Beauty Biz: ordinary to specialised

 “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” – Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

“It’s beauty that captures your attention; personality which captures your heart,”- Anonymous

Both sayings are obsolete and not in vogue. Today, presentation and appearance have great significance. Looking good and feeling great has become mandatory for almost everyone today. The psyche of the Indian consumer has changed over the years.  People visit a beauty salon not for just looking good, rather for enjoying a whole experience of being pampered. Indian beauty services industry pegged at around Rs 25,000 crore is largely fragmented and the bulk of it lies in the unorganised segment. The beauty industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. As the awareness about beauty and beauty products increases, parlours have come up to a large scale not only in big cities but also in small cities and towns. More than half of these parlours are located in homes and managed by single ladies, who are not even qualified enough in the field. However, organised sector stands firm at Rs 2,000 crore growing 25 to 30 per cent year on year.


Unorganised to organised

The bulk of Indian beauty services industry is largely unorganised and fragmented. Agreeing to this, Ms Shahnaz Husain, Chairperson and Managing Director, Shahnaz Husain Group of companies, says, “It is true that the beauty services industry is largely unorganised and fragmented. But, like the beauty products industry, it is gradually moving towards a more organised one.” In contrast to this observation, Ms Ambika Pillai, a well-known makeup and hair-stylist, believes, “Indian beauty services industry is not unorganised.” Organised salons do certainly have an edge over the unorganised ones. Highlighting the merits or benefits of the organised beauty services in India, Dr Shobha Sehgal, Senior Vice President, beauty services VLCC, says, “Having individual beauty salons does provide employment and empowerment to an individual and generates also confusion amongst the patrons who are looking for the best treatments for their various skin and hair issues.”


The feel-good factor

Besides taking beauty services, people also visit these days a salon to experience the feel-good factor. They are ready to invest in pampering themselves. This not only makes them look good but also gives them much self-confidence. People are aware that salon treatments and massages help in reducing stress and salon treatments today are indeed geared towards stress reduction and revitalization services. Salons are offering spa treatments and many a saloon are being converted into spas as people are ready to pay for it. 

Ms Hussain, explains, “Yes, this is true to a large extent. Looking good gives boost to self-confidence and to self-esteem. The concept of ‘total well-being’ is sweeping the world and the feel-good factor is very much a part of it. The latest trend the world over is having a healthy and fit body and the key to it is ‘feeling good and looking great’. This attitude has had substantial influences upon the industry." In this context, Dr Sehgal opines, “Looking good and feeling great are like two sides of the same coin. When a person looks good, his confidence level increases and, hence, he feels great.”  Going by the competitive scenario of today's world, people are quite busy and hardly have time for themselves. Most of the time, they are juggling work and home. Consequently, they seek a zone of relaxation every moment. This need is fulfilled by the various innovative treatments at the various centres. 


Neighbourhood beauty parlours

It is always convenient to take services from next-to-door beauty parlours, which offer services almost at your doorstep and at lesser prices. Though unorganised, these occupy a big chunk of beauty services industry in India and offer a tough-competition to big organised players. Ms Husain informs, “In the beauty service industry, the trend is towards specialised treatments which bigger organised players offer. Although the percentage of the bigger organised salons is small, neighbourhood beauty parlours do not offer tough competition. The bigger salons offer quality and a variety of services.” Gorng further in his observation, he adds, “Today, the concept of branding is in the beauty service industry too - among bigger players. Specialised treatments and branding are two factors that have driven the growth of revenue in the beauty salon industry. Main contribution comes from bigger players and not from neighbourhood beauty parlours.” Totally denying any effect of neighbourhood beauty parlours on organised players, Ms Pillai, says, “Not at all. There’s a place in the sun for everyone.”  In this context, Dr Sehgal, explains, “The neighbourhood beauty parlours have their own distinction and preference as to proximity, accessibility, easy availability etc. But when it comes to quality services based on dermatology and science, they prefer the more popular and trusted organised players.”


Men's beauty service

Men's beauty services sector has also emerged as a new market. Today, even common people are visiting these parlours. “Men’s salons have mushroomed at a phenomenal pace too over the last decade. Men are spending much more time on salon care. It is estimated that a man spends today, on the average, one and a half hours at the salon compared to 30 to 40 minutes a few years ago. About 30 per cent of our total clients are male. Men are going in for salon treatments including facial treatments, massages, scalp treatments and so on. We are one of the earliest players in men’s skin and hair care, having opened a salon for men in 1993,” informs Ms Husain. Highlighting the various services offered at Ambika Pillai, Ms Pillai says, “Men are taking services ranging from shave, beard trim, facial, bleach, pre-wedding services, which include a host of beauty treatments, pedicure, manicure and others.” In this context, Dr Sehgal, says, “Men take all the services VLCC offers including the regular beauty services. They are not hesitant to taking up any service. Male and female ratio visiting our centres is 50:50 in the metros and semi-metros.”


Services and prices offered

The organised players are offering specialised services, which neighbourhood parlours will not be able to offer. Ms Hussain, informs, “We are offering specialised and exclusive treatments devised by us along with the latest advanced techniques. There is no doubt that beauty care in India is modeled on the Shahnaz Husain treatments and innovations. In fact, the premium treatments in most beauty parlours in India are ‘Shahnaz facials’.” Revealing more facts, she adds, “Seventy to 80 per cent of all salons in India use Shahnaz Herbals treatments as a basis and guideline. We have also become known for our treatments of specific skin and hair problems like acne, pigmentation, scars, premature ageing, hair loss and dandruff. We offer customised beauty care at the client card and prescriptive level. We are offering premium services and are at the high end of the market.” In this context, Dr Sehgal says, “Our pricing is strictly based on location and purchasing power of the people. Hence, the prices are in variations at different locations and economical for the masses.”



No business is absolutely free from challenges, same is the case with beauty services sector. In beauty services segment, there is a lack of uniformity in providing the same standard of service and maintaining the basic hygiene practices. Then, there is a lack of trained manpower. Sharing her own experience of handling these challenges, Ms Husain explains, “When I started my first herbal salon, I rejected the existing treatments and devised my own. So, I faced the challenge of making the client aware of the harm caused by synthetic products and chemical treatments. Today, one of the challenges in the industry in general is that of quality and keeping abreast of the developments in the field. Another challenge is quality and standard of vocational training. The beauty services industry is growing so fast and there is a demand for professionally qualified people in the field. I realised the importance of professional beauty training and started my school nearly three decades ago, when only apprenticeship training was available. I have been promoting the concept of Ayurvedic and holistic beauty care and it is this concept, which has contributed to our success internationally.” Expressing his opinion, Ms Pillai, says, “To be at the top, all time training is a must for our artists and we keep doing that to keep abreast of the latest technology and techniques in hair, beauty and makeup.”  On the other hand, Dr Sehgal says, “The demands and expectations from the people constantly increase and hence, it becomes imperative to raise the service delivery systems so as to not just give the customer a facial but an experience. Getting the right kind of dedicated manpower for which the VLCC Institute was started.”


Growth and success

Beauty service industry is obviously growing each passing day and many international and national players are entering the industry. And, beauty services business in the country is growing exponentially with men not willing to be left behind women in the race of looking and feeling good. They also seek services for hair, eyebrows and skin. Several retailers in India are in the process of entering this Rs 25,000 crore personal care retailing segment, which is among the fastest growing retail segments. Reliance Retail recently launched its pilot store for its health and beauty chain, Reliance Wellness, at its first hypermarket in Ahmedabad. The company also intends to roll out standalone stores and store in stores in its hypermarkets. Pantaloon Retail, which currently runs hair care chain ‘Star Sitara’ is also planning to revamp and strengthen its offerings in the segment. Dabur India also plans to introduce beauty and health services as part of its retail operations. Several retailers are focusing on offering both products and services such as giving professional beauty advice or ayurvedic consultations in this segment. This could help increase margins in a segment where gross margins are 30 per cent compared to 20 per cent in supermarkets. Ms Hussain informs, “We have extended our salons on our franchise system and have over 400 franchise salons worldwide. We intend to extend all our ventures globally in the coming years and these include salons, day spas, spas, shops and beauty training institutes.” Similarly Ms Pillai, highlights, “We have two salons in Delhi - one at Ansal Plaza. Before going global, we plan to open many more salons in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.” Dr Sehgal informs, “Currently, we have 110 centres in over 53 cities in India, one in Kathmandu and seven in UAE. We are planning to operate 300 centres in India and 28 centres in UAE by 2008.” Looking at these figures, the future of beauty salon services industry in India seems to be quite bright. The organised players will surely do well though the unorganised will also exist at the same time.  

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