30 April, 2019 was a momentous date for husband-wife duo CK and Veena Kumaravel, Founders of Naturals Salon & Spa. It was the day the homegrown hair and beauty salon officially entered the Guinness Book of World Records for making 386 models perform in a single show. It achieved this feat in Chennai in association with Iris Glam, a training school, after six months of rigorous training and preparation paying close attention to how fashion could be merged with functionality.
It is this thoughtfulness about what will work best for customers that has helped Naturals Salon & Spa establish itself as a leading brand with 680 outlets and INR 320 crore in revenues. It claims to get a footfall of over 12,000 clients per outlet annually, with almost 60% comprising women. And it all started because Veena could not find a single affordable and hygienic salon offering good quality products and services in Chennai in 2000.
This triggered the idea to start Naturals Salon & Spa with money that the couple raised internally with support from their friends and family. Initially, the going was tough and in the first year, they registered turnover of INR 20 lakh, of which INR 10 lakh was loss. The next year, the turnover was INR 30 lakh turnover and the loss was INR 5 lakh, and the year after the revenues were INR 40 lakh and the loss was INR 2.5 lakh.
By the fourth year, the company posted profits and so began its expansion juggernaut. The duo’s confidence grew and they were determined to make Naturals Salon & Spa the leading chain in Chennai. Along the way, they even collaborated with Bharti Walmart to open their beauty kiosks in EasyDay’s 250 outlets. They also signed actresses Genelia D’Souza and Kareena Kapoor as their brand ambassadors, and this glamour quotient leapfrogged them into the big league.
DECODING THE CUSTOMER PSYCHE
The recent trend of getting app-based salon services at home has emerged as a competition to Naturals Salon & Spa, but the founders have taken this evolution in their stride. “Today, convenience is a necessity. To conform to trends, we have listed with at-home services. However, services like hair colouring, keratin treatment still require the comfort of studio space,” Veena pointed out.
To carve a niche for itself, the company forayed into the premium sector with its ‘Page 3’ brand of salons. It also came up with Naturals Lounge and W, which is exclusively for women. “Beauty services are the same all over the world, but the way you customize it is what accounts to one’s success,” she added.
The salon chain recently launched the largest collection of nail polishes with 1000 shades, in collaboration with a French brand. This marks their foray into the product segment. It also launched the ‘Naturals Ayur’ range of Ayurvedic product and services range for the international market.
Aspiring to create an Indian version of Body Shop, Veena revealed that the company will soon introduce 14 hair and skin care products, ranging from face wash to creams, shampoo and fragrances. Considering the current obsession for organic materials, these products will contain herbal ingredients.
MORE TO BEAUTY THAN MEETS THE EYE
CK Kumaravel maintains that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their own dreams. The Indian beauty and salon business is an INR 30,000 crore business growing at 25%. Of this, the organized segment comprises less than 50% of the pie, but is growing at double the rate.
India has over 2 lakh beauty parlors, including barber shops, and over 10 lakh people are directly employed in this trade. However, the biggest challenge in the business is finding skilled people as well as franchise partners keen to partner for a brand’s growth.
CK and Veena Kumaravel decided to refashion their business model and focus on creating women entrepreneurs to drive the business forward. “Women have a lot of potential to become entrepreneurs. However, this gets restricted due to societal concerns,” Veena noted.
This is what prompted them to start a training academy with capacity for 350 students per batch. This creates job opportunities for enterprising people, especially entrepreneurs, in the industry. In fact, ask him about some key highlights during the company’s 19 year journey, and CK says, “For me it is the fact that we have created more than 450 financially independent entrepreneurs and 9000 direct jobs.”
Natural’s Salons & Spa has set an ambitious target for itself – to employ 50000 people and have 3000 outlets by 2020. But CK Kumaravel is confident of achieving it. Like he cheekily maintains, as long as people’s hair grows, Naturals Salon & Spa’s business will grow.
– Divya Narayanan