Welcome to the Emirates Man weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businessmen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week, we speak to Talha Kalsekar, Founder and Creative Director of a homegrown luxury perfume brand. Noya, roughly translating to “divine beauty” launched in 2022 with the debut Prima Collezione, comprising of nine signature genderless scents created in collaboration with different perfumers worldwide.
The grandson of an entrepreneur and explorer, Kalsekar always knew he would follow in his footsteps while carving out his own niche. Born in Dubai and studied in London, he experienced a fusion of cultures from many backgrounds and found inspiration for the brand’s concept which celebrates differences by capturing scents from around the world.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Statistics. I had the strictest yet kindest teacher, who actually taught using logic. It really did teach me a lot and it continued to help me during my course with LSE.
What was your first job?
During university, I had a 2-week stint at a uni cafe after which I quit because it just wasn’t for me. I also had a paid internship at HTC Vive which was really cool because it was gaming and VR-related. Stepping into professional life through an industry that keeps me in my comfort zone was a good start because it was definitely not all games and fun. But, I did learn a lot and it was a reality check and a slap to the face that this is not like university life.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
I was proudly born and raised in Dubai. My family has been here for over half a century and the only time I probably thought that I wish to stay somewhere else, was in London, where I wanted to work and see the career path it would lead me to. But I had to come back, just something about Dubai that no matter which season it is, you will still love it. The culture, the people, it is more than just a city.
What inspired you to enter the beauty and fragrance space?
Growing up, I always had a knack for luxury and preferred when things had a story and quality, as it shows there is the time taken and thoughts given on the tiniest of details. With a perfectionist mentality, I wanted to enter the luxury brand segment. Entering through beauty and fragrance seemed like the right option in terms of a creative direction, but definitely, with perfumery running in my blood since it has been a family empire for over 50 years, it was the smarter choice.
Talk us through the concept of Noya.
Noya is my first baby, so it is special to me. Not just because it is a brand that I worked on, but because I truly believe in the message. Growing up and living in multicultural societies such as Dubai and London opened my mind to the world. Noya is a tribute to all these beautiful cultures, traditions, ethnicities, religions and genders that no matter who you are, or where you come from, we all have this yearning to be seen, to be loved, to desire and that is what unites us.
What are the key elements of your role?
As a startup, all roles! But the most important would be the creative director.
Talk us through your daily routine.
6am is the wake-up call. I swim and do a light workout to kickstart the day and then eat breakfast. I tend to show up to work at 10am, with a fresh mind ready to tackle the challenges of the day. Meetings and tasks to do throughout the day would then be capped off with a catch-up with friends at our favourite coffee shop. After that would usually be dinner and quality time with the family and an hour or two of board games and table tennis. When alone at night, I am a bit of an insomniac, between 1-2am is when my mind surprisingly is the most active. The creative direction for the next range of candles and diffusers and perfume collection all came to mind at 2am!
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Go with your gut when facing tough decisions, and the most important yet clichéd advice would be to do what you love. This statement is said so much yet remains an understatement, because if it is not something that keeps you motivated or growing individually, then it has to go away.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen to your father, the knowledge he has through his experience in the industry can never be taught through books or universities.
And what is the worst?
Grades matter the most!
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Noya has gone through a painstaking 2-year R&D and creative phase before we were able to come out with something. Every detail is thought of carefully, but I would say the fragrance testing was the hardest. We had finally come to a final shortlist of 16, and we couldn’t cut it down. We were supposed to launch four fragrances but ended up launching eight in the Prima Collezione, with Ode to Oud an additional exclusive for the region.
What are your future goals and plans for your career?
For Noya to become a luxury brand in all segments including clothing. In terms of career, well if an F1 driver’s spot is available then maybe I will consider a career change but for now, I am very happy in the luxury segment!
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