Wellnisa interview

Breathe Calmness In: An Interview

For the latest episode of our interview series, we sat with Harshvardhanaa Gadhvi, the founder of Breathe Candles. Her personal vision for the brand is to help people feel less stressed. Founded during the pandemic, these very personalized candles are fast becoming a favourite of many.

Can you share us about how you got into candle making?

During the pandemic, I realized that whenever I was stressed or needed a break, I would always found myself go back to my candle kit. And I saw how those aromas and the entire process was therapeutic. That’s when I thought if this is what it’s doing to me, I’m sure it can help more people to ease their stress. How about I make these products accessible to more people? How about more and more people light up candles whenever they feel they need a break or when they want to be mindful.

There is a need to spread more awareness about mindfulness because we need to start focusing on the present. I think that is what has been my motto, help people calm themselves down. Inhale, exhale. They just breathe that calmness in. That is where the idea and vision for Breathe Candles originated.

What makes Breathe Candles special?

First of all, the ingredients we use are completely toxin-free and safe. We also make sure that the after products are the safest too. This is something that I do not compromise with at all.

And the second thing that makes Breathe really special is that it’s a one-woman business. Everything you see or read from us to sourcing the raw material, making the candle, marketing, packaging and shipping is done by just one person, which is me. And I think that sets us apart because there’s not a lot of candle brands in India who do that. And my only aim is to be that kind of a brand is because I want to ensure that everything is up to the mark, exactly what the customer would need. So, whatever you find over here is like completely being handcrafted and sent to you by just one person.

What is the best part of being a candle maker?

I think the best part about being a candle maker is when I get reviews like, “Yeah, your candle really helps me to calm down” or “Your candle smells amazing. It helped me emotionally”, “Your candle helps me focus on myself”, “It’s helping me to be productive”. All those reviews bring positivity. Because it tells me that what I am doing is helping someone. Whatever my products are, they are reaching out to people in a very good way. And yeah, it’s an amazing feeling! Especially to see that someone is actually focusing on themselves because of my product.

What’s the role of candles in wellness?

Candles play a major role in wellness because they always set up the right mood, which is required. For example, when you’re working, you would want to have that kind of a productive mood that is helping you get your work done. Or when you’re going to sleep, you would want to have that calm state of mind, which is going to benefit a beautiful night of sleep. So candles can bring all of those different moods in with the aroma. So it matters a lot in terms of wellness.

And for any person who wants to set the mood right, It is very important to choose your fragrance as well because candles can facilitate the state of mind, which you require for working, going to bed, having dinner or reading a book. Whatever you are doing candles can help you set the state of mind.

Another beautiful fact is how fragrances always evoke memories. We always associate certain smells to certain moments in life. So that’s like a cute little nostalgic part of lighting up a candle. So, yeah, I think that is how candles play a major role in wellness. By helping to create the mood, shifting your state of mind and helping to take you to a place of wellbeing instantly.

Your early inspirations or hardships that you may want to share?

I think one of the primary challenges for any kind of brand in India would be to make the products become an everyday item than a moment based item. For example, you would light up a candle if it’s a birthday or anniversary or any special occasion. But how about when you’re spending time with yourself? Do you light up a candle then, like when you’re reading a book or maybe having dinner or just doing your work? Do you light a candle then? Because, trust me, all those scents, aromas that can really motivate you. They can set up your mood. And that is why different fragrances do different jobs in terms of how they affect your mood. So we need to start seeing candles more as an everyday item. So, light up that candle that has been in your closet for god knows how long.

What are the different types of candle available in Breathe?

We have five different types of candles that we sell. The first two are from the Rose Range, which were our initial designs. And they have been our best sellers since then. They have carved roses on them. And you have a lot of color options to choose from.

The next three are from the latest collection, first one is the coffee-infused candle, which has a very fresh aroma because it is the filter coffee-infused fragrance for all coffee lovers. The next is a pressed flower candle. In this one, we press rose petals Into the candle and is very aesthetic to look at. And the fragrance also is very calming. It also has vanilla in it. This candle is the best for aromatherapy or meditation.

The last one is the quoted jar candle, which has a lot of different types of quotes which suit everybody’s mood so the person can choose from a variety of “quotes” that we offer. And based on that, we put up the required “quote” and that’s how we shape the candle. It also has a very raw scent because of soy wax.

We also customize a lot of candles based on the requirement of clients. In past,  we have customized beehive candles, beer ganders, cupcake, candles. Then we have done concrete candles, ocean-themed candles which smell like the ocean So yeah, we do customizes well based on whatever the client requires and we just like to be creative with whatever we do. So in case, there’s any requirement, we understand if that is actually possible and if it is, then that we create.

Any noticeable change in Breathe Candles after the pandemic?

We started the brand during the pandemic. Hence there was no major change that we saw in terms of pre and post COVID for the brand. But during the pandemic people started giving themselves the required triggers. And they are focusing more on themselves, their personal development, their mental health, their emotional well-being. So that was like a positive aspect, which certainly helped the industry as well. Because now people started investing in things that make our home a home. And I think that’s where all these wellness products got the limelight.

Your view on India’s mentality towards wellness, essential oils and using aroma for wellness?

Traditionally in India, essential oils and candles have been moment-based products. You would only light up a candle when there are visitors, or if it’s a birthday or a special occasion. But you did not light up a candle for yourself, like “just for you”. That being said, this mindset shift is slowly coming up now in India. Where people are lighting up candles for themselves. And they are starting to see how aroma can help improve their environment.

People are also starting to use meditate with a candle as it helps them to be calmer. As this awareness about emotions and state mind grows, the importance of essential oils, aromas and candles are also being felt. So that is like a great shift. And I hope we progressively more towards that. Because we all deserve to be in a calm state of mind.

Check out Breathe Candles at: breathecandles.store

You can learn more about candles here

palm/areca plates

Replacing plastic, with one Areca leaf at a time

We met Muraleedharan (Murali for short), a manufacturer based on Kannur, Kerala for eco-friendly disposable natural leaf plates, to discuss about his solution to the world’s plastic problem. He uses palm leaves to create everyday products. These products are already replacing harmful single-use plastic in many countries.

Murali’s current range of products include cutleries, disposable plate, glass and trays made from Areca leaf. They are crafted using shed leaves of the Areca palm. No trees are damaged in anyway in the process.

palm dish plate export | Wellnisa

One large Areca leaf is made of several smaller leaves that grow out of a single stem. Once the larger leaves are collected, they are separated into smaller leaves. They are then put in moulds and pressed together to create plates, vessels, trays, cutleries are other products. Areca is fully biodegradable and eco-friendly.

Palm plate manufacturing kerala kannur | Wellnisa

Muraleedharan spent a number of years overseas before coming back to India with an intention of starting a business that helps to reduce the use of plastic. One day looking out of the window of his living room, he noticed all the fallen areca leaves which were going to waste. With a bit of research, he realized the potential of Areca as a plastic replacement.

We sat down with Murali on a warm afternoon in North Malabar to discuss his products, his future plans and more.

Can you tell us a little bit about your startup days?

We started in 2007. It was very initial days in India and even Kerala for the awareness of the amount of damage plastic does to our environment. We started overseas export in 2017, until then we were only serving the local market.

How did people react to Areca products in the initially?

For centuries, Areca leaves were used to make different things in Kerala. Especially handheld fans. Handmade Areca plates were also used before the plastic disposable plates became common. All I had done is to use appropriate machinery to take the traditional product and make it more durable.

I provided areca plates when there are festivals in temples around my area. When food is served during the festival, my plates are being used instead of plastic. By touching, feeling and experiencing the products, people have become more aware of it.

I knew the use of plastic is above threshold level across the globe. Even though people are aware of their harmful effects, they seem to believe there’s no alternative and they continue to use it. Once they became aware of Areca, the mentality has slowly but surely shifted.

Who are the main users of Areca products in the world?

areca plates in Kannur| Wellnisa

Areca products are normally sort after by people from Europe. Especially Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe. We have a lot of buyers from the United States also. Taiwan is also one of the important markets for us. Areca users are of a certain mindset and awareness. They feel responsibility towards planet in the actions they take.

Can you tell us a bit about the production process?

areca plate manufacturing in Kannur

I put together very simple operation using two machines. I put together the machines myself also. By sourcing different individual parts from across India. It’s a very simple operation. Production is done mainly based on the requirement. Most of our plates are done on daily basis for fixed vendors.

What is your quality control process?

We pride ourselves in the quality of our products. We have never had feedback from any of the customers because of our stringent QC process. Our in-house team checks all aspects of the final products which include correct thickness, quality of the edges, any moisture content (which may attract fungus and other types of damages). Once the check is done, the products are safely packed in a dry environment. For export products, extra checks are conducted by respective agencies.

How do you reach new markets?

Before Covid, we used to participate in trade fairs and exhibitions around the world. We also participated in expos conducted by Kerala and India governments, specially for eco products. We made most of our connections through that. Since Covid, we have to rely on agents and other services offered online.

What are the different initiatives created by the government to support the eco industry?

Kerala is a pioneer when it comes to eco initiatives in India. The first state to ban single use plastic in India. There have been many initiatives by the government and private sector to increase awareness among the general public.

And in the recent Panjayat elections, there was a mandate to make at least 1 of the voting booths completely eco-friendly. We were approached by the local government body and were delighted to take up the project. We used Areca and similar materials to make every single object in the booth completely eco-friendly. It was highly successful and attracted many people.

In your opinion, how does your product contribute to wellness ?

Wellness is for all the living beings be it humans, animals, plants or microbes. For me, sustainable living is a route to wellness which means using products that don’t harm ourselves or nature. The products that I make are completely natural, no chemicals are used in any stage of the manufacturing process. Which makes it a healthy choice to serve food.

What are your future plans ?

I am working on a plan to make food items for cattle out of Areca plant. We are in discussion with few people regarding this. This will benefit cattle and farmers alike as it is very high in nutrition and extremely cheap to produce.

Founder, Muraleedharan

Apart from Areca, I am also researching on other plants and trees from which we can make completely bio-degradable products. Once the COVID situation relaxes we will start the work of that as well.