Endorsing the natural idea of beauty, Bharati Malani, founder, and owner of Waterline Cosmetics is on a mission to heal and beautify skin, hair, and lives
As a six-year-old, Bharati Malani failed in Hindi. The reason is rather novel and one which marks the earliest signs of her calling. “I failed because I didn’t have as much interest in the subject as in the teacher. Even at that age, I was obsessed with people’s skin, and my Hindi teacher had terrible skin. In class I would wonder what could be done to make it better,” Malani recounts with a dash of laughter.
Half a century later, her fixation with skin remains, only now she has an antidote for bad skin, hair, and conditions like a migraine, psoriasis and more. Her clients call her a wizard, and there’s an enviable number of them, from actors to industrialists, who vouch for her brand, Waterline.
What started as a trial-and-error of using natural ingredients (fruits, aromatic oils, and butter) on her own skin has panned out an arc quite big. Malani says, “I was an avid swimmer as a youngster, but it did leave its not-so-pleasant marks on my hair and skin. At 19, I turned to natural kitchen ingredients for help.”
Her experiments worked, also working her appetite to delve more into natural therapy. On the forefront, she was pursuing a degree in design from NID. Later, she studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, worked as a graphic designer and children’s books illustrator across major cities in the US. Radio Jockeying was another passion of hers. On returning to India, she started a business in handmade products… durries. The background, though, always smelled of aromatic oils.
As her friend, Priya Sampat, puts it, “Bharati has a magical healing power in her hands.” Sampat isn’t only pointing towards Waterline. Last year Sampat, Malani and Sangeeta Saxena (their friend) worked closely with leprosy patients at Dr. Bandorawalla Government Leprosy Hospital. The hospital looks clean, with fresh beds, mattresses, linen, television sets, and cupboards. This picture is a stark departure from a year ago when the premises were infested with bedbugs.
Sampat, Saxena, and Malani sponsored and executed the fumigation and the rest of the overhauling. Next to the hospital is a leper colony, which they came to know about during their time working with the hospital. The healer in Malani came to the fore and concocted and distributed mouth-washes to the patients, for most of them have stumps in place of fingers to hold a toothbrush. This voluntary action comes naturally to Malani. Whether it is the lepers, or a dilapidated school, or cancer patients, she finds herself engineering a way to ease them.
“My mission is to help people, with my products, by giving employment, and by volunteering for help,” says Malani. The half-an-acre of property which is her home, workplace, factory, and garden (which grows the herbs that go into the products) has 10 people including her, during work hours. Her after hours are spent with two Tibetan Shih Tzus. Of late her post-work schedule also involves designing furniture and interiors of a part of her home which she is turning into a home-stay.
It wasn’t until Malani met someone on a train that this fragrance started to waft into lives other than her own. “I was on the Deccan Queen, and a girl comes up to me to compliment on my skin. When I told her, I make my own skincare butter and creams, she asked if I could share some with her. She was my first unofficial client,” says Malani. Her generosity with sharing the products with curious people lasted for three months, at the end of which she ran out of her stock and money. “I remember a friend of mine telling me ‘What kind of a Sindhi are you? At least charge the cost of making your products’. That was the beginning of Waterline,” she shares.
Malani has immense faith in goodness. Her will to see good in others and do good defines her. She worked alone for over two decades studying ingredients, researching and testing them before finally putting her work out there. Yet she credits her first secretary Neha Rasne for turning her brainchild into a brand and business. “Neha turned it around for me. She was a sincere employee, and phenomenal with her work. She wasn’t from a financially strong background, and walked every day from Viman Nagar to Koregaon Park for work,” she reminisces.
Malani’s gratitude for good has always found a way back to the source. Neha’s work ethic and dedication earned her educational sponsorship from Malani. Today she works as a senior executive in a BPO. Three of her female employees have been taught the art of making gourmet chocolate which has found fans in many a connoisseur. While they earn a monthly wage working for Waterline, the chocolate-making is putting their retirement plan in order. Malani has bought them pension policies which are funded by the chocolate sales.
“I have had a hard life. The eight years that I stayed in a bad marriage were very tough. Self-reliance is crucial, and I want my staff to live with their heads held high,” Malani concludes.