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Atiqa Odho

Since returning back to Pakistan after years in the States, Atiqa Odho is proving unstoppable she's all set to make a difference and has already realized her dream of launching her own cosmetics line.

Atiqa Odho cosmetics just launched a few weeks ago with the debut of Odho's Lipstick, with their perfume like packaging and accompanying red velvet pouches, they look almost as freat as they feel on the lips.

She's long been renowned as a media personality and the founder of the trendy cuts and cappuccino Karachi Salon, and her resume keeps growing. Odho recently spoke with all about her exciting plans for the company and her happiness at its early success.

How and when did you get started in the media/entertainment business?
I started my career in television in 1991 with a play called Sitara Aur Mehrunissa.

Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a media personality?
Yes and no. I loved watching movies as a child, daydreamed a lot but did not have a game plan of any kind.

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What is your favourite part of being a celebrity?
Celebrity is an extremely difficult and complicated title to live with. I love my job as an actor but hate the lack of privacy in my life.

When did you move to NYC and what were you doing there?
I moved to NYC in 1995 with my husband Javed Akhund. We were there for almost eight years and are now back home. Javed had a job in NYC and I made the most of my time there by brushing up with acting, singing and film direction courses.

Was it a difficult decision leaving New York to move back to Pakistan?
My husband gave up a great job in NYC with Pricewaterhouse to come back and setup this business in Pakistan. He believes there is a future in our country and unlike others he has not just talked about trying to make a change, he is working on it.

What made you decide to come back?
Homesick! I also feel very strongly about people coming back to Pakistan and contributing to its growth.

What inspired your cosmetics collection?
I had several reasons for launching a color cosmetic range in the market but the two main ones were my belief that a woman understands another woman’s needs and that I was simply tired of seeing what was available. Either very substandard products were on the shelf in retail or alternately extremely expensive imported products that were not affordable to the women of this country.

Why did you decide that now was the time to make that dream come true?
My husband and I have spent the last eight years researching color cosmetics in both this market and all over the world. The timing is right. Pakistan is ready for change in every area. Consumer awareness is growing as far as quality is concerned and I am able to bring two worlds together, makeup and media.

What has been the response so far to your cosmetics?
The response has been wonderful. The support from the women in every area be it consumer, salon owner or ladies in the press has been heart warming. They realize what I am trying to do. It’s not an easy market to get into and especially since I’m the first woman to step into a man’s world out here in color cosmetics.

Did you need a lot of support from peers in the industry as well as the media?
One cannot be successful in anything in life without the support of family and friends. I am a blessed woman to have so many wonderful people who believe in me.

Are you happy you went into the cosmetics business?
I have been in the market for the last five weeks now. It’s a lot of hard work and very exciting. As far as happiness goes, it will take time to see how far one can take this business. The challenge is tremendous.

Where are they made? Why?
I am having different items manufactured in different parts of Asia: Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. I need to combine quality and cost effectiveness together. This is the best way to do it. Asia is supplying to every country in the world, including the U.S. and the have the quality we need.

Why did you decide to launch lipsticks first?
Lipsticks are a product that is an everyday requirement for women. They are fast movers in retail and one can launch a range with such exciting touches to them.

What inspired your colour choices?
Market research. Consumer habits and knowing what woman want. Make-up is like buying candy for us. It has to look good, feel right and always excite us. I never felt the current market catered to this at all.

What inspired your packaging for the lipsticks?
I was tired of seeing products on the shelf that didn’t excite me at all. Women love to look glamorous and they love to pick up a product that is eye catching. Hence, we chose the color RED for packaging. Our range stands out because it has such a beautiful color case.

What inspired the funky names for the lipsticks?
Women. It’s all about a woman’s moods. She is everything in one. I even initialed the lipsticks in a way: pinks as AP, browns as AB, etc so that every time a new lipstick with a certain initial came out, it would be easy for everyone to know what shade it falls into.

What products do you plan to launch next? Why? When?

All color cosmetic products. We have such a need for good quality products in Pakistan that are easy and affordable to buy. By September I would like to see at least four products under the brand name in retail.

Was much research done into the packaging of your products?
Color cosmetics are probably one of the most exciting but difficult businesses to go into. One has to get the product right, understand their market and also package it in a way that excites the consumer. Not an easy job and definitely not a business that one can go into blindly.

Is it difficult running this business in Pakistan as a woman?
If one has the right attitude, the right team and a great support system in place, nothing is impossible. However, “difficult” is another issue. I do not go into anything in my life expecting it to fall into my lap. I as a woman believe that life is one big challenge that I must try to win. The rest is up to God.

What role does your husband play in your business?
My husband, Javed Akhund is the numbers whiz behind our brand. I handle product development and marketing and Javed handles the business side of it. One could not have done this alone.

Was your husband’s support critical to your ability to launch your own cosmetics line?
He has been essential to the launch and success of the line.

Is it difficult working with a partner whom you are also married to?
Not at all. I feel that this business has brought us closer together as we have so much more in common now.

Would you encourage others to enter this field?
Definitely, Pakistan is a country with an untapped cosmetic market right now. There is room for many others to come in. Competition is healthy.

It was quite bold and brave tackling what is normally a big corporate domain? Why did you do it and how do you feel about the positive response so far?
All I know is that I am a woman and I understand color cosmetics both as a professionally trained make-up artist and also as a woman who not only uses make-up all the time but someone who interacts with other woman a lot. The response has been great so far and has encouraged me to launch my product into five new cities in a mere six weeks.

Have you products met with success?
I am getting a lot of repeat buyers in retail and salons and this means that the women are coming back because they like the product.

What is your long-term vision for the cosmetics line?
A brand name that stands on it’s own.

What is your long-term vision for your career?
Just trying to do the best I can in a growing market.

Did you ever think when you were younger that you would be in the position you are in today?

Life is very unpredictable. I lost my father when I was nineteen years old. He was a young man of forty-three when he passed away. His loss taught me a great lesson: take nothing for granted. Live life to it’s fullest and try not to hurt anyone along the way.

Do you miss doing media work full-time?
I am trying to merge two worlds together right now: media and make-up. The courtship is wonderful, hopefully they shall marry and live happily ever after…

Do you find it difficult balancing your demanding career and raising your family?
We have three children and one never finds or makes the time for their children. They are a part of us and a part of the madness in our lives.

How do you find the time to do so many things at once?
I make the time.

Has it been worth it?
I don’t believe in regrets. We should instead always learn from our mistakes.

What has been the best moment so far since you launched these products?
Women coming up to me and telling me how happy they are to have a product that meets their needs.

What is the best compliment you have ever received?
The fact that I have had to restock my distributor four times in five weeks has to be a big compliment.

What are your hobbies?
Music, reading, going to trade fairs.

Do you have time for fun or is it all work these days?
I have always been a workaholic. So nothing has changed.

What advice you would give to mothers who are raising young daughters in Pakistan?
My mother has been one of my biggest supporters and I would advise all mums out there to believe in their children and never curb their growth. Understand them and don’t make them live the life that you would have wanted to live. They must be their own people.

Would you encourage other women to enter this field?
Yes and not only encourage them but I would help them in any way possible as well.

Do you have any advice for other women who want to be entrepreneurs in general in Pakistan?
Work hard, remember that there are no short cuts in life and never believe anyone that tells you that just because you are a woman, your growth is limited.

Other people have spoken about starting cosmetic lines, but you put action to your words? What makes you different?
If you think back to several years ago you will realize that I have never believed in drawing room chitchat. When television was a tiny industry, I acted in my first play.

When people used to complain about the film industry, I acted in a film wanting to create awareness towards a dying industry. So my track record tells you a lot. Less talk and more action! Pakistan needs people to start getting pro-active. We need to stop waiting around for others to help us and start helping ourselves.

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