THINK of Mysore and be carried away by the aroma of sandalwood. Karnataka, after all, produces 70 per cent of the world's sandalwood. And making sure that the fragrance lingers is the State government-owned Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KS&DL), the only company that has been using pure sandalwood oil to make soap for 89 years now.
The factory originated when the British decided to distil sandalwood oil from the wood in India itself during the First World War. The Maharaja of Mysore, on the advice of his astute Dewan, Sir M. Visvesvaraya, set up a distillation factory in Bangalore in 1916. Two other factories were subsequently set up in Mysore and Shimoga.
Although sandalwood oil's therapeutic and beauty enhancing properties found mention in Indian epics and ancient texts like the Nirukta, Patanjali's Mahabhasya and Kautilya's Arthashastra, it was not until 1918 that the legend of sandalwood soap was born. That year, S.G. Sastri, a renowned chemist who studied the intricacies of soap manufacture in London, experimented with the use of natural sandalwood oil in soap manufacture. Apart from its long lasting fragrance, sandalwood oil is reputed to be excellent for the skin, soothing and making it blemish free, removing disorders, moisturising and hydrating it and preventing wrinkles.
The KS&DL's world-renowned Mysore Sandal Soap has its loyal clientele despite competition, many of them third-generation users. KS&DL, which has been awarded the ISO-9001 quality certification and ISO-14001 environment-friendly certification, hopes to increase its turnover from Rs.120 crores to Rs.132 crores this financial year.
The company has also diversified into a range of soaps such as the Mysore Sandal Gold, Mysore Special Sandal, Mysore Jasmine, Mysore Rose and so on. Mysore Herbal Soap will shortly hit the market. The KS&DL also manufactures detergent soaps and agarbathis (incense sticks).
One of the leading incense manufacturers and exporters with over five decades of experience is N. Ranga Rao and Sons, which has "awakened people's senses with their wide range of incense and related products". The company, which manufactures the famous `Cycle Brand' agarbathis, has nurtured the art of creating new fragrances, a legacy that has been handed down from generation to generation.
According to the company, which is part of the N.R. Group (with an annual turnover of Rs. 160 crores), the secret of its success is years of rigorous research, adherence to rigid quality standards and constant improvement in package and product presentation. Ranga Rao and Sons produces more than four billion incense sticks annually. The company employs over 750 skilled men and women, has its own sophisticated and dedicated perfumery house and a design team of 10 professionals who are equipped with state of the art software.
Ranga Rao and Sons products conform to international standards and requirements, and have won many accolades and awards, including the Government of India's Export Award in the incense category. It also specialises in handicrafts and hand-rolled incense sticks, and exports its products to over 40 countries.