Interview : Puneet Jain

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“My Ingredients Are My Best Friends”

ParfumPlus gets up close and personal with Puneet Jain, Founder & Creative Director of Fragomatrix

Puneet Jain, Founder & Creative Director, Fragomatrix seems to have had the best of all worlds. Having grown up in the financial capital of India, Mumbai, studied perfumery in Versailles, France and now servicing Europe, Middle East and other countries across the world, he seems ready to lead Fragomatrix up the trajectory of success.

ParfumPlus (PP): You belong to the third generation of perfumers. Tell us something about your early memories of perfumes?
Puneet Jain (PJ): As a child, I remember my father, a very good flavourist, coming back home with various strips that he would use during his work. I remember the various aromatic flavours that he used to carry in these strips. Back then he was working on the chewy tobacco fragrance. I remember how he used to give me random strips and ask for my opinion. I was so mesmerised. He became my hero. Watching my dad work inspired me to get into perfumery. I loved to learn the nuances from him. He used to chew tobacco and I remember smelling roses and sandalwood when he spoke to us. To this date, when I get the smell of rose, sandalwood and tobacco, my mind just goes back to my childhood and those happy times with my dad.

PP: When did you realise that you want to be a perfumer?
PJ: I think it was in the tenth standard when my dad approached me to understand the different aspects of perfumery. He made me realise how much I already know about the domain of perfumery, fragrance and flavours. Gradually he nudged me to pursue a professional course in perfumery at a reputed school in France. That is when I started to focus on perfumery as a career option and ever since there has been no looking back. I finished my formal education in perfumery from France in 2007 and have been associated with perfumery since then.

PP: Tell us about your legacy in perfumery?
PJ: I am a third-generation perfumer. My grandfather started this business in Kannauj, also known as India’s perfume capital, and is known for distilling scents. We started with manufacturing the basic ingredients, the Indian essential oils. By the third decade, our business had grown considerably and we are now the leaders in the Indian essential oils. We are the leading manufacturers when it comes to essential oils made out of rare ingredients found in the Himalayas, the dense forests and other areas in the Indian landscape.

When my grandfather and father were working on it, the domain of perfumery had not evolved that much, especially in the Indian market. We didn’t have the kind of machinery or even awareness, back then. My father started making flavours based on the essential oils that our company manufactured. He would patiently, sometimes for months together, wait for the right time to extract the complete flavour of even the simplest ingredient like an Alphonso mango or a cucumber. Yet, they did not give up and as a result, we have only grown stronger.

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We specialise in unique raw materials and today we have close to 23 captive ingredients - uniquely available only to us. By captive, I mean that our team went to these forests and topographical regions, identifying unique flavours and ingredients, understanding their commercial viability, educating farmers and creating a sustainable ecosystem. In fact, this is also our USP because, with these captive ingredients, our flavours and fragrances are impossible to replicate. This is also one of the reasons why our clients keep coming back to us.

PP: Tell us something about the work culture at Fragomatrix?
PJ: We are strongly driven by our legacy. I believe our employees are more like family, they are our core strength. Therefore, our policies revolve around taking care of them as well as giving them a healthy work environment. This includes sponsoring the education of the children of all our staff members in reputed schools. Our creative studios remain open 24/7 so if any of our perfumers suddenly feel inspired or just want to come in and work when they get an idea, the doors are always open for them.

PP: How does it feel to wear two hats - Perfumer and Director?
PJ: When you are the boss and a perfumer, you can relate to every aspect of perfumery. To me, wearing both hats is a big advantage. For instance, when I make a perfume, I am aware of the commercial aspects like the market where it will work, the preferences of people, the packaging that would appeal, etc. I believe perfumery is a techno-commercial industry and so knowing both aspects indeed adds a lot of value.

PP: Are you biased towards any perfume?
PJ: Back in my college days, I developed a fondness towards Aqua Di Gio perfume, maybe as my teacher was the creator. That fondness stays on even today. Today, there are so many interesting twists in fragrances. But my loyalty still lies with the classical scents.

PP: Do you have any favourite ingredients?
PJ: Genuinely what happens is that every perfumer has a palate of ingredients that he or she likes. This is something that he or she will easily remember. Over the course of time, the perfumer also explores newer ingredients and if something nice does come up during this journey, it occupies a special place in his or her heart. Most likely, a perfumer’s favourite ingredients are likely to change. At Fragomatrix, we have an interesting practice that involves all our perfumers smelling five new ingredients every morning. And then at the end of the day, we do a blind test to understand how best we can recognise them. This constant learning helps us evolve. As you would have noticed, I have my office right in the middle of my fragrance lab. I love to spend time there with the various aromas and ingredients. I refer to my ingredients as my best friends.

PP: Synthetic or naturals, what is your preference?
PJ: I strongly favour the use of naturals over synthetic. The natural ingredients come with therapeutic and medicinal properties. When used in perfumes, they create a very positive impact. They are absolutely safe unlike what you see in some synthetic ingredients - especially those from unregulated zones.

We are also investing in nurturing a sustainable ecosystem when it comes to the procurement of our natural ingredients. For instance, we educate farmers, provide financial assistance, etc. that facilitates our procurement and also ensures that the environment is not damaged. I really think that this is extremely important to ensure that the future generations are able to savour the rich legacy of Indian essential oils. We have recently procured our own farms for saffron in Kashmir which, we are sure, will add a lot of value to our portfolio of natural ingredients.

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