With the booming of the beauty industry, franchising has led to the spread of unisex salons across the nation. In an era where beauty is marked by external features, the concept of unisex salons has gained a huge popularity. In an interview, Srinivasan Sankar, COO, Naturals Beauty Salon India speaks about his company’s growth and expansion plans.
Ramanjit Kaur (RK): Could you shed some light on the origin of Naturals Beauty Salon India.
Srinivasan Sankar (SS): With the idea of setting up a beauty salon, Naturals Beauty Salon India was launched in the year 2000. It first started its journey with a single salon and later expanded to more than 50 operational branches across South India. Naturals is known for its basic grooming services, affordable rates and friendly atmosphere.
RK: What inspired Naturals Beauty Salon India to take the franchise route?
SS: Initially we started our business as a small venture and gradually expanded over the years. Veena.K and Kumaravel, the promoters of Naturals have adopted franchising as a route to expand. Also, franchising has a huge potential as the franchisee brings ownership to the table. A manager at the end of the day works for his/her salary, but the franchisee always works for his/her investment and objectives that s/he wishes to fulfil.
RK: What practices and initiatives have you introduced in Naturals Beauty Salon India?
SS: With the expansion of Naturals Beauty Salon, we try to ensure standard operating procedures at the various salon chains. For this reason, we have started various audits (financial, mystery customer, salon operations) in order to aid the franchisees in maintaining the standards of the salons operating at different locations. We are even planning to roll out a comprehensive Customer Relational Management system that will help us in maintaining a strict vigilance of the staffs and their behaviour with the customers.
RK: What are the eligibility criteria for selecting the franchisees of your company?
SS: We usually look at the following requisites while selecting our franchisees:
RK: How many franchisees do you have and in which all cities?
SS: Presently, Naturals has more than 50 franchisees and we have plans to add 15 more in our franchise network. We have 25 franchisees in Chennai, 10 each in Tamil Nadu and Bengaluru, eight in Hyderabad and three in Kerala.
RK: What support do you provide to your franchisees?
SS: The salon business is a people-oriented business. Anybody can finalise a location and provide a great salon ambience, but what really matters in this business is the quality of the staff. We, at Naturals ensure that all our salon outlets are managed properly. We recruit and train the staff and allocate them to our respective franchisees as we believe that training is the key element for successful functioning of the salons.
Apart from this, we even ensure footfalls at the franchised salons but later it is the duty of the franchisees to transform the clients to regular visitors. We also provide budget guidelines to our franchisees to avoid unwanted expenses and to attain an operational break-even within the first four to six months.
RK: Have you faced any challenges during the initial phases of business establishment? If yes, what were they? How one can overcome those challenges?
SS: In 2000, when Naturals had set up its first salon, there were lot of speculations concerning the feasibility of a unisex salon in a traditionally conservative society. But after devoting 10 years of my life in this business, we are running and managing our franchise network successfully. We are successful today because we firmly believed our vision and worked diligently to make our business run successfully.
RK: Any advice for the young entrepreneurs?
SS: Every entrepreneur has to have an in-depth knowledge of the sector s/he is planning to enter into. First hand knowledge of the business or the industry is of prime importance. The rest is all about making well-versed decisions for financing and business development.
RK: What are the company’s future plans in terms of expansion through franchising?
SS: We are looking at opening 100 salons this year (Jan – Dec 2010). 80 per cent of expansion will be through franchising and rest would be company-owned salons.
RK: Share with us any new venture that your company has entered into?
SS: We have predominantly operated unisex salons catering to the mass–premium segment. We recently have launched a ‘for women– by women’ salon concept called Naturals W. Very shortly we are going to launch a chain of premium / high-end salons across South India.