Perfumer & Flavorist+ connected with International Aromatics senior perfumer Paula Kundu for a one-on-one interview, set to be published in the February 2024 issue. Kundu has also been working closely as part of the American Society of Perfumers to create a stunning lineup of conference sessions for the upcoming World Perfumery Congress 2024 set for June 27-29 in Geneva, Switzerland. Below Kundu shares her journey to the fragrance industry, advice for newcomers and what she's looking forward to most about next summer's congress.
What led you to the fragrance industry?
Paula Kundu [PK]: I did not have much knowledge of the fragrance industry, though my mother is a perfumer. I knew it existed, I knew she came home with yummy white chocolates from the flavor division and “sticks” that always smelled nice, but that was about it. Though my mother is a perfumer, she always wanted me and my sister to find our own paths, so she did not impose her field of study and industry on us. I was originally a pre-med student who had applied and was accepted to a joint medical program that guaranteed medical school admission after my 4 years of undergrad. One summer during my early undergrad years my mother urgently needed lab technicians to fill newly vacant positions and recruited my cousin and myself as a “pair of hands.” This is where it all began for me, I was fascinated by this new (to me) world that combined art and science so seamlessly and never looked back.
What applications do you formulate for? Do you have a favorite?
PK: I have always worked for mid-size fragrance houses, one of the reasons is because I get to work on a variety of applications, and it never gets boring for me. I formulate mostly for personal care, air care, fine fragrance, and household. I would have to say my favorite is air care, particularly upscale reed diffusers and candles!
Are there any recent projects/wins you’re particularly proud of?
PK: Yes, there are many, but being that I am from a mid-size fragrance house with lots of big business and since we compete with some of the larger houses, our company prefers we do not divulge our customer base. However, I can say that I have many wins in the upscale detergent market, upscale candle and reed diffuser market, as well as mid-market personal care and fine fragrance.
Advice for people coming into the perfume field or the best piece of advice you’ve received?
PK: Having patience, tenacity, and an inquisitive mind will take you very far in this field; also, you must love and have passion for this industry to be successful. For me, my creative process is inspired by the passion and love I have for the creative and adventurous aspects of life, such as art, travel, nature, décor, culinary explorations, music, etc. So perfumery for me is a medium to express what I love and am passionate about in life. I also suggest that a person entering this field learn all of the essential oils and their composition and odors thoroughly as well as the stability properties of different raw materials in different applications.
What are you looking forward to most about the return of the World Perfumery Congress?
PK: Seeing colleagues and the speaker engagements, I know a great lineup of speakers is being developed as we speak, and I can’t wait to listen to all of them! I am also excited to see new raw materials from our suppliers.