One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the lack of skilled manpower. In fact, I fear growth projections will be stymied going forward due to this single factor.
At a time when entrepreneurship was not as trendy as it is now, what prompted you to start VLCC?
In my family, we were encouraged to take decisions and be independent. Beauty and nutrition always fascinated me. So, at the age of 14, without any formal training I could do hair-cuts and facials. It was my mother who spotted my talent and encouraged me.
During my graduation days in Delhi, I came across several people who wanted to lose weight and look beautiful. This made me realize that there is a market for my business proposition. Thereafter, I pursued a Course in Beauty & Nutrition from Germany. Subsequently, I took a series of specialized courses and modules in beauty-care, fitness, food & nutrition and skin care from London, Munich and Paris.
I wanted to make health and fitness accessible to all segments of society. And, VLCC is a manifestation of that dream. I started VLCC in 1989. In the last two decades, the VLCC Group has been growing at healthy pace, and today our operations span 9 countries, across over 260 locations in 120 cities.
How has the beauty and Wellness space evolved over the years since you commenced the business?
Earlier beauty and its related treatments were considered a luxury. Over the years, it has become more of a necessity. Also, the wellness industry in India is swiftly evolving from its unstructured beginning in the early 90s to a comprehensive ecosystem. Pegged currently at being a INR 490 billion industry, it is estimated to be growing at a rate of over 30%, which is phenomenal.
Where is your major demand coming from? Is it mainly Major Metros or have the Tier 2 and 3 towns finally come of age? And in Urban Centres, what is the demography of your customer. How do you see the demographic profile changing with time?
VLCC is present in 120 cities. Majority of our demand comes from the major metros but Tier II & III cities are catching up fast in terms of pace of growth of business volume. The demographic profile of out typical customer is males & females in the age group of 24-35 belonging to SEC A category.
A significant trend in the last few years has been that a lot more younger people are coming to us while simultaneously the percentage of men customers is showing a steady rise.
What are the major problems affecting this sector at the present?
One of the biggest challenges faced by the Wellness industry is lack of skilled and trained manpower. Wellness services will require 6,00,000 additional skilled personnel over the next five years. Currently there are no checks for enforcing usage of licensed personnel. Lack of effective monitoring and quality accreditation are other issues faced by the industry.
Are there any specific regulatory requirements in the beauty & wellness space?
While there are no specific regulatory requirements, of late the industry has taken some steps towards self regulation. An example of this is the creation of quality standards for the wellness industry practitioners, through the National Accreditation Board of Hospitals & Healthcare providers (NABH). There have also been some very concrete steps taken by apex trade bodies like FICCI for creating awareness about the need for self-regulation to improve service delivery standards.
In a price sensitive Indian market, what is VLCC doing to increase its market share?
VLCC’s strength lies in delivering effective solutions constantly and innovating and introducing new formats of integrated businesses. This helps us stay ahead of the competition.
VLCC’s communication strategy showcases consistent success stories, knowledge base and customer satisfaction, leading to high brand equity in the segment and thereby making it the preferred choice among weight management and wellness centers. VLCC introduced the first testimonial-based ‘before-after’ print advertisement campaign, showing how their weight management solutions can help transform obese/overweight people into a beautiful, healthy and fitter version of themselves.
Simultaneously, VLCC has expanded its geographic footprint to cover even Tier II and III cities apart from increasing its penetration through franchising, which is relatively new direction that we have taken.
How does the Indian beauty and wellness space differ from its global counterparts?
While at the service delivery level, customer expectations remain the same – they demand the best-in-class delivery be it anywhere in the world – the key difference, to my mind, is that in India the customer expects a much wider array of service offerings – from the traditional to the modern, all under one roof.
Where do you see future avenues for growth in the beauty and wellness space?
Product and service diversification is being used by industry players as a means to fuel growth. Also, venturing to international shores is another avenue for growth. Franchising is also emerging as a popular option for scaling up. There also exists an opportunity for niche offerings with more narrowly focused value propositions for consumers as well as further commercialization of traditional Indian home remedies.
How readily is quality talent available in this industry?
As an employer of choice and perhaps the largest single employer in India of professionals like nutritionists, physiotherapists, cosmetologists, beauty therapists and the like, we do not really face too much of a challenge on this account.
However, in the industry there is paucity of skilled and trained personnel. Wellness services will require 6,00,000 additional skilled personnel over the next five years. But their availability is a concern.
How well is the beauty and wellness space equipped to handle the HR demands of the present and future?
One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the lack of skilled manpower. In fact, I fear growth projections will be stymied going forward due to this single factor. Fortunately for VLCC, we spotted the trend early and in the last 6 years made huge investments in setting up a chain of training institutes pan-India. Today, the VLCC Institute of Beauty & Nutrition has 50 campuses in 39 cities and provides the much needed human capital to the Wellness industry at large. However, we need to do much more and am glad that even the Government, having recognized the potential of this industry, is encouraging Public-Private partnerships in the field of vocational training for beauty and wellness.