A truly successful business is one that provides a relevant solution on a large scale. That’s just what C.K. Kumaravel intends to do by taking his beauty and wellness brand pan-India
In 2000, C.K. Kumaravel and his wife, Veena set up a beauty salon with the objective of making a monthly profit of Rs. 60,000. With Naturals Unisex Salons, the founding duo addressed a market gap for a beauty and wellness salon that provided quality service in a pleasant ambience at reasonable pricing. What’s more, even a city as conservative as Chennai warmed up to a unisex salon, as the service offering stood out for the right reasons. Just as how small businesses work, the founders could have replicated the first salon’s model at a few more locations and been happy with the increase in profits. But, this is where they thought differently and created a branded service offering that could penetrate a market that was largely unorganised. “I knocked on the doors of over 53 banks before the 54th bank agreed to lend money for our expansion plans,” says Kumaravel, founder-director, Naturals Beauty Salon India Pvt. Ltd. (Naturals). Not just that, he stood at the entrance of shopping complexes to distribute discounted trial vouchers to encourage prospective customers to visit Naturals’ salons. “My wife was embarrassed but I told her that if I wouldn’t do it, I couldn’t expect anybody else to,” he says with a smile. Within three years, the company broke even and penetrated into Tamil Nadu’s Tier-II cities, a move that was unprecedented.
Cut to 2013; the wellness brand has 301 stores spread across 16 states in India, with over 30 stores present in non-southern states. Its service formats include Naturals Lounge (premier services), Naturals W (exclusively for women), Page 3 (luxury and high-end services) and Star Cuts (exclusively for men). Apart from these, in 2012, it inked an agreement with Bharti Retail, to sub-lease salon space in its hypermarket stores branded Easyday Market. Currently, there are ten stores where Naturals has set up its salon space. “This format has served as a good entry point to rest of India markets as we are a south-Indian brand and given that we share a similar target audience there is good synergy,” says Kumaravel. He is quick to add that while footfalls have been high, people who visit a hypermarket store have limited time to avail beauty services. Over the next three years, Naturals aims at being present in close to 250 Easyday Market stores.
“ Where we really make the difference is by taking on the entire responsibility of finding a location, handling human resources requirements and conducting promotions. Effectively, this allows the franchise partner to focus on daily operations and this method has been a game changer. ”
Chaining its offering
The Naturals discounted trial vouchers follows even today, with a majority of its below-the-line activation being focused on acquiring new customers at their shopping points. In a move to increase its brand reach, three years ago, Naturals signed on actress Genelia D’Souza as its brand ambassador and at present, the company advertises through print and radio.
The friendly face
Be it with its own workforce or with franchise partners, Naturals has always taken a friendly approach. Typically, a franchise partner has to invest Rs. 50 lakh to set up a salon. Towards this, the company has an agreement with Indian Overseas Bank to provide franchise partners a collateral free loan of up to Rs. 35 lakh where it provides the bank guarantee. “Where we really make the difference is by taking on the entire responsibility of finding a location, handling human resources requirements and conducting promotions. Effectively, this allows the franchise partner to focus on daily operations and this method has been a game changer,” says Kumaravel. In fact, one of the reasons why its staff attrition rates are below the market average for this industry is that it encourages its staff to become franchise partners whenever possible.
As Kumaravel signs off, he shares his ambitions for the Naturals brand. “By the end of the current fiscal, we want to increase the number of salons to 450. Typically, we will enter a market with our Naturals Unisex Salons and depending on the market response, launch our other brands.” Clearly, this husband-wife duo’s story has been one of perseverance, as they took success in their stride but never rested on initial laurels.
Company: Naturals Beauty Salon India
Founder: C.K Kumaravel, Veena Kumaravel
Naturals Beauty Salon is one of the few organised players in the Indian beauty and wellness market. With 301 stores spread across 16 states in India, Naturals has established itself as a brand to be reckoned with. It currently packages its offering under a variety of formats including Naturals Lounge (premier services), Naturals W (exclusively for women), Page 3 (luxury and high-end services) and Star Cuts (exclusively for men). Genelia D’Souza serves as its brand ambassador and has been associated with the brand for over three years. In the near future, the brand owners aim to take the number of its salons to 450.