Showing posts with label naturals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label naturals. Show all posts

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Makeover’s Makeover

There are very few instances when we lose something and still be happy – One is at a Salon and another when we watch with glee, a drop-in ounce on a weighing scale. It’s a different pleasure to watch one’s own hair strewn all over the place even as the “Stylist” performs like in a concert – with utmost precision and concentration, chopping off even that one extra strand of hair. Salons have come a long way over the past 20 years in India. From being popular as a Sunday morning ritual for men across metro cities and smaller towns to discuss current affairs, politics, cricket and everything in between; and a “behind the curtains” secret service of sorts for women even in popular cities, the business of “make-over” has seen a “make-over” for themselves all these years. 


“Preeti Beauty Parlour” or “Ganesh Hair Dressers” is now more formal in their approach – they have either taken up a Franchise of a popular National or International chain; else they have upgraded their infrastructure and have a more modern name, especially with words like “Trendz” and “Salon” as a suffix to draw the attention of passersby and potential customers. Not just that, the staff have undergone tremendous training than before and are now well entrenched into the job and many even see this is a viable career option. Most importantly, the workforce has a new identity now – they are no more addressed as “barbers” rather more stylishly called as “Stylists”, after all. Their Salary packages range from Rs. 12,000 – Rs. 30,000 pm and many Salon chains even offer them a “cut” on their services as well in the form of a commission. Discerning Customers fix their own daily schedules depending on the availability of their preferred Stylists at select Salons to ensure a more personalized service. 

After a hiatus of over 3 months, I finally visited my neighborhood Salon recently. The brisk 12-minute walk from home was one among the happiest moments in the past 70 odd days of confinement during the 4 phases of lockdown. Much to my surprise, the entire experience at the Salon was spectacular. I had already taken an appointment much in advance before visiting, so I was just in time for the service. My body temperature was checked using a thermo-gun, I was asked to wear a PPE and sanitise my hands before entering the precincts. The boys were already in PPEs and were sweating profusely looking tired sans the A/c. With the number of Guests availing services being rationed, the boys were sweating it out for the sake of customers who were willing to pay a “tad extra” towards the additional costs incurred by the Franchisee of the popular Salon chain. But for extra “fittings” on both of us, the migrant stylist and I shared our usual camaraderie and banter; about the lockdown, loss of livelihood, extra safety measures and how they were the real “Covid warriors”. 


This is the beginning in my opinion. 

The cost of a “make-over” is only going to further increase in times to come, thanks to higher hygiene standards and overall salon maintenance. There was already a forwarded message on WhatsApp which was floating, questioning the additional cost included in the bills by Salons. I wondered why would customers expect the business to offer PPEs at charitable costs; someone argued that a PPE can be procured at much lesser cost than what was being charged by the Salon; another said this has not been approved by the Government; yet another piqued that the Salon owners were trying to make a quick buck by showing such additional costs to the service. I wonder why we criticize businesses with our varied personalized attacks. The Salons didn’t send a home invitation to anyone, anyway. So, why this fuss? 

This, IMHO, is the New World Order. This is how things would evolve and this is how Businesses and Customers would adapt themselves to the Corona Crisis. 


Those who complain of expensive PPEs always have a choice of the good old Tamarind Tree "stylists" or friendly neighbourhood salons and ladies parlours with closed curtains. There is no push from the semi-organised Industry which employs over 3-4 lakh people directly and indirectly across the country. While there is no doubt that there is going to be a burden on the wallets of the urban and rural middle class visiting salons regularly, this is a price the world is to pay for the unwanted and uninvited Virus which has become a part of our daily lives. Let's hope we don't mess up ourselves even further - there are fewer woods to cremate and even lesser earth to bury. 

As the Make-Over Industry goes through yet another "make-over" to itself, Our own personal Safety first should be our only goal, isn't it? 

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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Does Loyalty still exist?


I was speaking on a Panel Discussion last week at a conference hosted by Asia Retail Congress at Mumbai with some fantastic speakers from the Indian Retail Ecosystem, where the topic for us was to discuss Customer Loyalty. While preparing the points to ponder, I was wondering whether Loyalty still exists in today’s context. Well, yes – it sounds crazy if I say there is no Loyalty in the consumer business today. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

The toothpaste and toothbrush – look how consumers get swayed by newer options and attractive advertisements? There was a joke that a dentist/compounder who would appear in such an ad for toothpaste was once seen wearing a stethoscope! The body wash/soap – the options we see at supermarkets. The clothes we wear – this one’s interesting. Let me ask you, is the dress you are wearing right now – was it the same brand that you purchased most recently? If yes, you are part of a small minority of consumers who are still brand loyal. The so-called disruption by new-age startups who thundered the e-commerce world a decade back and continue to bleed in billions – do consumers have any loyalty still left over? Again, consumers prefer to buy from trusted websites (is Trust=Loyalty? Later, on that) where they could probably have the option of returning faulty goods sold by unscrupulous vendors on whom the Amazons & the Flipkarts don’t have much command. A Big Billion Day or an interesting Sale period – and consumers swing their loyalty there.


Let’s look at a few touchy, personal products. Let me start with Gillette which I have personally been using for the past 2 decades. I started with a Presto plastic shaving razor worth Rs. 10 twenty years back. I am now using the “Mach 3 Advanced” which is some Rs. 350+ per razor! And while the Advertisement claims a 30-day use, it still warrants “Conditions Apply” such as the skin tone, number of times repeating the shave and hard water. For me, this is one classic case of Customer Loyalty where consumers have continued to stick on with the Brand and its extensions such as Shaving Gel, After Shave, Body Wash & so on. Let’s look at Sanitary Napkins. Women I know (and I don’t discuss this with many!) use a particular brand/model – purely because of operational comfort. Interestingly, Brands which come in with alternatives offer sample packs or ones with fewer pads, so consumers can perhaps try and decide. Still, the loyalty is extreme. Women continue to stick to their favourites.

Look at Café Coffee Day. With 1,500 cafes across India over 2 decades, the brand continues to drive at least one lakh consumers every day and sells over 50,000 cappuccinos daily! Cut to competition – the nearest café chain Starbucks has just over 100 cafes pan-India although the argument is that their daily turnover per café is 3x of CCD. Indeed, their food prices are 3x of that of what we get at CCD and their beverages, at least 2x. So, that explains.


Royal Enfield was an underdog seven years back, selling 1 lakh vehicles per annum. Now, they sell almost 1 lakh units per month. Today, RE sells more motorcycles worldwide than all other premium brands put together – some feat this.


So, does Loyalty exist? I have a hung verdict here t least for now. The house is definitely split over this issue. For certain products and categories, consumers show extreme loyalty while for some, there hardly exists any loyalty. Travel, Food, even Luxury – take your pick. Look through the lens and you’ll see how fragmented the so-called Customer Loyalty is. And Loyalty Cards – well, I shall write a follow-up column on this shortly.