The desire to build an organisation that would outlive him saw Rahul Bhalchandra quit his corporate role as head of the wellness business for Future Group and kick start YLG (You Look Good) Salon & Spa. Under the R&R Salons Pvt. Ltd. banner, the first YLG outlet opened up in Bengaluru in January 2009 and there are now 20 such salons, with 19 in Bengaluru and one in Pune. For Bhalchandra, being an entrepreneur allows him to function in his own style, without conforming to the rules of the corporate game. Nevertheless, his previous professional experience has taught him one important lesson – the customer comes first. Having built his current business design on customer insight, Bhalchandra has given YLG the edge of differentiation. “Our unique services, unlimited memberships and promotional offers differentiate us from others and attract many customers. The latest example of such innovation is our new chocolate wax, which converts the mundane and often unhygienic experience of waxing, into one that is completely hygienic, practically painless and wonderfully fragrant,” explains Bhalchandra.
“The key to dealing with competition is to consistently invest in training our people. Our marketing strategy is to talk to our existing customers and give them higher value on a continuing basis.”
For a man who loves the beauty business, having domain expertise in the health and beauty segment certainly helped. In his previous experience under Future Group, he set up a beauty salon chain ‘Star & Sitara’ and was instrumental in initiating a chain of gymnasiums in malls in a joint venture with Talwalkars. Before joining Future Group, the Indian Institute of Technology –Kharagpur and Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta graduate also headed the retail business for Arvind, managing brands such as Arrow, Lee, Wrangler and Excalibur. His entry in retail began as the business head of Health & Glow, establishing the brand as one of the most successful health and beauty store chains.
The right catch
Catering to 1,400 customers every month, YLG’s target audience is typically women who choose to shop at modern supermarkets. Bhalchandra states that the salon chain looks at residential catchments with upper and mid-income segments and the salons typically breakeven within six to nine months from opening. “The key to dealing with competition is to consistently invest in training our people. Our marketing strategy is to talk to our existing customers and give them higher value on a continuing basis,” he shares. The continuous upgrading of its training and backend support is also crucial to ensuring quality while scaling. “Getting skilled manpower with the right attitude is the biggest challenge we will continue to face as we scale up.” Early on, the Bengaluru-based company raised investment from Helion Ventures in 2009 that was used in building the salons, creating brand awareness and for working capital. The company is also working closely with Everstone Capital to scale up.
According to Bhalchandra, the beauty services market is estimated around Rs. 8,000 crore and is expected to grow at 20 per cent – 25 per cent over the next decade. But the current share of all organised players is not more than 5 per cent– 6 per cent. “We expect the share of organised players to grow faster than the market itself due to the tremendous potential,” he states. This is reflected in YLG’s targets as it hopes to cross 3,50,000 customers this year and get a repeat of at least 75 per cent into its salons. “We hope to expand YLG to major metros, with a footprint of over 200 stores across India,” shares Bhalchandra on an optimistic note.
Previous Avatar: Head of the Wellness business at Future Group
Current Avatar: Co-founder and CEO, YLG Salon & Spa
Why he took to entrepreneurship?
The desire to build an organisation that will outlive me and also allows me to function in my own style, without conforming to the rules of the corporate game.
Professional vs. Entrepreneur:
My biggest challenge in a corporate setup was to find a balance between my entrepreneurial style of functioning and those who expect a certain style of functioning in the organisation. The entrepreneurial setup requires a very high degree of involvement at every level initially, which contributes to set a culture within the organisation. Hence, the biggest challenge is to set a culture, which you desire around you, and find people who are happy within that culture.
Lessons from the past:
I learnt two main lessons – you can get differential results from a consumer business if you build customer insight into the business design. Secondly, you need to think scale and continue to expand on your dream.