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Words: José Berrocoso

CityPages Magazine dives into the rich history of the highly-coveted fragrance, which carries such strong significance throughout the Arab region

Rasasi, a pioneer in the field of perfume retail, has contributed to the evolution of the modern perfume industry in the Middle East. Over the last four decades, the company has built a solid foundation of pioneering entrepreneurial vigour, creating some of the best and most exclusive fragrances, which have established a worldwide reputation for quality, luxury and elegance.

We sit down with Rasasi Perfumes managing director Salim Kalsekar to talk market challenges, expansion plans and oriental scent distinctions.

CityPages Magazine: Fragrance has gone from luxury indulgence to a must-have accessory in a few decades. How did it happen?

Salim Kalsekar: In the Middle East, fragrances have been ingrained into the daily lives of people for thousands of years, endorsed by both, the cultural and religious traditions of the region. The famous ancient incense and perfume routes to the west were witness to thriving perfume trades between the Arabian Peninsula and the west and was the seat of production of many exotic perfumes.
In a typical Khaleeji home, the use of a fragrance goes beyond just perfuming the body and extends to the perfuming of one’s home. Within the Arabian culture, it is a daily ritual to perfume one’s home several times a day through the burning of incense, agarwood or bukhoor, imbibing the fragrant smoke directly onto clothes and the hair, for both men and women. Rasasi Perfumes, a pioneer within the fragrance industry in the Middle East offers consumers an array of products to satisfy all their perfuming needs.
Personal care products such as perfumes have gained popularity through the years as a must-have accessory due to the growing importance of personal grooming. The shift occurred during the 2008 recession when hordes of middle-aged people found themselves out of jobs and competing with the newly qualified Gen Y. Suddenly, being well groomed became an essential element to secure employment, of which perfumes became an important component. In addition to personal grooming, fragrances also provide users with numerous other benefits such as boosting one’s mood and confidence, transforming impressions into memories, and making one feel more alluring.

CPM: What are the trends in the industry?

SK: There is a higher demand for luxurious fragrances with complex combinations that are exhilarating and outstanding. In addition, there is a major focus on cleaner, richer, fruitier and floral notes, as well as an increase in the desire for new formulas, aromas and sustainable packaging. According to our experts, the trending notes of 2021 would be Leather, Floral, Fruity and Earthy.
Given the demand for new formulations and compositions, Rasasi has recently launched the all-new Somow Al Rasasi Ma’ali Eau de Parfum which highlights numerous gourmand notes and rich florals, providing consumers with a completely new experience in the form of an enigmatic and enthralling scent. An increased interest for cross-cultural influences for inspiration is yet another global trend. Rasasi has been ahead of the curve as it has earned a formidable reputation for creating some of the most coveted fusion fragrances; scents that combine the magic of the East with the sophistication of the West. The LaYuqawam collection and the Boruzz series have become cult classics with a global following.

CPM: What about the luxury market? Do people want innovation or is there comfort in long-running perfumes?

SK: Following the unprecedented year of 2020, consumers within the luxury market are no longer solely driven by the latest products available. Instead, consumers are paying careful attention to the brand itself, its legacy, whether they have a sense of association with the brand and whether the brand holds a sense of stature in society. Many consumers within the luxury market are loyal to brands that either elevate their status in society, find a connection with or have a genuine affinity for their products. For example, over the last four decades, many of our elite clientele have been loyal customers of our old range of rare Dhanal oudh from India despite the introduction of new variants and new trends.
Having said this, experimentation and innovation is big with the new generation who constantly seek the ‘NEW’ in all things, always looking for new formulations to try and experience. In today’s world, personalisation of products is the key as people are always on the lookout for an exclusive product that is unique to their needs and preferences.

CPM: What will this decade be remembered for?

SK: Oudh, the cherished fragrance within the Middle East and known as liquid gold within the perfumery industry continues to gain momentum. A centuries-old ingredient, oudh has finally percolated shelves, stores and the olfactory notes of beauty and perfume brands around the globe with other legendary perfume houses adopting the oriental note. The mysterious ingredient is finally having its very own moment in the spotlight.
Oriental perfumery is very eclectic and offers a great diversity of scents to suit different scent palettes. From fresh and floral to spicy and woody, from sprays to concentrated perfumes and pure essences to agarwood fumes there are a great variety to suit different tastes. Rasasi Perfumes is amongst first flag bearers of oriental perfumery and a pioneer of oriental retail and distribution around the globe.
Following the last year and as a major focus for 2021, has been on clean products, many are looking for more transparency and sustainability from both fragrance and beauty brands on ‘how’ and ‘where’ they source the ingredients being used. Some of the signature ingredients used within Rasasi’s perfumes include oudh, sandalwood and rose, with all three primarily being sourced directly from India and other parts of the world under stringent quality control guidelines.
As the market continues to evolve, there is also a continuous race for innovation and experimentation with immersive experiences taking centre stage in giving customers a wholesome experience that is truly unique and memorable.

CPM: Somow al Rasasi Ma’ali EDP is your latest addition, an enigmatic and enthralling scent. How was the journey until the launch of this all-new perfume?

SK: Developing a perfume is as much an art as it is a science and sometimes takes several years to develop a new composition. It all starts with a small idea or an inspiration and things get woven around the concept. Somow Al Rasasi started with the idea of translating enigma into reality- the idea of capturing the stillness, mystique, simmering warmth and the romance of a desert night. As with any other development there were setbacks and victories. In our forty years of experience of blending notes, we have come to realise that passion and perseverance are key to success.

The Somow Al Rasasi Ma’ali Eau de Parfum is a completely fresh unisex fragrance that introduces new contemporary notes to the Middle East’s perfumery industry for the first time. The fragrance reimagines the symbolic Oudh as a modern manifestation, harnessing tantalizing gourmand notes and rich florals. The highlight mystery accord gives Oudh a bewildering twist while preserving its natural brilliance and opulence. The subtle salt note – a new fragrance note inflected into the heart of the fragrance makes the perfume a magnum opus of dark enigmatic mystique that wraps you in alluring mystery. Developed in collaboration with one of the leading international fragrance houses, this perfume has been crafted after extensive research and sets the benchmark in the regional fragrance industry for its innovative composition. It has no similarity and cannot be compared to any other fragrance currently available in the market.
There was a lot of anticipation during the launch of the Somow Al Rasasi Ma’ali Eau de Parfum, as we experimented with an entirely new formulation. However, the response of our existing and new customers has been overwhelming. From the fragrance, to the beautiful lacquered black bottle with gold highlights and the faux leather box that encases the perfume, every little detail ensures an elevated customer experience.

CPM: Which perfume do you want to be remembered most for?

SK: The core philosophy of Rasasi Perfumes is to create scents that elevate the personality of our customers and bring them joy and happiness in everyday moments. Instead of being remembered for one perfume, we as a brand truly believe in bolstering this philosophy through our unparalleled expertise and commitment to provide our customers with the best fragrances that reflect their ever-changing tastes and demands. Each bottle of a Rasasi fragrance is a pledge of quality, luxury and sign of appreciation towards the customers.

CPM: What is the key to the success of Rasasi?

SK: Rasasi Perfumes has remained committed to its raison d’être of quality, creating some of the finest perfumes that epitomize sophistication, and moreover, mastered the art of blending fragrances over the last four decades. We combine the best of talent, science, and technology to continuously create unforgettable experiences that celebrate the wearer. To do this, we stay on the cutting edge of growth by investing in the latest technologies and adopting the latest innovations within our manufacturing processes.
Our products are subjected to stringent quality management procedures to ensure that they meet the highest international requirements. We also adhere to industry best practices and specifications by sourcing the finest raw materials and ensuring that each of our products undergo a focused and rigorous development phase to provide the best possible end-product to our loyal customers. Above all, the team pours in a lot of love when developing and creating a new composition. Rasasi created a brand that can be compared with the best without costing an arm and a leg.

CPM: Rasasi has built a solid foundation of pioneering entrepreneurial vigor, creating some of the best and most exclusive fragrances, which have established a worldwide reputation for quality, luxury and elegance. What is the biggest challenge for Rasasi at the moment?

SK: With the ever-changing market demands, one of the main goals for fragrance houses is to always be innovative and experimental when producing a new scent. Rasasi always strives to provide customers with fresh and exciting experiences however, the creative process of turning a concept into a perfume can be extremely complex and technical.
It takes plenty of time, effort and dedication to achieve the harmony of notes in our blends in order to create the perfect scent and achieve the level of quality, luxury and elegance we are known for. The ever-changing tastes of consumers ensure that we can no longer rest on our laurels. We must be ahead of the game, constantly innovating, leading and delivering new experiences to customers to be able to retain our loyal clientele as well as appeal to new markets and consumers. This requires huge financial commitment as well. We are up against the huge marketing machinery of the western brands. We cannot never match those investments but what we promise to give is the original and unaltered oriental experience.

CPM: Do you have expansion plans in the Middle East or abroad? Any other new projects in the pipeline?

SK: Rasasi operates over 165 elegantly designed dedicated showrooms at leading malls and prime market locations across the GCC, and its products are exported to more than 60 countries across the globe through a strong distribution network. Looking ahead, Rasasi, will explore both international growth and restructuring in the face of new market trends. We will continue to seek out new retail destinations and strive to have the best consumer experience possible through our new concept stores, which emphasize a journey of exploration and new immersive experiences in elevated settings.

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