When you meet the soft spoken Mehrbano Sethi it is tough to imagine that she is the CEO of one of the largest cosmetics companies in Pakistan and is steadily taking the Luscious brand global. In addition to being a doting mother and a loving wife Mehrbano is also a visionary who bravely ventured to create one of the first high end cosmetics brands in the country turning her passion for make up and beauty products into a profitable, thriving business.
Who is Mehrbano Sethi?
I’m a bookworm, beauty junkie and tech addict masquerading as a CEO.
Many say careers begin as early as childhood. When did yours begin?
I have dreamed of creating beauty products from a very early age. I purchased my first makeup item, a tinted lip balm, after begging my Mom for permission, at age 14. I still remember that the texture was sticky and the taste was awful! I had a hundred ideas about how I could improve it. My fascination only grew stronger with time.
Speak to us about your journey from childhood to today- who was Mehrbano then and who is she now?
I am an only child. My parents sheltered and indulged me a lot, while also encouraging me to read, have a strong appreciation of the world around me, and to be curious about everything. I inherited a “reach for the stars” ethos from my mother, the idealist, and a “how do I get there?” ethos from my father, the pragmatist. I am still that person, but have a wealth of life experience now.
Was being an entrepreneur always your dream job?
No. In fact, it was thrust upon me, as the saying goes…
If not, what was?
I have a deep interest and degree in International Relations and International Conflict Resolution. I was headed for a career in the United Nations.
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. Do you agree?
Absolutely. It is the nature of the beast to engulf you completely until it becomes a part of your DNA.
How do you create a balance between your personal and professional life?
It is quite a challenge. The best and most honest answer I ever heard to this question was, “I do triage”. Essentially, it means giving the highest priority to the part of your life which needs the most urgent attention at given time. I juggle the roles of mother, wife, daughter, businesswoman, friend etc by this rule.
What was the defining moment when you realized that Luscious was your calling? How did Luscious come to be?
I returned from college in Boston in 2001 with the intention of going back for a Masters’ degree the following year. Life (and my father) had other plans! In order to keep me here, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: formulate a convincing business plan for my own beauty brand. It took a couple of years before that plan fully materialized as there was a mountain of research required for this venture, without ready resources like Google and mentors in the consumer goods industry. It is during this struggle period that I discovered the actual intensity of my passion for this business.
You defined and practically created Luscious what it is today. How did Luscious help define you?
I have learned more from being the creator of Luscious Cosmetics than what a hundred years in college could ever have taught me. As an entrepreneur you must wear many hats (in my case, copywriter, makeup artist, plumber, manager, salesperson, designer and countless more). It has shaped who I am to a cellular level, not just as a woman in business, but my dealings with people and every other aspect of my life.
Luscious since its inception has done incredibly well. How do you see it prospering in the next ten years?
By culture, Luscious is a company driven by innovation. Being in tune with current and upcoming trends, as well as inventing new ways to infuse delight in our products is a priority. This outlook has resulted in global recognition as a brand and international expansion. Luscious Cosmetics is now retailing across Asia Pacific and the Middle East to rave customer reviews. The next ten years will be focused on cementing our global presence, as well as expanding divisions within the brand itself.
Luscious has done some pretty exciting campaigns with designers and the like. Are there any exciting new campaigns/projects in the pipelines?
We have a number of exciting new product releases in 2015 as well as our signature Live Beauty Events. This will be the year for giving back at Luscious Cosmetics, and we plan to create a scholarship fund for makeup artists among other social initiatives.
What do you love the most about your job?
Even at the most taxing moments, when I am under a mountain of pressure, the quest for that elusive shade of red lipstick or a happy customer’s feedback keeps me going.
What is the greatest challenge you love to take head-on in your day-to-day work?
The process of product development.
What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you while on the job?
So many interesting, sometimes bizarre, things have happened over the course of heading a beauty brand! A recent one that comes to mind is a customer request to fly me to Kinshasa just to get a personal foundation matching and color consultation. It was extremely flattering.
How do you disconnect from work?
I don’t. I’m currently on my fifth self-help book to figure out how to do that.
What is your go-to when stuck in a situation?
It’s a who. My husband and co-founder of Luscious, Nauman Gilani, is my problem-solver in chief. Usually, the “situation’ is something he had already warned me about.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?
“Never over-pluck your eyebrows, they won’t grow back”.
What would you say is your style statement?
I’m a minimalist and I believe in a less is more approach. I have a handbag addiction which I try to fight, but usually lose.
If you could change one thing about the way this industry works what would that be?
When I started my company, the industry, as such, was in its infancy. It has grown tremendously since then, but still lacks a spirit of collaboration and cohesion. We also need regulatory institutions.