AHS is a 2.4 billion dollar brand that was started in the US in the 1970. It has 9 studios in India and is looking at expanding here.
Hair restoration is an industry worth over Rs 650 crore in India. However, unorganised players make a big share of this market. International brands such as Advanced Hair Studio have been existing in the Indian market for the past few years and are growing their footprint with an aim to organise this industry.
AHS is a 2.4 billion dollar brand that was started in the US in the 1970. It has performed hair restoration procedures on close to a million people including 10,000 celebrities that include the likes of cricketers Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Shane Warne and Mohit Sharma. It has been operating in India since 2007-08 and has nine studios across India in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Ludhiana, Gurgaon etc.
Recently, AHS launched its revolutionary concept Supernatural in hair restoration and retention. Through this concept, the hair is not just restored, but also retained for like. Present at the event were cricketers Harbhajan Singh and also Mohit Sharma, who spoke about his experience with AHS. Wellness India spoke to Sanket Shah, CEO and MD, AHS, Middle East and Indian Sub Continent about the brand’s approach in Indian market and expansion plans. Here are extracts from the interview.
Are your studios in India franchised or company owned?
We are the master franchisee for AHS in India. We don’t give out sub franchises because of quality assurances. We like to make sure that they are very closely monitored. Our practitioners are all approved by the top management. There are no compromises or corners cut in terms of quality and the end result we wish to produce. As the world’s largest company, we are a proud of one thing that when we have.
With the virtue of my investment, I’m the third CEO of AHS Global. If there are investment opportunities with AHS, we may be looking at those in other countries, but in India, all the studios are owned and funded by us.
How many studios are you looking at by 2020?
Our target is to have at least 25 studios covering all metros and mega cities. The metros may have multiple studios. We may look at some of the other important centres as well. Of course we want to reach out to people and like I mentioned that we don’t consider ourselves a luxury brand. We do see this as a necessity. People do want everything at their own doorstep. They’re not willing to travel to another city or country. There is a need for expansion. But again, we do not wish to spread ourselves thin, so we are expanding in a steady manner.
How do you see the Indian market? Do you think it is difficult to convince an Indian customer to avail such services?
Not at all. I think it is a misconception. When people meet socially and the same come to us for consultation, they are two different personalities. When they sit with us, they do open up. We’ve heard endless stories of people not just losing confidence but so much with it. That’s where every passing day we feel more and more responsible and there is this serious requirement of awareness and education before you provide a solution. You do need to encourage people. We are not a company for cricketers or celebrities, in our 100000 clients, I’ve not seen celebrities. But looks matter for them because welcome to 2016, it matters how you look, it matters what you wear. When you lose hair, people do have a sense of loss of confidence. So we use celebs just as an example.
Also, there is a reason we highlight our athlete clients. We’re trying to show that people who have a regime of working out, training 8-9 hours a day, our procedures do not hamper their lifestyles, their training.
But how challenging is this industry in India specifically?
Education. The challenge is education and awareness. We take the help of the media in doing that. And our consultation sessions are 90-minute sessions. I call these consultations a counseling session because we’re not dealing with a medical problem, it’s a psychological problem. We’ve already opened a healthcare centre in Dubai and we’re flying world’s top 5 plastic surgeons to Dubai every month. We’re going to extend this opportunity to India as well.
The idea is to give you a life-long solution and not just talks or temporary treatments like a homeopathic treatment for 5 years. Some companies are doing that. People don’t have patience to take something for 5 years without it producing results. If you’re asked to take 5 doses a day, there’s no time for it.
While you are changing the Indian market, are you also open to changing according to the Indian market?
Of course, I’m an Indian. 90 per cent of our team is Indian. We are new India. We don’t feel inferior in terms of technology, or solutions, concepts, we’re at par in terms of concept.
Where are you seeing the hair-loss solution sector in India in the next five years?
It’s got tremendous potential. Not just because unfortunately the percentage of men and women losing their hair may increase, but even more so because unfortunately 90 per cent of the people in our industry are crooks. They are not providing the right solutions and misleading people. We wish to change that.
Do you think this sector needs a little more regulation by the government?
Absolutely, I was upset when a child dies in Chennai in a hair replacement procedure. The news went all the way to America and Turkey. We cannot allow that to happen. We are a destination which is amazing for medical tourism, we need to be attracting people to come here, not go out. We’ve got to change that.