Sunday, December 22, 2019

Salons & Grooming - Retail 2020 (Article #1)

I started my career in Retail in 1997 scooping ice-cream at Baskin Robbins’ second outlet in India and first in Chennai (then, Madras). As the current decade comes to an end and an exciting one unfolds, I am writing a series of 20 articles over 20 days (10 in Dec ’19 and 10 in Jan ’20) on the various Retail developments I have personally witnessed since 2001 onwards. Today, I have written about the Salon Industry which is pegged at 100,000  crores annually and a CAGR of 15-18%. 

Every road in the heavily populated Mega Cities, Leading Metros and the Top 50 cities across India have a Salon or a Beauty Parlour. Even then, you would find that a national chain or a regionally popular brand name is scarce, say 1 out of 10 such salons. Around 3 decades back, premium Salons & Parlours in India for the uber rich, the industrialists, ace sports persons and Celebrities of Art and Cinema were restricted to the 5-Star Hotels. They would fancy paying a premium at these reputed places for their personal grooming and makeover in closed confines with assured privacy. Almost around the turn of the new Millennium, Entrepreneurs started opening premium-looking Salons with not so premium Prices with a few key differentiator such as maintaining the hygiene of the precincts as well as qualified staff. 

The “barber” or “beautician” had a new title sans a visiting card though – they came to be known as Stylists. Chains such as Naturals, Limelite, YLG, Enrich, Toni & Guy and many smaller regional brands started popping all over the country attracting a host of consumers for basic services such as the humble monthly hair cut for men and waxing and eyebrows for women to the more detailed services like a Keratin Hair Treatment or a complete makeover ahead of a wedding or betrothal or even a Baby shower. Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai followed by many other Indian girls getting crowned at International Beauty Pageants only added popularity to the business of making people look better. After all, Beauty is skin deep, as the saying goes. 


I have been a risk taker all my life, even as the adage goes “With high risks come high rewards”. I took it a bit too personally by opting for colouring my hair red in 2005, thanks to my Stylists insistent perseverance when I was working for United Colours of Benetton as Area Manager for South India hoping to add glamour and colour to my lifestyle. To my surprise, neither of it happened and I vowed never to colour my hair ever again in my lifetime, even as my “Stylist “ urges me every month if I would like to shade my greying hair on the head. 

Among the various retail formats, the Salon Industry got itself in to an act all by itself since it touches the lives of millions. No matter what an individual’s employment or profession is, since everyone wants to look well groomed and that’s basic. Add to that various self-pampering activities for oneself and this market is going to explode in market opportunity.


Also, it throws open the possibilities of Entrepreneurship- for an investment of less than ₹15 lakhs, a Salon can be opened and it doesn’t cost much more to open a branded one. All that Customers look for are easy ingress and egress, Parking for 4 Wheelers, consistent service by the Stylists and a hygienic environment which is well maintained. Easier said than done, I reckon since the biggest challenge that this Industry faces today is poaching of staff by competitors since consumers prefer a Stylist over a Salon (name). 

Ironically, I got an opportunity to join a premium brand of Salon as a Manager in 2003. My family disapproved it for obvious reasons that it was infra-dig to work at such an Industry. Not anymore. I was a Consultant to a premium and popular Salon chai. Two years back and accomplished my lifetime wish. If I were to bet my life on a retail format for the next decade, it would be this.

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