For Shahida Siddique, wellness is not just a business but a way of life. Over the years, she has revolutionised the very concept of healthy living. Starting her career in the trading sector in Dubai, she distributed natural and organic European brands to the Middle East. Its success spurred her to start Spadunya SARL in France, producing an organic spa range called Altearah. Subsequently she launched her first spa, The Spadunya Club in Dubai incorporating the principles of holistic wellness. A firm believer in the healthy way of living, Ms Siddique has tried to spread awareness about colour therapy, safe cosmetics, organic and biodynamic farming – causes that she propagates in her role as the international ambassador of her brands, Altearah Bio and Spadunya Colour Experience.
However, it’s not just wellness that defines her. Ms Siddique is also a philanthropist and has been actively involved in the social welfare sector, launching programmes like Umeed, a reconstruction project of five villages destroyed by the South Asian earthquake in October 2005. She also visited the earthquake hit areas in Pakistan and personally delivered medicines and other supplies.
A member of organisations such as French Business Council, Heels and Deals, MENA Business Women's Group and WISE Women's Group, the multi-faceted Ms Siddique talks to us about her mission, her aspirations and gives some useful tips to lead a healthy, happy life!
How does it feel to be a part of the Masala! Awards judging panel this year?
It felt good to be invited to be a part of the judging panel. In many ways, it represented an endorsement of my contributions to my field and an appreciation of the roles I have played over the last 20 years as an active member of the South Asian society in the Middle East.
Which category are you most excited about and why?
I am excited about every category because each one is given a lot of thought by the organisers and sponsors without any overlap or ambiguity. These are the areas where people excel and we are rewarding that excellence. But I am quite passionate about the Lifetime Achievement Award that honours a person who stands tall above everyone else in the community. It has to be someone worthy of respect, whose work and personality warrants that you say ‘Adaab’ to them, in our South Asian traditional way. I am also excited about the Young Woman Entrepreneurs Award. I think women who take a step away from their traditional roles and create an enterprise using their own resources responsibly and ethically, need to be applauded.
Tell us a little about how you began your career in wellness.
My career in wellness started 26 years ago. After my MBA, I worked in American Express for some time and then at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. I worked at the marketing department of the 720-bed tertiary care hospital. For a few years, I continued in the medical world and that’s when I realised that being free from disease did not mean wellness. Wellness meant being in peace and harmony holistically - mind, body and spirit. I researched and educated myself in different modalities and here I am!
What are some of the ways wellness can be incorporated into our day-to-day lives?
There are a few critical elements many of us do not focus on because we are unaware about their importance. These are:
1) Good balanced nutrition.
We don’t need food with fancy names or unusual recipes from far-off places served in extravagant spaces. We need to choose simply but wisely, eat small portions and savour each bite. It’s the ingredients that are important.
2) Good sleep at night to recuperate from the day's activities.
The body has an in-built mechanism to produce melatonin and adequate sleep at night in a dark room helps the body create it. No supplements can do the trick. Sleep at night for a powerful day!
3) Good company
Harmony can be achieved only when the energy of your family, friends, colleagues and associates are matched. It is only then that you feel electric.Seek harmony
4) Breathing Well
Inspire is a French word which means to breathe. Your brain will be balanced being creative and intelligent only if you know how to breathe. Good leaders are good breathers!
5) Good vibrations
Good vibrations within the body using, colour, light, sound and movement prevent stagnant disease-creating energy. This includes exercise, massage, listening to music, meditation and being surrounded and incorporating colour in your life. It’s physics as opposed to chemistry.
6) Being in touch with and respecting simplicity, purity and nature unhindered by chemicals, pollutants and noise
7) Having gratitude and enjoying and being present in the moment.
What are some of the most popular and effective wellness trends these days?
Everyone is now climbing onto the bandwagon of wellness. Alternative and complementary scientists, artists and alchemists, yogis and healers have always existed but society did not understand them. They could not comprehend that wellness is a simple concept that does not mean the absence of disease; rather, it means being content, happy and effective at a particular point in time. Yoga, breath-work, mindfulness, chemical-free organic and sustainable lifestyle are all within the wellness arena.
What are some of the challenges people face in terms of leading a healthy and holistic lifestyle in a city like Dubai?
Why should we feel holistically challenged in Dubai? It is the most well provided city in the world and everything is so accessible! We have absolutely no excuse. My only suggestion is to find quiet moments when you can get away from greed, noise and chatter of all kinds, internally and externally.
Who are some of the biggest and best players in the wellness field in the UAE at the moment?
I think the Landmark Group are the biggest players. Their Balance concept is amazing and needs to be more specialised and in more than one location. I own Spadunya so I cannot praise myself but Spadunya and my team are providing holistic wellbeing to thousands of people around the world through its product Altearah Bio, Spadunya Colour Experience and its Holistic events at Spadunya Club. I have always appreciated and learned from Sunita Tekchand for her promotion of holistic wellness through her company Holistic. In addition, Illuminations, Third Eye, Miracles, Sharjah Ladies Club and numerous energy healers are all working towards helping people attain a holistic balance. I don’t know who is best, they are all there because they have a passion for what they do.
You have been actively involved in a number of social welfare programmes as well. Can you tell us about some of these endeavours?
My orientation towards helping others started very early in my life when my mother bundled us four kids in her car with a bootfilled with groceries to Darul Sukoon, a centre for people with special needs. We would help in taking in the groceries and sometimes worked with the nuns in feeding the kids. Years later, along with a friend, I initiated the first "Together for Children" event, which transmuted to SAHARAY, an organisation of many like-minded women who contributed and encouraged contributions from their friends for registered and professional charitable organisations in Pakistan and abroad. We organised events for 30 people to 5000 people and raised millions of dirhams. We continue to do so from our TCF schools and more. I am personally always involved in empowering women to be able to make the right choices for their lives. I dislike stereotyping women’s roles and think we should encourage them to achieve enlightenment in their own right. I am the Ambassador for UAE for Women Entrepreneurship Day in November. In my company in France we have hired a group of 15 special needs adults to work in our packaging area. This is another cause dear to me: to provide a purpose for people who would otherwise never have resources earned by them for themselves.
Can you tell us about your involvement in the WISE Women’s Group?
I was introduced to WISE Women by Daisy Khan from New York, the initiator of WISE. Its objectiveis to develop learning and leadership among Muslim women. I joined the group a few years ago and hosted the first meeting at my house. I have introduced the group in the UAE to many organisations and prominent people to create its arm here. Our intention is to host a WISE Women Conference in Dubai in the next few years.