According to Shruti Dimri, making soaps is like making gajar ka halwa (carrot dessert); our grandmothers used to do it by themselves at home but no one in the current generation wants to. She conducted several classes in an effort to get her friends and family to make soaps by hand at home but they still insisted on placing orders with her. So she continued working as an architect by day and became a soap-maker by night, involving her little kids in the process so that they could all spend quality time together as well.
It went on for years until the size of the orders grew and she decided to give her handmade soaps a name: Mizu. “It’s a combination of both my kids’ names and it also means ‘water’ in Japanese, so everything kind of fit well together,” says the School of Architecture and Planning alumna.
Along the way, Mizu also came to mean more: a woman’s determination to express her creativity through work, her refusal to let motherhood weigh her down, and her insistence on being a happy role model for her kids.
Having grown up in Delhi, Shruti worked briefly in Pune before returning to Delhi to marry her college sweetheart and raising a family together. A multi-cultural family (she is Maharashtrian, he’s Garhwali), the husband-wife duo were not just partners at their own architectural consultancy but also in parenting. “The single reason my kids go to school every morning is because my husband is so hands-on,” she jokes.
A big fan of Lush, a chain of soap stores that had come up in Delhi a few years ago and then shut down, Shruti always wondered why they had failed to take off in India. That’s when she studied the entire process of soap-making and began experimenting herself at home using fresh, healthy ingredients.
When the soaps took off, she designed her own logo, packaging and website, and began retailing her soaps online. For the past year, she has also had a business partner who has been instrumental in stabilising the brand and the overall pace of the work without letting Shruti’s own creativity be compromised.
“It takes two years for a building to come up, but soaps don’t take so long. The gratification is quicker,” she says, comparing her two professions. She now also makes sugar scrubs and body butters, and plans to make lip balms soon. Having received bulk orders for gifting at weddings and for corporate houses, Shruti plans to expand her scale of production as well.
The soaps are cold-pressed, handmade and use genuinely fresh, natural, seasonal ingredients, from vanilla and charcoal to lemon to honey, which are clearly listed on the website. All use oil as a base to help them last longer, and Shruti limits the quantity of the frothing agent to the minimum possible. The sugar scrubs are made with all food-grade ingredients, so they are practically edible.
Mizu soaps are priced Rs 350 onwards for a 100 gm bar, the scrubs for Rs 650 onwards for a jar. The body butters start at Rs 800 for a 200-gram jar. Shruti has developed a subscription model so that customers can place a quarterly order and then forget about their soap and scrub shopping, with the freshest produce of the month delivered straight to your home.
With her daughter Zui at age 11 and son Mir at seven, running two ventures can be a task but Shruti has made it simpler by not trying to be everything to everyone at once. “Kids don’t want a perfect mother, but a happy mother,” says the 38-year-old, who is also an accomplished singer. She takes a little help from her own mother, a retired schoolteacher, who helps out with babysitting her grandchildren while Shruti and her husband are out at work.
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In the evenings, Shruti enjoys her time getting down and dirty making the soaps herself. “It’s important to do things with your own hands,” she says, taking inspiration from a quote of Morgan Freeman’s character, God, in the Hollywood blockbuster, Bruce Almighty: “People underestimate the benefit of good old manual labour. There’s freedom in it.” With her own labour, she is also making a point: being a mother doesn’t mean stifling your own creative and business instincts.
When you set your mind to something, the strength and the resources will arrive.
First published as part of the series ‘Soap Stars’ in eShe’s May 2019 issue
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