Richfeel Trichology Centre addresses an issue that spells heartbreak for many, that of losing hair
You step into the shower to shampoo and rinse your hair and as once you’re done, you see a whole clump of hair by the drain. This heartbreaking scenario is experienced by most people today and the blame seems to rest on many factors – unhealthy eating, lack of sleep, poor quality of water and the chemical content in shampoos. When hair fall is a regular occurrence, alarm bells start to ring and desperation to save the tresses sets in.
Realising this deep-rooted insecurity about hair fall and related issues, Dr. Apoorva Shah and Dr. Sonal Shah entered the trichology industry in 1981, at a time when not many in India had even heard of it. “After my medical education in Mumbai, I had a desire to do something different from what was already available in the medical field,” says Dr. Apoorva, co-founder, Richfeel Trichology Centre (Richfeel). He had already developed a hair tonic with Dr. Sonal, his partner in life and work, when they were still medical students. It was being sold across Mumbai as ‘Dr Shah’s tonic’ and became popular, encouraging the duo to explore specialisation in hair and scalp treatments. When they heard about trichology, they knew that this is what they wanted to pursue.
Following certification by the International Association of Trichologists, Australia (IATA), the two set up Meenaxi Pharmaceuticals in the year 1986, under which they introduced and patented a brand called Richfeel with its first product being ‘Richfeel Hair Tonic’. The company runs four primary divisions: trichology clinics for providing hair treatment, personal care products division, training through its M.E.T Richfeel Institute of Trichology, a spa for detoxing and its first designer hair restoration centre in collaboration with Ailesbury Hair Clinic, London.
Of this, trichology is the flagship division contributing to nearly 70 per cent of the revenue while personal care contributes around 25 per cent, and the other two divisions contribute five per cent.
Over the years
According to Dr. Apoorva, Richfeel is the only organised player in the trichology market with a hair transplant offering, a space with a market size of Rs. 400 crores and growing around 40 per cent year on year.
At present, Richfeel has an approximate market share of 25 per cent and the aim is to grow exponentially in the years to come. “We have plans to launch new formats of our clinics which will aid this growth,” he says. The company currently runs 58 clinics pan-India and plans to have more than a 100 clinics within the next three years. Richfeel owns 60 per cent of the centres, but in the future, a larger number of centres would be franchised. “Finding the right franchisee partner is a challenge which we face and hence we are very cautious when signing up franchisee partners,” says Dr. Apoorva.
Around three per cent of the revenues are ploughed back in research and development and the company has been launching new services and products every year, for the past 25 years. “Our latest service offering, Richfeel Anagrow, is based on plant stem cells and is first of its kind in the world. We plan to launch three new services and 10 new products in the next 24 months,” he adds.
Apart from hair fall and baldness, Richfeel also treats diseases like trichotillomania (where a patient pulls his / her own hair from the root), which was once considered rare but is not the case today.
Caring for people
Before recommending a treatment, Richfeel conducts several diagnostic tests, which help measure the health of hair, and scalp and the correct treatment using indigenously developed shampoos, conditioners and herbal medications. Also, Richfeel is the only brand with a range of trichology products, while all the other brands have cosmetic products. “Our products combined with our trichology clinics which help customers identify their exact problem is our USP,” states Dr. Apoorva.
Apart from employing the world’s largest team of trained trichologists (more than 80 at the last count, and growing), the company also employs professionals to manage its business. Management graduates from business schools like IIM-Ahmedabad help guide its business development and strategy.
Richfeel’s training division has trained more than 25 per cent of the trichologists worldwide, all of whom are certified by IATA. “In the past, our focus was more for internal purposes, but now, we are also looking at training for the overall market,” shares Dr. Apoorva.
There are dedicated in-house trainers and there is continuous training and development, which is done all year long. “Since we offer the best-in class-training at no costs to the employees, we are always seen by the market as a fertile ground to hire talent,” he adds. But despite this, he says that its attrition rate is well within control and the employees who leave carry the Richfeel legacy with them, wherever they go.
Spreading the word
Richfeel has clinics that are trichology centres dealing with hair and scalp. It also runs a spa in Mumbai, focused on body therapies. But, there are no plans to grow the spa, which was started more out of the couple’s love for spa therapies. “More than twenty years back, I had the privilege to lecture in CIDESCO conferences across the world and develop new massage techniques. We wanted to showcase these techniques and hence the spa was set up,” explains Dr. Apoorva.
The company has received a funding of US $3 million from Chennai-based Fulcrum Venture India in 2012, which it will use for research and expansion. Though it is not actively seeking any further investment, it is open to exploring options with like-minded people.
Richfeel has a tie up with Bennett & Coleman for marketing, where the latter give Richfeel advertising space in their media vehicles in return for equity in the company. “This allows us to have media spends higher than what we would otherwise be able to afford,” says Dr. Apoorva.
Richfeel also has a technology partnership with Ailesbury of London for conducting hair transplants. “They have one of the most advanced hair transplant techniques which causes no pain, no scars and can be done in half-a-day,” explains Dr. Apoorva.
The company also has tie-ups with other organisations that help in conducting research and development of new products and services.
On a growth trajectory
Richfeel has been growing in the range of 25 per cent to 30 per cent for the past five years and the growth rate is expected to continue in this range. “We also expect to launch some retail products which will help us grow further, “shares Dr. Apoorva. These products will be available only at the clinics and are suggested to customers only based on assessment.
Dr. Shah is confident that his years of experience in the business, the new products catering to the hair and scalp needs of the customers, customer referrals and the ever-growing need for trichology services will continue to fuel Richfeel’s growth. Above all, he’s convinced that focus on personal appearance will never go out of fashion.
Richfeel Trichology Centre
Founders: Dr. Apoorva Shah,
Dr. Sonal Shah
Industry: Trichology (hair and scalp treatment)
Investor: Fulcrum Venture India
Concept in brief:
Over two decades ago, two young medical students developed a hair tonic that became popular across Mumbai. When they heard of the field of trichology, they knew that is where their future lay, and Dr. Apoorva Shah and Dr. Sonal Shah got the appropriate training that helped them start their venture – Meenaxi Pharmaceuticals, in the year 1986. Since then, under a brand called Richfeel, the company has opened 58 trichology centres, a spa, a training centre to train trichology professionals and also launched various products catering to this field.
Having procured funding of US $3 million from Fulcrum Venture India in 2012, the company is ready to expand to 100 centres and provide training to be able to fulfil the market need for trained trichology professionals. It wants to take the franchise route for expanding the number of centres, but wants to go slow to ensure the right kind of partner.