Life & Style

Can you sell wellbeing?

A file shot from Paro   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Paro’s website declares that it is “an invitation to pause”. Ironic for a brand that was forced to do just that during the lockdown, stilling sales as well. In fact, the website, which currently does not involve e-commerce (this will take about four or five months) encapsulates the brand very well. Parogoodearth.com tells you it is woven from the same threads as its ‘mother’ Good Earth (grand dame Anita Lal has called it Good Earth’s soul). The Sanskrit shloka as you enter the site invites you to a world of Vedanta and India’s current rediscovery of it; and its founder Simran Lal’s messages on the blog give you a glimpse into her personal journey that’s intertwined with the brand’s formulation and development.

On the personal front, Simran says the lockdown was “precious”, “fabulous”, “just amazing”, especially with the time saved on the commute. On the work front, it was “initially very hard” but then the time was used in reprioritising. “[The brand has] evolved in the sense that people today, thanks to the lockdown, are being forced to look within, look out for things they can connect with. Sutradhar, which is our online blog, has got much more traffic now than earlier. More men have come to our site (@parogoodearth on Instagram) and shop there,” she says, adding that they have seen a 55% increase in follower base since the lockdown.

Simran Lal

Simran Lal   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On ground, amidst the almost anachronistically glitzy residents of luxury mall The Chanakya’s ground floor — international legacy brands Hermes, Saint Laurent, and Tiffany and Co. — Paro holds its own with its black frontage and gold lettering. Simran calls it a space rather than a store, perhaps echoing the all-important fifth element in Ayurveda that’s one of the principles the brand is modelled around. She says that while ideally the store could have been a standalone, say set in a courtyard, the mall setting has helped make it accessible.

The Indian way

Much like a live Sadhguru session, there is no space for ugliness at Paro. Simran uses the word “beautiful” 16 times across many different topics as we speak. In fact, though Paro’s overarching theme is soukya (wellbeing) and swasthi (auspicious) — from which she tells me the word swastika is derived — what you see as you enter the store are the clothes and jewellery. So there is also an emphasis on shringar (beautification). The idea is to celebrate the body as a temple, and this approach consequently keeps it well, says Simran, rejecting monk-like austerity as a western concept.

I wonder if the name in Devanagari script may distance the two-year-old brand from a southern audience that’s already reeling from assaults on its language and culture. But context counts for a great deal, and in Delhi, it is a representation of a throwback to a pre-Mughal era. “The idea is not to exclude but to open up a world that people don’t know anything about,” says Simran, of Paro being perceived as exclusionary. Its rooting in ‘ancient Indian practises’ with a section called the Sacred Agni, the fact that speakers at events Paro has organised have included David Frawley who also writes for the right wing magazine Swarajya, and that its newsletter is titled Seasonal Rhythms talks to those who follow a Hindu way of life.

A view of the Paro Store at The Chanakya in New Delhi

A view of the Paro Store at The Chanakya in New Delhi   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

Post pandemic strategy

Paro will be increasing its focus on yoga and deep sleep offerings, says Simran, with the brand expanding to 2,947 square feet, taking in space from what used to be Good Earth’s Shalimar. Look forward to a new ‘sleep’ section at The Chanakya comprising GOTS-certified organic bed and bath linen, pillows, bolsters, oils, fragrances, etc. The store currently has a collection of bandhani saris in Bangalore silk and a Cashmere collection, with stoles (from ₹25,000) and shawls (₹35,000 onwards) made “exclusively by Kashmir Loom for Paro”. There are incense sticks made of pure herbs and resins, and a signature panch agni oil (₹1,500) for a steady flame, organic camphor, diyas (₹3,500) and other similar items. However, its therapy rooms that offered facials, foot and body massages, are not functional and the apothecary who helps customers blend essential oils is not available for consultations yet.

A contemporary take

There was a time when women ‘of a certain age’ dedicated themselves to prayers and sacred rituals — this is its modern day avatar, where you can shop for havan kunds (sacrificial fire) and resin blends for burning, all in a mall, even as you grab a chocolat au pain. It is when youth has fled and frailty is suddenly palpable that you lapse into the rhythm of routine with nasya oil, silver tongue cleaners (₹1,500), and pretty neti pots. Simran says that while older women are the natural fit for the brand, she’s surprised at the number of young women who engage, too.

Considering the brand is Simran — she’s studying Vedanta, Ayurveda and Sanskrit, and herself follows a series of daily micro rituals or dincharya, to connect with nature and still the mind — it is going to be difficult to replicate the experience of Paro’s philosophy online. “The vision is never to create too many Paro spaces because we’re so personal and so intimate,” she says. Instead, she hopes everyone will connect with its Indianness, its philosophy that we seem to have lost over the years.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 3:41:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/given-the-pandemic-setting-brands-like-paro-have-a-real-shot-at-being-at-the-forefront-of-luxury/article33092580.ece

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