Holy Lama Naturals
- Holy Lama Naturals
More about Holy Lama Naturals
Holy Lama Naturals is a family business based in Kerala with its origins in the essential oils industry. All of Holy Lama Naturals’ products are made using the finest quality ingredients sourced primarily from local farmers in Kerala or elsewhere in India, building on over seven decades of strongly established relationships with farmers. A genuine bond of trust exists between supplier and buyer not least because Holy Lama Naturals runs on a no-credit principle so that all the farmers and raw material suppliers are paid immediately and with fair prices.
In many developing communities (and let’s face it in Western society too!), there is sometimes an inequality in wages for men and women, but this is not the case for Holy Lama Naturals where equal pay is ensured, irrespective of gender. In addition, annual wage increases are always made in line with inflation, so wages are assured, no matter how low the market falls.
Holy Lama Naturals is also a Kerala Government recognised women’s enterprise, where over 80% of the workforce are women, mainly from disadvantaged backgrounds. They may have been widowed, deserted by a partner, abused or left as a single parent, and under normal circumstances would have been rejected in a traditionally male-dominated society. Work at the factory provides these women with much-needed self-confidence and financial independence. Holy Lama Naturals is like a family to its employees and women of all ages, castes and religions are welcome, working together in harmony. This practice is guided by the concept of ‘Kudumbashree’ – ‘the enhancement of a less privileged family through empowering women’.
For over 20 years we have been making natural body care products based on ancient Ayurvedic principles, to ensure a balance of body, mind and spirit. This sense of well-being permeates the business and is demonstrated in the way it is run and the products it makes. Holy Lama Naturals body care products are predominantly made from natural ingredients avoiding the use of harsh chemicals or synthetics and are GM-free. They are also made without testing on animals and are vegan friendly. Wherever possible sustainable materials are used for packaging such as the ‘oyster-like shells’ for the soaps, made from areca palm leaves that have been shed naturally by the tree. The factory’s sustainable model ensures there is very low wastage in production and any waste is used as fuel or cattle feed, making the company’s carbon footprint exceptionally low.
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- Are all the products your entity (business, brand, organisation) produces and/or retails suitable for vegans? If no, then, unfortunately, you cannot register as we only accept submissions from 100% vegan entities.
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Social, Economic and Environmental Justice
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Feminism and gender justice
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We promote this through following the 10 principles of fair trade and through our social media channels and email marketing campaigns.
- Does your business/organisation have an ethical labour policy or code of practice (either formal or informal) which ensures fair labour practices?
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Environment and Sustainability
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- Are any of the products that you produce and/or retail, or ingredients you use, produced using sustainable production methods albeit uncertified?
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- Does your business support or give back to the local community in any way?
What was the motivation behind your brand, business or organisation? What did you want to change in the world?
Holy Lama Naturals is a family business based in Kerala, India, which manufactures a range of natural, highly concentrated liquid extracts called Spice Drops for cooking, and an ethical Ayurvedic bodycare range.
Our business is run on the 10 principles of fair trade. We are responsible employers; equal pay is ensured, irrespective of gender and annual wage increases are always made in line with inflation so wages are assured, no matter how low the market falls. We are also responsible partners; our business is run on a no-credit principle so that all the farmers and raw material suppliers are paid immediately and at fair prices.
Our factory in India is a government recognised women’s enterprise with over 80% of our workforce being female, mainly from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our flexible working policy means these women are able to work and look after their families in an otherwise male-oriented society that would traditionally reject them. We are proud to make a genuinely positive difference in these women’s lives.
Holy Lama Naturals is also a member of the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS).
Our sustainable business model is founded on long term relationships with local farmers, which means we have trusted sources of raw herbs and spices available close to where we extract the essential oils and make the products. We also recycle and use by-products resulting in an impressively low level of waste.
Spice Drops are perfect for bringing any food and drink to life instantly with just a couple of drops. You can use them in baking, cocktail making, cooking - allowing endless creativity in the kitchen so we like to think we are bringing excitement, flavour and experimentation to home cooking.
Our natural body range is vegan, hand-made and based on Ayurvedic principles. The base for all the products is virgin coconut oil while a combination of unique essential oils gives the range wonderfully long-lasting and diverse aromas bringing balance to body, soul and mind.
Who is the team behind your brand, business or organisation?
The Holy Lama Naturals story began in the 1940s and spans three generations of my family. In 1938, Mr. D V Deo (my grandfather) migrated from near Goa to Kerala, South India, to become a pioneer in the essential oils industry. He was the first person to cultivate vetivert (a tall grass) on a commercial basis to extract the oils and from here came the beginnings of a family business based on using essential oils.
My father, Vijay (D.V. Deo’s youngest son) became involved in the family business at a very young age. His fascination with the world of essential oils and perfumery took him to Bhutan on a government-backed project helping locals to cultivate and extract lemongrass oil. During the 1980s, he lived in the Himalayas for eight years and, whilst in Bhutan, made a 12-day walking pilgrimage to Aja Ney, (the holy place of Lama Guru Padmasambhava). There, the presiding Lama presented him with a ‘Thangkha of Lama Guru’ which symbolises good luck in life – and it is this which inspired the Holy Lama Naturals brand name.
With hard work and some luck, the business went from strength to strength but throughout, the ethical ethos of its founder was maintained. Thus, when more help was needed to make the product, Vijaya, my mother set up the manufacturing unit as a Government-recognized women’s enterprise, supporting and empowering marginalized women in the local community. Many of the women would otherwise be rejected by society but they have found self-respect and self-worth by working for Holy Lama and are incredibly loyal to the business.
Nearly 80 years since Mr DV Deo began to extract oils, the business remains a family affair. I, Gouri heads up the Holy Lama Naturals business in the UK and Europe while my sister, Vaishali manages the customer service and administration of the factory. With our parent’s continued support, we are both determined to ensure that Holy Lama Naturals maintains the principles on which the business was built by our father and grandfather and continue to produce of ethical, natural and sustainable products.
What one thing about your brand, business or organisation would most surprise us, or is not known outside of your team?
Last year, my parents fulfilled another dream – to open an Ayurvedic & Wellness Resort. Set beside the gently flowing River Periyar, The Lhasa Ayurveda and Wellness Resort is a soothing hideaway designed for those seeking to connect with themselves and nature in uninterrupted quietness and luxurious comfort.
A holistic approach to healing involves the well-being of the physical body and the mind. Our current fast-paced life has overlooked many key practices that are essential to living a life that is in alignment with nature, our surroundings, and our consciousness. It is this realisation that gave birth to the concept of Lhasa Ayurveda and Wellness Resort (visit: Ihasakerala.com to find out more).
We offer a range of Ayurvedic treatments, yoga classes and guests are treated to a delicious Satvik diet during their stay. This is based on ayurvedic and yogic concepts that go beyond consuming a vegetarian diet. Apart from not causing harm to any other life, a Satvik diet is also pure, natural, seasonal, nutritious, clean, conscious, and ethically sourced. All this while enjoying the serene and beautiful surroundings.
We hope you can join us soon for complete spiritual rejuvenation.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us about your brand business or organisation?
We produce a range of four, plastic-free, ethically made soaps that are vegan, eco-friendly and sustainable. Each is hand moulded into attractive round soap bars which don’t crack or go mushy when they are worked into a rich, creamy lather. The soaps are packed in oyster shell-shaped holders made from leaves shed by the areca palm which double as a soap dish. Environmentally friendly paper tags are hand-stitched onto the ‘shell’ before it is sewn together to secure the soap in place. The same personal care and attention are taken with each and every soap.
The oyster shell packaging was the brainchild of my father. The company had always been ahead of its time when it came to ethical production. Vijay Deo had seen the naturally falling leaves of the Areca palm being used by locals to make bowls and plates and had the idea of using the same material to create the bespoke oyster shell with the suggestion that the soap inside was the ‘pearl’.
At the time, the oyster shell was unique and Holy Lama Naturals patented the shell shape, but other companies were inspired and copied us using the palm leaves to make other shaped products.
The soaps help fill the growing demand for soap bars which are gaining in popularity as consumers reject liquid soaps in plastic bottles, while the packaging enables the business to make use of natural materials which are freely and easily available.
In 2020 the four soap gift set won bronze at the inaugural Free From Gift Awards, building on the success we had seen in 2019 with our Yogi soap which had won Best New Body Care Product at the Natural & Organic Product Awards Europe and silver at the Free From Skincare Awards. We are very proud of this achievement.
Where the Spice Drops are concerned, despite COVID-19 the business has grown with online sales really taking off and more and more chefs are recommending our Spice Drops® - I think Nigella giving us an endorsement was perhaps one of my proudest moments and seeing the winner of the 2019 Bake Off, David Atherton using our Lemon Spice Drops® in the final!
If your brand, business or organisation could be granted one wish, what would you wish for?
We would love to extend our fully compostable and sustainable packaging across the whole Holy Lama Naturals range. In the same way that we found a solution for our soaps, we will continue to search for a similarly eco-friendly answer to the problem of sustainable packaging for our liquid products.
But we can’t do it alone. The change to sustainable packaging needs to take place across the industry and must be driven by consumer demand. This will help to force the bigger cosmetic businesses to seek solutions that will then make them affordable to smaller businesses like Holy Lama. We will continue to do what we can and experiment with possible local solutions as we did with the Areca palm leaves, but ultimately this is a global issue that needs global solutions. If we could have one wish it would be to speed up this process so that the issue of single-use plastics could be solved and quickly.
- Gouri Kubair, MD Holy Lama Naturals (March 2021)