INTERVIEW: Upasana Kamineni Konidela on redefining luxury with her green-skilling initiative of  Beeswax candles

The initiative is uplifting Chenchu tribes of Telangana and boosting Tiger population in Amrabad forest.
Upasana with Beeswax candles
Upasana with Beeswax candles

Upsana Kamineni Konidela needs no introduction when it comes to championing philanthropy. She feels it’s a way of life. This thought often lets her be in service of the needy as the Vice Chairperson of CSR at Apollo Hospitals. From adopting a pair of Asiatic lions at Nehru Zoological Park of Hyderabad, and partnering in planting 90,000 saplings across Andhra Pradesh to starting wellness startup URLife and much more,  she’s always seen making the best use of her family’s legacy, influence and resources.

This time, Upasana undertakes an inspiring green-skilling initiative, a product of which was displayed at the recently concluded India Art Fair. Upasana exhibited a collection of scented Beeswax candles made entirely of forest produce from the Amrabad forest belt in Telangana’s Nagarkurnool district consciously crafted by the native Chenchu tribal community. We meet her for a one-on-one to know more about them, how they sustain wildlife and the tribal’s livelihood. The soon-to-be mother also talks to us about creating a safer world for her child, her experience at Golden Globes celebrating her better half, superstar Ram Charan’s RRR win and more.

Tell us about your tryst with arts.
I would rather call myself a believer in holistic conscious living than actually a painter or an artist. I am a well-being enthusiast. But I do believe that art is coming into the limelight now as people respect it even more. It became important to me as I started visualising the importance of artisans present in every nook and corner of our country. Moreover, my father and our family in general have a history of restoration work which you can see with the efforts for preserving the Domakonda Fort in Nizamabad. Promoting art forms, heritage and culture is something which is very close to our hearts as a family. 

Upsana Kamineni Konidela
Upsana Kamineni Konidela

You showcased Beeswax candles at IAF. Tell us about them and how they’re made.
It was a very simple and small concept where I wanted to sell the idea of Beeswax candles as a product of affordable luxury. The candles are made of honey produced by bees in the Amrabad forest region of Telangana. We saw that the bee wax there was going to waste. So we procured it and taught the Chenchu tribes how to make long-burning candles from them. The aim of the initiative was first to provide a sense of financial stability to tribal communities that can in return improve their overall well-being and health. Another objective was my personal passion to try to move people away from the core Tiger zone in Amrabad Tiger Reserve. If tribals have financial stability, they will move to a different place and leave the tigers to grow in their natural habitat leading to their thriving population. The reception at the fair was so good that people were eager to visit the forest region. And as we know, tourism is a great way to promote the tiger population as it brings revenue for protected areas and also financially empowers the tribes. 

Long burning fragrant candles
Long burning fragrant candles

How do you aim to redefine the concept of luxury lifestyle with these candles?
There are three things important to me when redefining luxury. Firstly, when you are buying a product, you should ensure some financial stability for the indigenous communities making it. Secondly, it should make a positive impact on the planet by reducing the carbon footprint. Thirdly, when you purchase it, it should enhance your well-being. That's why we thought of bringing these candles as they tick all these boxes. It has a scent naturally derived from the forest such as of jasmine, moist wood, fresh honey and citrus fragrances. The beauty of nature is that every forest has its own fragrance because of the trees and flowers that grow there and if you can capture its essence in product made mindfully, that is luxury redefined.

What are your views on sustainability?
Sustainability is a big word and should not be misused. We should understand what goes into sustainability. Planting regular trees is not sustainability; you have to plant trees that are native to the area. For instance, planting an apple tree in Andhra is not a green practice as it won't grow. You need to have a sound knowledge of soil, atmosphere and other aspects.

With the tribal makers
With the tribal makers

As a to-be parent, what kind of world would you want to create for the future baby? 
I want to create an atmosphere where the child knows that he or she is loved and cared for. It all depends on how they conduct themselves which depends on us. I want my child to learn survival skills and that could be surviving social media or for that matter, any environment. So teaching survival techniques through a spectrum of instincts is essential. 

Any lifestyle changes that you have adopted in the last couple of months? 
Discipline! I have gone through a huge emotional change with respect to certain food-related issues, so when you organise your lifestyle, your whole body gets on track. 

Tell us how it was, being at the Golden Globes. 
It was a way to show my support for my husband and appreciate his work and I know he would do the same for me if I were in that place. I wore a sari as I was representing my country on an international platform. I would do my best to showcase every aspect of what makes me a proud Indian.

₹1,800 upwards. Available online.
Twitter: @ranapriyamvada

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