think that having mentors, experts in their field that really share their knowledge and help guide you, has always helped me to get clarity and gain confidence — all of which are factors in reaching any “tipping point” and making it to the next level.
KIKU: I think that as women in the workplace, there can be a tendency to feel imposter syndrome or feel like you’re not qualified — which is in most cases completely untrue! Speaking from my own experience, once I started gaining confidence in myself and knew that I was an equal player within my team, I started hitting a stride. So much of work and success is a mental game, and having a strong, positive mindset helps you win.
In your experience what were the most effective ways for your business to generate leads and sales? Can you share a story or give an example?
KIKU: Since we have our own company and it’s such a personal extension of who we are, we’ve seen that when we are true to ourselves and share our stories (and products) in an honest way, we get not just sales, but create long-term customer relationships.
SHAZ: Social media has been the best place for us to create community, share our stories, and connect with our customers. Whenever we personally jump onto our platforms, that’s when we see engagement and sales go up. In this day and age, people really want to feel like they are connected with the brands that they buy from on a personal level.
Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
SHAZ: We both grew up as dancers trained in Indian Classical Dance. Besides school, that’s mostly what we did — it was our life! Our teacher/guru is a world-renowned artist and has been a great motivator and role model to us our whole lives. She has successfully shared her culturally rooted passion, dance, with the world and we view that as an inspiration for us and our company. As dancers, we learned so much about hard work, discipline, teamwork, and respect — all things that we’re very grateful for and that are now fundamental aspects of who we are.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
KIKU: Well this wasn’t very humorous at the time, but it makes us laugh now… We started off thinking that we would launch with 9 SKUs, both in skin and hair. We formulate all of our products from scratch, and we thought that we could create 9 different formulas within a year. Looking back now, it’s pretty funny to think about because for a small company that’s self-funded that seems virtually impossible!
As we started really honing in on our business strategy and understanding the whole R&D process, we realized that we need to be hyper-focused and really lean into haircare (and then expand into other categories in the future). We also realized that, for us, we want to be very conscious about every product we create, source raw ingredients in an ethical way, work with artists to illustrate our packaging, and so on. All that to say that we pulled back and launched with one product and put everything we had into it. It was definitely the right decision!
Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
SHAZ: Really know what you’re bringing to the table. What are your value props and differentiators? How do you stand apart and carve out your own space in this competitive beauty landscape? And work on your business strategy — are you DTC, do you want to wholesale with retail and professional salons, and if so what are your ideal retail partners? Do you want to win on Amazon? All of those channels are very different, so it’s important to understand what your goal is in order to work towards achieving it.
Can you please share “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- Love your natural texture — whatever your hair type is, don’t try to fight it. Learn to bring out the best version of it.
- Focus on the scalp first — that’s where everything starts, so you want to make sure that you’re taking care of it. The most common mistake is to use products that strip your natural oils, which results in either greasiness or dryness. A ‘squeaky-clean’ scalp isn’t necessarily a good sign.
- Give yourself scalp massages — regularly massaging your scalp, with your fingertips, is so easy and important! Stimulating blood circulation to your scalp and hair follicles helps them soak in oxygen and nutrients, both needed to grow healthy hair!
- Reduce styling and processing — try to reduce heat styling and chemical treatments. Let your hair naturally dry some days (we get that sometimes you want to style it and that’s totally fine!)
- Use a prewash mask — this is one of the first things we learned as little kids that is part of Ayurvedic haircare practices and an essential part of having healthy hair. Use a nutrient-rich mask to massage into your dry scalp and hair, prior to washing. This allows nutrients to really soak into your follicles, scalp, and strands. You can use plant-based oils — or SHAZ & KIKS has a great prewash as well!
Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Smile! It will make you feel good inside. Plus, smiles make the world more beautiful.
- Get good sleep. Make sure your body and mind rest — it’s so important for your entire body to reset and recover at the end of each day. When you wake up after a good night’s sleep you know your body and mind are at their best.
- Focus on digestion. This is a very Ayurvedic concept and something our grandma always taught us: that good health and beauty start with a good digestive system. Eat foods that are nutritious and that your body can digest well — ginger, mint, and carom seeds are all Ayurvedic ingredients we consume throughout the day to keep our digestive tract happy. This helps with outer body health as well, supporting the skin, hair, and nails.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
KIKU: This might sound counterintuitive for a business owner, but I would say conscious consumption. By that, I mean that we produce less, but create higher quality goods that last longer and have a smaller footprint on our planet. When we focus on intersectionality, there are many positive outcomes — raw ingredients that come from our planet are grown and sourced responsibly, which allows laborers and producers (which are mostly Black and brown communities) to get paid higher wages and have better work environments, allows for fewer waste materials to harm our planet, and we as consumers will create less waste and enjoy the quality items we have purchased and will ultimately slow down our overconsumption.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
SHAZ: Create intention behind every action. When you have intent, there is power, and that power creates meaningful action.
KIKU: You gotta risk it to get the biscuit. It’s a funny one, but I believe in taking calculated (and sometimes uncalculated!) risks. I don’t like to let fear hold me back. And when you take a chance, that’s the fun part of life!
Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
SHAZ: Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co. She’s been ranked in the top 100 most powerful women multiple times and is a force to be reckoned with. She’s an Indian woman who has been able to overcome a lot of hurdles and I would love to get some business and life lessons from her.
KIKU: Greta Thunberg. I think it’s phenomenal that she is so young and has so much dedicated focus for a cause. I would love to learn more about her visions for working towards a better, healthier planet.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!