"My grandmother, whom I call ‘Avva’, is the most beautiful person in the world for me. She is 86, well-dressed, cooks, writes articles in magazines, was a woman entrepreneur 50 years back, and till date she independently runs her house with my granddad. She is the only person that I know who is a synonym for unconditional love," says Prithika Parthasarathy, who founded the AVA Skin Care range of beauty products out of Bengaluru.
Naturally, when it came to choosing a name for her venture, Prithika did not look beyond AVA, which is derived from the Telugu word for grandmother, ‘Avva’. Incidentally, AVA also means ‘gift of god’ in Hebrew. "This is how the name came into existence. Also, when expanded, the three letters in the name stand for ‘Ayur’, ‘Veda’ and ‘Aroma’, the essential components of my brand.”
It’s not easy to build a brand which has been garnering steady attention from the discerning Indian woman. Prithika has achieved this, though she believes that she still needs to cover a lot of ground. She says,
"I believe people are loving the products because they like the authenticity and get to experience genuine ingredients first-hand. This is an honest product which connects with women, men and children."
Besides being a fan of her products, what drew me to Prithika was her back story. Here it is in her own words.
“About four years ago, while traveling in an auto-rickshaw, I had a major accident which ripped off muscles from my ankle and kneecap. I was hospitalized for four months. During those 120 days, I don't think I ever doubted whether I would be able to walk again. The thought that this could be the end of life as I knew it, never crossed my mind.
I believed that if you are alive you should make every moment beautiful for yourself and people around you.
Having said that, those days also made me value life as more than just a day-to-day existence and reinforced my belief in miracles and goodness. Also, those days taught me to forgive.
“After the accident, I was lying in a pool of blood when I was rescued by two people – a young guy travelling in a bus on the opposite side of the road who saw the accident and got off the bus to help me, and another gentleman who was traveling by car from Davanagere to Bengaluru, who also stopped and helped shift me to the hospital with the other guy.
“Why I say I believe in goodness, it is because the young guy, while rescuing me, took care of all my belongings...diamond earrings, passport, dollars (I had returned from a trip abroad) and my wallet. He handed them over to my sister. And the other gentleman for having shifted me to Columbia Asia hospital and depositing Rs 2 lakh in cash at the hospital registration counter so I could be attended to immediately, without even knowing who I was or anything about me. To me, they are gods and those acts are miracles. We returned the money immediately, but to be there at that time and do what they did is something which, you will agree, is a sign to believe in the goodness and miracle of us, as humans, as people and god. They never left their contact numbers and I could never properly thank them. Yet, they remain in my heart and I think of them with gratitude as they demonstrated what humanity is all about.
“The accident occurred when the auto-rickshaw I was traveling in overturned, and dragged me on the road for half a kilometer. The auto driver left me on the road and fled. Of course, over time I can see how he feared the repercussions. I cringe thinking about that day but I also realize that I should not curse the driver as he did not do it on purpose. And even if he had stayed back to help me, he could not have done a single thing as the people who gathered at the spot would have beaten him up. I genuinely forgave him in my heart.
“There are so many people who take us for a ride in real life and leave us scarred for a lifetime -- mentally and emotionally.
This poor auto driver only wanted to give me a ride to my destination, and he failed, leaving an external scar.
“The impact of the accident is what built me and so began a new chapter of my story. At that time, I was a distributor for a luxury skin care brand and the owner of a store in UB City (Bengaluru). After I was discharged from the hospital, I experienced side effects due to the steroids and medication. I put on 10 kg, my face was full of acne and rashes, and I had aged about 10 years overnight. It was an ironic situation to be in for the owner of a skin care brand. I no longer fit the ‘porcelain skin’ profile expected.
“It is one thing to bear the pain of the after-effects of the accident through physiotherapy etc, but it is not easy to still have the same confidence in yourself, to act normal and run things smoothly, when you know everyone around you thinks you should quit or do something to change the way you look.
“I was getting suggestions from close circles on all possible chemical skin care treatments or plastic surgery to improve my looks. But I shut them down saying, ‘no more medication or chemicals on my skin’, as it was bad enough that there was so much of these already present in my system internally. The doctors had to give me medicines and steroids as part of my treatment, but any other topical chemical treatment was only superficial, and I knew what my body was undergoing was transient.
“If a customer, business associate, or anyone apart from the family has to do business or associate with me - it will be because of my business ethics and the product offering from my brand, not my looks or any kind of fake attributes. I stood my ground and it took three years for my body to be restored and get back to normal in every way.
Definitely, there are external scars that remain from my accident but it is my strong conviction that anyone capable of rational thought will know that beauty is from within and looks are transient. I should say that before making these tall claims, I have actually analyzed if I would have believed this even if I didn't have an accident. The answer is YES as I think that every single one of us is handicapped in our own way and when you truly love someone, you will accept them with all possible flaws, whether external or internal.
“On that note, when AVA was founded, my tagline was ‘Love yourself naturally’ as it is truly what I want. I stood for myself and I would want anyone - men or women - to love and feel confident about themselves.
A lot of people can and will say a lot of things but ask them to ‘walk the path that you have walked’ – they will try to take the next u-turn,” she concludes.
Today, Prithika to me is an epitome of unmatched beauty which sparkles through her eyes, and yes, she has radiant skin that glows with health.
Maybe the natural product that she has created in AVA has added to her beauty, both internally as a confident entrepreneur raring to take on the billion-dollar natural cosmetic market, or externally as a girl you cannot ignore because of the radiance she emanates all around her.