A business born out of dissatisfaction, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

A business born out of dissatisfaction

Whenever Mr Shakthi Mogan burned a dhoop cone, or “sambrani” in Tamil, during his daily prayers at home, disappointment would sink in.

The “instant” dhoop cones did not burn well and the fragrance was underwhelming.

Used during prayers and as an offering to the gods, dhoop cones are used by Hindus to purify the air and create a more ceremonial atmosphere.

“I conduct poojas (prayers) everyday. The deities I pray to must be satisfied with what I am offering to them,” Mr Shakthi, 43, who prays twice a day and considers dhoop cones as “god’s perfume” told Tabla.

“I did not get the satisfaction when using the instant dhoop cones; they defeated the purpose of creating a divine atmosphere. They also caused eye irritation and I could not even smell the fragrance.”

After finding that the dhoop cones sold in Singapore weren’t up to the mark, Mr Shakthi scouted Malaysia for better versions of the product – but that too proved in vain.

“That’s when I decided, why not make my own dhoop cones?”

“Purely natural dhoop cones are made from tree sap and are broken down easily, unlike the instant ones. The dhoop cones found in stores are mass-produced and packaged using binding ingredients like resins, which are highly hazardous."

Mr Shakthi, who used to be an event coordinator at The Esplanade and had no working experience in a laboratory, conducted numerous trials before concocting the right recipe.

Researching various alchemy websites on the manufacturing process of perfume, he first tried soaking a store-bought milk dhoop cone in liquid perfume. One time, he even used his Hugo Boss perfume in a trial run. It didn’t pan out.

Then he tried soaking the dhoop cone in oil-based perfumes, but that failed as well.

Mr Shakthi then bought sandalwood powder and mixed it with a crushed milk dhoop cone. When he burnt it, he found the fragrance was close to ideal.

He later tried the same experiment using sandalwood sticks. This time, he met the mark.

“Dhoop cones come in different scents like rose, lavender, marjoram and neem. But I have never seen or bought any dhoop cones in sandalwood scent,” he said.

“Sandalwood is actually a popular ingredient used during prayer rituals at temples. So I gave it a try. Sandalwood sticks, together with crushed milk dhoop cone, turned out to be the perfect recipe.

"But I had to also make sure that I invested in high-grade sandalwood sticks and fully natural dhoop cones.”

Armed with the recipe for success, Mr Shakthi roped in a friend to import high-grade sandalwood sticks. He also procured a small central kitchen space and employed workers to help him with the dhoop cone-making process.

Calling his creations Shakthi Sambrani, he introduced his product on his Facebook page, handing out free samples to those who supported his efforts.

“Some of the recipients encouraged me to start a business – and that was how Shakthi Sambrani was born,” said Mr Shakthi, who creates dhoop cones in other scents such as lavender, neem and marjoram. He also customises his dhoop cones according to his customers’ preferences.

And for customers who still prefer instant dhoop cones, he sells authentic ones made from pure charcoal.

Ms Priya, 37, a customer of Shakthi Sambrani, said: “I used to get instant dhoop cones from shops in Singapore and Malaysia. After trying Shakthi’s dhoop cones, I have not returned to instant dhoop cones.”