Habibi is a brand born out of love. Habibi means “my beloved” in Arabic, and is as much a statement of why Muslim American husband-and-wife team Shakir Ahmed, 40, a 15-year veteran of Wall Street and Tabassum Khan, 35, a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D) and licensed pharmacist, founded their fragrance company, Habibi New York.
Shakir and Tabassum were well along in their careers when they found themselves so caught up in the daily demands of parenting, their careers, managing relationships and commitment with family and friends, and emotionally battered by the constant negativity and division on the news. They realized life was passing by. They decided to spend their lives in the most beautiful and loving ways with their family and the greater society. The result is Habibi New York, a company they launched and are building together focus on love, unity and diversity.
We asked Shakir and Tabassum about leaving their jobs and their goals for Habibi New York.
Grit Daily: It seems you both were well into what most people would consider very good, remunerative careers. What led you to quit those jobs to launch Habibi?
The entrepreneurial spirit to create a luxury brand that is accessible and affordable. We wanted to use our backgrounds, our knowledge and our design skills to create a company that will always uphold quality and customer satisfaction at the highest level.
Grit Daily: My understanding is that you wanted a business focused on love, unity, and diversity. How did that lead you to the fragrance business?
There are a few things in life that are universally enjoyed and desired by people of all cultures, backgrounds and geographic regions. These are things that people love and also want to try different varieties of. One of them is food and the other is fragrance. It is a journey of the senses and everyone is looking for unique and beautiful journeys to embark on. Scents that allow them to travel through time and places. Whether the scents bring them back to precious memories of the past or allow them to escape to an exotic and relaxing “space”, fragrances are something that evoke emotions of love when worn. Fragrances are very precious gifts that unite hearts. And when we think about the beauty of notes from around the world that blend so beautifully into a perfect composition, this represents the diversity we all have as individual people of diverse cultures and backgrounds living in harmony on the same precious soil and under the same spacious sky.
Grit Daily: Why did you choose New York for Habibi?
New York and New Jersey is our base, our hometown as well as where we make our fragrances and many of our products. Additionally, New York is a symbol of diversity and unity. It is the “melting pot” of all various people, cultures, languages, food, and scents. The perfect city to represent the love we want to share.
Grit Daily: What were your goals when you started Habibi New York?
Our goal with Habibi NY was two-fold. Firstly, we wanted to introduce people to the world of niche, fine perfumery. Usually, the common American consumer is exposed only to mainstream department store fragrances and have never tried the niche, fine fragrances due to much higher price points for such products. Therefore, our second goal was to make our niche products affordable. We felt the need to bring a more unique and elevated fragrance experience to more of the masses. We worked day in and day out to be able to work with some of the best perfumers along with ensuring we used the most premium fragrance oils to create these niche products and price them fairly to make them accessible.
Grit Daily: What are your goals moving forward?
Increasing brand awareness and customer loyalty. We are not about getting a “sale” and moving on to just selling each bottle of perfume. Our long-term goal is to establish a luxury lifestyle brand that is accessible. Luxury should not equate to “expensive”. Luxury to us means the best quality product with a phenomenal purchase experience from the start to finish.
Grit Daily: Every type of business is dealing with supply chain disruptions and difficulty hiring skilled workers. What challenges have you faced in the fragrance industry?
We also experienced significant impact from the supply chain disruptions and dealt with significant delays as well as much higher ingredient and shipping costs. We have been blessed with amazing staff that really enjoy working with us and we are like a family here. So thankfully, together as a team we were able to overcome these issues through effective customer communication, transparency as well as taking a loss when we could without having to pass down the increased rates to our customers. For obvious reasons, this was not going to work long-term but it helped alleviate many issues at the time and luckily our really amazing customers were patient with any product delays and in fact appreciated whatever we were able to do to maintain fair prices.
Grit Daily: How is the brand making a difference and giving back?
At HABIBI NY, we are committed to ensure we promote and support our mission of love, unity and diversity. In essence all of this starts with the basic essentials. In order to be in a healthy, loving environment and to ensure we are united as a community and society, we join hands with diverse organizations by giving back monetarily each month. We do not have a specified organization or program because this way we can be a part of multiple ongoing projects such as our local women’s shelter assisting women who are in need or going through a difficult time or sponsoring orphans around the world to get them access to education and basic livings essentials, and of course there are multiple large scale disasters natural and otherwise that always need ongoing support. We ensure we can always contribute based on our capabilities and give back. Our most current contribution was towards the flood relief efforts in Pakistan where almost 1/3rd of the country is under water with millions of people displaced. We hope to continue to be able to play a role in the betterment of our society and communities.