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Uma Oils Founder Shrankhla Holecek on the Power of Ayurvedic Wellness

Shrankhla Holecek discusses the power of the Ayurvedic lifestyle and how she has harnessed that through Uma Oils.

By Samantha Topp
December 13, 2021

Born and raised in India, Shrankhla Holecek grew up immersed in the traditions of Ayurveda, a holistic medicinal system that originated from India over 5,000 years ago. Her family also serves as the official physicians to the royal family in Rajasthan, advising them on the way of the Ayurvedic lifestyle since the 12th century.

Ayurvedic medicine is a “very 360 approach where you're counselled on every aspect of your life,” Holecek explains. “You're probably given some herbal supplements. You're probably given some oils to apply in your hair, some other oil to apply on a body massage, as well as skincare, sort of creams and potions. So it's the whole shebang.”

Photo: Uma Oils

Her family grows all of the oils they use in their medicine on their own aromatic and medicinal croplands. The highly-potent organic oils are so renowned for their beautifying and healing effects that they are also sold to some of the world’s most prestigious beauty brands including Tom Ford and Estée Lauder.

Though the family had worked as physicians for generations, Holecek says she always felt that “that life wasn’t for [her]”. Instead she moved to the United States in 2007 and started a career in business and management consulting. But away from the balanced lifestyle she grew up with, Holecek quickly began to realise her job came with 80 hour work weeks, endless travel and a lot of processed food. “It all started to make me feel much worse health-wise, and I found myself clawing my way back to those lifestyle principles I had grown up with,” she says. “And I think it was a combination of that and just growing up and being more comfortable in my own skin…[which] led to the inception of Uma Oils.”

Photo: Uma Oils

Her time in the United States also exposed her to a considerable amount of misappropriations of Indian rituals and Ayurvedic practices, and she realised her unique upbringing provided her with the tools to create a line of products with integrity that would accurately represent Ayurvedic practices.  

In 2016, Uma Oils was officially launched. The luxury wellness brand stocks herbal supplements, oils and beauty tools, all aligned with the idea of holistic healing. Since its founding, it has garnered worldwide attention and a celebrity following including the likes of Anne Hathaway and even a mention on Oprah’s Favourite Things 2021 List.

Here, we spoke to Holecek to learn more about the ideas behind the Ayurvedic lifestyle and why she decided to start Uma Oils.

Shrankhla Holecek, founder of Uma Oils

How did your personal experiences influence your decision to get involved in the family business?

“I think it was part of growing up where you come to accept all parts of you, which is much like Ayurveda actually. Ayurveda tells you that you're born with a dosha type and acceptance and thriving within that type is how you lead your best life. Growing up rurally and all these herbs and potions and ways to take care of yourself always seemed a little bit anti-modern to me so I tried to sort of discard them to be a woman of the world. But as I started to spend time with global leaders while working for McKinsey & Company, I found that most leaders really knew themselves. They were leaders not because they were trying to be someone else, but because they were very much themselves and trying to be themselves every day and lead with a unique set of gifts. And I think that had a profound impact on me realising that I was denying my upbringing and my heritage when I tried to just sort of so completely walk away from it.”

Photo: Uma Oils

Can you tell us how the Ayurvedic principle of balance influences how you manage your farmlands?

“The principles of Ayurveda and its mandate of people who practise it, is a system of balance. You may have also heard about the concept of karma—that’s also the idea of balance. And as Ayurvedics we believed that we could not create healing medicine and thriving plants that we used for healing medicine if there was a fundamental imbalance in our community. So, in rural India, a lot of people struggle with a lack of healthcare choices, huge income disparities and not being able to put three meals on the table... So my family works to restore this balance by investing over 30 percent of our profits and sometimes in bad years, much more than that, just to sustain and keep our community whole and wholesome. Which is why many people have worked with us for generations. 

Another factor of balance is that women in our community need to be on equal footing with their male counterparts and India being still largely rural we have found the lack of education has led to huge gender disparities and women in India are not often educated or given vocational skills, so they often have to depend upon the males in their lives for everything, whether it's a father or a brother early on, and then they get married off… Very often for working women in India, they will still be thrust into all primary childcare responsibilities, so we also created an ecosystem of free childcare, free lunches and packed dinners that they can take home, and this basically allows them to work because that's the social fabric they're operating within.”

Photo: Uma Oils

What is your favourite Uma Oils product? 

“The one product I’m most proud of changes depending also on my mood and the weather... but I do think that our Absolute Anti-Aging Face Oil has been remarkable in many ways because often women were very nervous about using oils, but this oil is so highly potent and pure that women across the world love it. Lots of celebrities like Kelly Ripa, Anne Hathaway and Ariana Grande, will say things like, “Oh my god, I'll never go on stage without this” or “this is my anti-aging secret”… and it's just been so lovely to see that so many people have embraced something that they were so scared of, especially as it is so revered in Ayurveda. It’s also driven home the idea of Ayurvedic simplicity that you don't need 20 things to look great.”