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  1. #1

    Default Indian suppliers

    I have seen questions come up once in a while about Indian supplier and I thought I would put down my observations down. Over the last few years I have been on a quest to find good Indian suppliers. I tried a mix of essential oils and attars. I started off with the online providers and after trying out 15-20 sellers from places like amazon.in to lipkart.com (a local version of amazon) to a few other places that I do not remember, I can confidently say almost all of them are either fakes or really low quality providers. One major red flag was the price, they all tended to cost a few hundred rupees (between 2-5 dollars). Whereas the global market rates tended to be 5-10 times that amount for the same product. I think the problem is one of expectations, these products are not targeted at perfumers. They are more targeted at the general public who either use them in diffusers or as a direct perfume and such are mixed with other things to make them more palatable to the general public.

    So as a personal rule I stay away from online marketplaces now a days for perfumery raw materials.

    After my misadventures with online marketplaces I moved onto speciality sites and there are plenty of those. I tried some of the common ones people listed and tried on basenotes to ones that were not listed here that I found through indiamart.com (This is a directory of business suppliers. Think of it as the business version of amazon). My luck was a little better here, atleast most of the stuff I got did not have a solubility problem in perfumers alcohol so that was a plus. Some of it was good some of it was outright fake. But again, the quality was not the greatest. And a huge indicator about quality was once again price. Places were selling non local essential oils like neroli at $10-$30 per 10ml. And even local oils like Jasmine were selling at around the same price.

    Finally, after a long time searching, I found a few local distillers. The problem was that the good distillers do not even talk to you once they realize you are a retail buyer, they only talk to you if you are interested in 10s of kilos. Think of these bigger suppliers like the Firmenich or Givaudan of India. They only deal with large purchasers and have no interest in smaller buyers. But after a lot of searching I got in touch with smaller distillers. Now these are people that some times do not even have a bank account, so you can forget about them having a website or emails. And their English is pretty limited if they speak it at all. But this is where the quality materials started showing up. I tried a few of their attars and oils and they are really nice. As I write this I have a scent strip with ruh kush (a vetiver attar i.e. local wild vetiver distilled into a substrate of sandalwood oil) and it is filling the room with the amazing rooty woody scent. Here I found that the quality control some times are not the greatest. One supplier gave me a sample of rose attar that smelt divine, but as soon as I bought a larger quantity, it sucked.

    I finally found 2 suppliers that I am happy with. But it has to be noted the prices are not cheap. For example a rose attar (rose damascena in a base of mysore sandalwood) is around $40-$60 per gram or slightly higher. And a steam distilled rose oil is also similarly prices. Jasmine Sambac is around $30-$40 per gram. So basically, comparable to American suppliers. It has to be noted these prices are for retail sizes, so bulk quantities might be cheaper.

    As a final note. Authentic Indian supplies are not cheap especially with such a huge international demand there is no need for them to sell cheap. Like one supplier said, a middle eastern house is ready to pay me $100 why would I sell it to you for $20 and they will buy all my product in one go and not negotiate, why would I want to sell to you and negotiate with you. So if you see things cheap do not get carried away, it is most likely fake or adulterated. This also means that if you find a supplier in your local country that has something like Sandalwood at say $20 for 10 grams there is a 99.99% chance it is fake. The same is true for Indian suppliers.

    I hope that helps someone. Also if there is interest I can get some attars and send out samples to help you get a sense of what the Indian perfumery scene is like.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Indian suppliers

    Thank you so much for sharing your information. This is very valuable research and enlightening to what has generally been an uncharitable conversation regarding Indian suppliers. I remember being very offended at the Indian online merchant who sold me, in my opinion, adulterated oils. In reality, as you have shown, he was selling to HIS market, not MINE, and so the expectations are very different. A common mistake in the western world to assume that the entire world sees things as we do. The Indian online merchants are providing a service to the billion people who use their oils in their everyday life, very happily. I remember being angry that he could not provide me with MSDS on the products. Laughable really. Our “global village” doesn’t always speak the same language. LOL
    Also very interesting to note that once you found the “real stuff” it was being bought up by the big companies.

    This is where Christopher’s knowledge from White Lotus is so valuable. He knows and accesses these smaller valuable players in India. A “middle man” who does the leg work that you have taken great strides in explaining.
    I think I will stay with my regular known suppliers. Linda, Christine, Chris(Pell wall) and Susan, continue to serve me well and provide great service.

    Once again, thank you for sharing your work.

    Julian

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Indian suppliers

    Needaname, Thanks for your story.
    I'm sorry that you had to spend a lot of time and money looking into this for yourself...
    Paul Kiler
    PK Perfumes
    http://www.PKPERFUMES.com
    In addition to Our own PK line, we make Custom Bespoke Perfumes, perfumes for Entrepreneurs needing scents for perfumes or products, Custom Wedding Perfumes, and even Special Event Perfumes.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Indian suppliers

    Quote Originally Posted by julian35 View Post
    in my opinion, adulterated oils. In reality, as you have shown, he was selling to HIS market, not MINE, and so the expectations are very different.
    It is interesting, I found out that the main purchasers locally are agarbatti(joss sticks) manufacturers and surprisingly gutkha(flavoured chewing tobacco) manufacturers. Both those players are cost sensitive players and unlike fine perfumery the quality and purity does not have to be the greatest.

    I think it has a lot to do with how scents work in India and the westerner world. In India traditionally you scent a house or your work space compared to the west where you scent yourself more than your space. So in India most of the scents you find are mostly used in things like incense whereas in the west it is about fragrances. Both of them need different kinds of materials. So there is no real worry or thought of how the material will affect you if applied to your skin. That plus the fact that safety is unfortunately not a big factor in India and the research around it is lacking and compliance is non existent since people do not demand it. One reason I like things like IFRA, there is atleast a body that gives you some sense of confidence and does the research into what is safe and unsafe vs no safety net at all in India. There is also a huge amount of misinformation in India. People are still of the notion that just because something is natural it is safe. I had one person tell me to put an oil that supposedly contained around 10% saffron on my hand. For him it was exquisite because it used such an expensive natural material in such large quantities but for me knowing the recommended level of saffron in a perfume, there was no way I would touch it.

    But personal scents are growing as tastes change and people travel so I am hopeful that in time it becomes easier to find quality Indian suppliers easily.

    And yes it is better to stick to trusted suppliers especially those focused primarily on fine fragrances, I also turn to them for my perfumery needs most of the time. They do the ground work of vetting producers so that we do not have to. I have found that if you want to go with an Indian supplier you have to be ready to get your own safety tests done, since they do not even understand the concept.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Indian suppliers

    Quote Originally Posted by pkiler View Post
    Needaname, Thanks for your story.
    I'm sorry that you had to spend a lot of time and money looking into this for yourself...
    Thanks, but no need to feel sorry for me. Yes it was a huge amount of disappointment when starting off and a huge amount of money wasted. But the more I met people the more interesting things I smelled and surprisingly tasted. I smelt this amazing spikenard which was had the dirty notes toned down and smelt like what I imagine real good deer musk smells like, it just said come hug me in scent rather than in words. Plus I tried this amazing smoothie made out of this rose, kewra and spices combination that tasted divine.

    Although I am jealous of Americans once in a while, you have an abundance of trusted suppliers and your import duties are cheap. So it is so much easier to get started and build up a very decent pallet even as a hobbyist perfumer without worrying about quality.

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