Wicked woman!

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Gauri Maini went from high flying HR executive to organic soap maker

This is one of the most interesting career profiles that I have come across among the Indian community in Australia. After decades of service in the HR industry working with some of the biggest corporate giants, Gauri Maini gave it all up to become a soap maker.

Today, she is the owner of a small business venture called A Wicked Scrub and creates completely natural and organic soap bars, cleansers and other treatments for the skin and hair.

“A Wicked Scrub is about treating yourself wickedly well,” Maini says. “It is not just about beauty; it is a celebration of the beauty that in abundant in us and in nature.”

Gauri Maini grew up in Gujarat, but with her dad being in the police force, the family shifted towns frequently. Her parents, like other Indian parents, encouraged her in academics and pushed her to be independent. Though they wanted her to take up a career in the services, Gauri’s heart was set on a business degree. She graduated with an MBA degree from XLRI, one of India’s premier business schools.

Marriage and children followed and the move to Australia happened in 2000. Her boss at Larsen & Toubro called her “mad” to leave her career in India behind.

“He gave me a book which I have even today – Hope for the Flowers,” Maini says. “I think the caterpillar who is constantly looking for more is me. Until he realises that he needs to hang upside down and wait till his metamorphosis into a butterfly, he cannot fly. Trouble is, I don’t know if I am flying yet!”

After an initially slow transition period, Maini’s corporate career took off in Australia. But, in spite of having it all, the restlessness continued. She wanted to be in the not-for-profit sector, but was considered ‘too corporate’ by many. So, one day, she quit…and hasn’t looked back since.

Being a travel buff, Maini has always had a love and fascination of natural soaps. With no prior experience and completely self-taught, she made her first batch of oatmeal soaps. It was love at first sight, touch and smell.

Then she began experimenting with other natural ingredients creating soaps from natural salts, goat’s milk, aloe vera and so began the journey of A Wicked Scrub.

“I think it was initially just mind blowing to see how I was so gullible consuming exorbitantly priced cleansers, creams and treatments for my skin and hair without paying any attention to what is in it,” Maini explains.

“The main inspiration behind A Wicked Scrub is that we all need a little bit of push to pamper ourselves, to slow down and enjoy each other. I hope through my products people feel like they can do that.”

Maini is completely self-taught when it comes to the process of making soaps and other beauty products. But she is not willing to compromise on quality and works in close association with local artisans and producers to ensure high quality and pure ingredients for her products.

“I don’t want to use preservatives or emulsifiers. Just plain natural ingredients, as close to the source or farm as possible.”

It is a common fact that allergies, especially skin associated ones like eczema, are extremely common in Australia. Oatmeal or goat’s milk soap is recommended for people who suffer from these conditions as it hydrates and moisturises the skin in a natural manner, without the presence of any irritating chemicals. Though this is not a cure for the problem, using natural products like these can greatly help to reduce the intensity of the symptoms and get relief.

Apart from local producers, Maini also works in close association with producers from around the globe to ensure that she uses only the best and top quality ingredients for her products. While the cold pressed neem oil comes from a village in Kutch, the shea butter is from Kwabena. Her gift hampers and trays come from Ann of An Assorted Affair, while the body brushes are from Import Ants who works in close association with women in Sri Lanka.

One of the best-selling products is the body scrub, which is an indulgent, bespoke, natural and organic blend of beeswax, essential oils, salts or sugar. Maini also dabbles with cleansing and essential oils; her favourites include pure rose geranium, rosewood and jasmine which can be found in many of her products.

A Wicked Scrub runs as an online store. Gauri Maini does not want to scale up for profit’s sake as she prefers to retain her personal touch and create indulgent products for all at an affordable price.