Our founder Dr Shamrao Annaji Kamat was a PhD in Chemistry from Berlin University, Germany. He hailed from Rajapur, then a small village in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra, but came to Mumbai for his education. As a youth, he was influenced by the likes of freedom fighters like ‘Tilak, Gokhale, Ranade’ etc and became an ardent freedom fighter. With an arrest warrant out for him in Mumbai for participating in the freedom movement, he escaped from the British, first to Goa (Portuguese rule) and from there to Germany on a Goan iron ore ship. With a highly coveted Chemistry PhD under his belt in 1926, he worked in the German FMCG industry as a chemist for a while. France, Switzerland and Germany were world leaders in the natural aromatic/essential oil industry at that time and those oils were copiously used in European FMCG products because they gave superior results and their aromas were sensual. He was therefore well trained and experienced in how to formulate products using these natural aromatic/essential oils, to benefit the human body. However, while working with the full range of natural aromatic/essential oils (lavender, geranium, patchouli, rosemary, sandalwood, vetiver, bergamot to name a few), he realized that besides benefiting the body (skin and hair) directly, each one of them had a unique indirect beneficial effect on the mind (today called aromatherapy), which he studied carefully. He was thus one of the earliest proponents of Aromatherapy.
Dr Kamat returned to India in 1930. He then worked with The Tata Oil Mills in Cochin as their chief chemist and his soap technology knowledge imparted to the Tatas was instrumental in their launching natural bathing soaps made with the latest mass manufacturing technology, for the first time in India. ‘Hamam’ soap, launched by Tata Oil Mills in 1931, was developed by him and was path breaking, the first Indian-made soap with natural ingredients and the latest manufacturing technology, during that time. Prior to that Tata made small amounts of laundry soap (OK brand) using the inefficient and crude cold process technology and ‘Hamam’ was a quantum leap for them. Most bathing soaps sold in India at that time were imported from England, under the Lever Brothers brand, and ‘Hamam’ was truly the first Swadeshi mass scale bathing soap able to stand up to Lever.
Dr Kamat quit his job at Tata and started NOVA in 1935 as a family owned business in Mumbai. He formulated products using natural source ingredients and rich in natural aromatic/essential oils to benefit body and mind. During World War 2 years, a severe shortage of raw material and packing material hampered production and consequentially, severely impacted NOVA’s sale. However, the raw and packing material supply chain of Unilever (British Company) and the import of Unilever finished goods, was assiduously protected by the British, so that Unilever unfairly grabbed market share from all Indian manufacturers including NOVA. It was only a couple of years after Indian Independence that NOVA first experienced a level playing ground, after which the business flourished due to word of mouth. Until recently NOVA did not advertise, relying totally on customer satisfaction and recommendation to drive the brand's growth. Most of our users are multi generation users and their uninterrupted loyalty speaks volumes for NOVA product's efficacy and customer delight potency. In fact we at NOVA joke that our products should come with a warning, "Caution. So good, that they are addictive."
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