Pranav Kapoor, an eighth-generation perfumer and culinary arts expert, is on a mission to preserve and showcase the ancient legacy of perfumery in Kannauj, India, through his niche venture of perfume tourism. Kannauj, known as the perfume capital of India, has a rich history of perfumery that dates back centuries. Pranav’s family has been involved in the perfumery business for over 200 years.
Kannauj, situated on the banks of the Ganges River, boasts fertile soil that is ideal for cultivating flowers and herbs used in perfumery. It has a long history of producing fragrances, including the famous ‘mitti attar,’ which captures the scent of parched earth after the first rains. Other native perfumes of Kannauj include rose, jasmine, kewra, khus (vetiver), nagarmotha (cypriol), sugandhmantri, kapoor kachri, and morpankhi.
While Kannauj has around 200 registered perfume firms, only about 20-25 of them still use traditional distillation techniques. The traditional perfumery industry faces challenges such as competition from alcohol-based perfumes, difficulty sourcing raw materials like sandalwood, high costs, and a dwindling number of artisans practicing traditional methods.
Pranav Kapoor’s family background in perfumery sparked his early passion for fragrances and flavors. He trained as a chef, seeing a connection between fragrances and flavors in both perfumes and food. He believes that both require perfect formulation and the right balance of ingredients.
In March 2023, Pranav launched a perfume tourism initiative to promote Kannauj’s perfumes, boost the local economy, and support native farmers and artisans. Visitors to his ancestral haveli in Kannauj can experience the entire perfume-making process, from flower plucking on the farm to distillation and creating their signature scents at the perfume bar.
Pranav’s perfume tourism includes a visit to the distillery, where visitors can watch skilled artisans handle copper stills to distill fragrances. The tour concludes with a seven-course fragrance and flavor pairing menu, offering a multi-sensory experience.
The response to Pranav’s venture has been overwhelming, and he plans to expand with a seven-villa property focused on fragrance, flavor, and Kannauj’s history. He also caters to the B2B segment, creating signature scents for brands, individuals, and five-star hotels through his company Indian Naturals. His brand, Pkapo, offers gourmet perfumery for the retail segment, including food-inspired perfumes.
Pranav Kapoor’s dedication to preserving Kannauj’s perfumery heritage and promoting it to the world exemplifies the pursuit of passion turned into a profession.