In these tough times, I would like to start with a happy story to reignite our memories and energise ourselves.
A successful IT professional, Suma Radheysham, had to wait for 30 minutes to get a skin service at the Indiranagar outlet of a national salon chain. In those 30 minutes she chatted up the manager, learnt about the brand’s focus on quality, customers, training and innovation – and decided to set up a franchisee salon with the brand. As the brand scaled up from 20 salons in 2013 to 56 in Bangalore in 2019, Suma grew her business with the brand to 7 Salons and 2 academies. She is proud of the way she manages her 150-member team. Since the reopening in June, Suma has held her ground – implementing the brand’s stringent safety protocols, optimising costs, managing her team and working hard to get the business back on track. She is confident that slowly but surely, they will emerge stronger than before.
The Rs 25,000cr professional beauty and wellness industry (salons, spas, parlours, barber shops & clinics) in India has grown at a CAGR of 12% for the last decade. Extremely fragmented with nearly 1 million outlets, the industry employs 15 million people – 65% women and a large majority from lower socio-economic backgrounds. For a young country like India, with 700 million+ individuals below 25 years of age in 2019, the beauty and wellness industry has the potential to generate livelihoods in small towns without promoting mass scale migration to large metros.
The fear unleashed by COVID-19 attacked the very foundation of the beauty and wellness business – “human touch” which includes both physical contact as well as emotional connections. We had to care for our customers, maintaining distance and with minimal and controlled contact. The industry took this challenge head on – stringent safety standards – pre checks, modifications in salons for social distancing, single use kits and touchless service protocols, continuous sterilisation, personal protective gear for clients and staff and ebills amongst others – ensured that client had a safe environment. The rising cases and partial lockdowns have surely made a dent, but confidence is building up. Consumers are getting back to salons, slowly but surely.
Going forward there are a few significant changes I foresee – some are here today and some here to stay:
Safety = Care! “The brand I trust” will stay on top of the need ladder for a while, giving the better managed and resourced chains an advantage.
Extensive use of personal protective gear might reduce post-COVID, but strong hygiene measures and controls are here to stay.
Consumers will be willing to pay a premium for result oriented and time efficient products and services. Traditional products and treatments based on AYUSH sciences will have an increasing demand. This will be a huge opportunity to create global power brands from India if we act in time. Asana Rebel, a German app is teaching new age yoga to 10 million users globally – its time we cashed in on this growing demand.
Evolved consumers will demand higher standards of expertise. We need to invest in education – technical and personality skills – as per global standards. The impetus provided by the New Education Policy 2020 to vocational skills needs to be resourced fast.
Brands with purpose will have more compelling stories to tell. Consumers will vote for sustainable beauty and wellness with their time and wallets.
The future is always bright – but only if we are well equipped and surefooted as we move forward. Easy and efficient access to capital, start up support, and well governed public-private partnerships for education will create the necessary impact. Franchising is a great tool to attract more entrepreneurs like Suma into this industry and create jobs.
Industry players experienced the benefits of collaboration while seeking support from the MSME ministry, the Ministry of Home Affairs and state governments during the lockdown. Leading players have taken the lead to form the Beauty and Wellness Association of India (BWAI) for policy support and stimulus from the government, capability building (technology, safety, hygiene, skilling, training, certification) and promoting local and national networking forums. With the government, industry and communities collaborating to build a strong ecosystem we can offer entrepreneurship and employment opportunities to 30 million professionals by 2030 – and Beautify the Future, together.
(The author of the article is CEO, Lakme Lever)