“ When I becomes WE, illness becomes wellness… and that’s our industry.”

Born of a desire to make women financially independent, Veena and C.K.Kumaravel launched Naturals Salons in Chennai in 2000. Veena’s dream of a housewife-free India, is coming true slowly but surely and the 650+Naturals Salons are testimony to that. But Naturals, like all salons across India is affected by the uncertainties created by pandemic and is geared up for re-opening with all safety standards in place.

SSW caught up with C.K.Kumaravel on how the 1st couple of the salon industry is facing the Covid challenge.

Sandhya Chipalkatti: How are you and Veena doing during this pandemic?

Very good and bad. Personally very good to spend time with family continuously, with our 2 grown up children and me & Veena to have breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Watch movies & TV; play games; have a causal chats as well as serious talks.

Bad, for business… we are clueless where it heading… when the lock down will end. What we need to do in the meanwhile is to take care of staff; food & shelter for them; engage them… keep their morale high.

You have 650 + Naturals Salons. Tell us about challenges of the lockdown situation, opportunities if any?

Lot of online training is happening which is good. Ability to connect with other stake holders of salon industry. We have also connected with many of our service providers whom me & Veena haven’t met in person.
The challenge for our franchise partners is how to give salaries without income? How will they manage other expenses etc.?

One piece of advice for stand-alone salons?

Hygiene first… plan to survive for one year… don’t look for profits for one year.
Life will be ok sooner than you think.

How will the salon industry change, post COVID? How will consumer expectations change?

  • Customers will look for clean sanitised salons, higher hygiene standards going forward. We will focus on appointment only service.
  • Basic service will be more in demand as customers won’t have discretionary money they had earlier. Getting clients to pre-book services with an advance would be a good strategy.
  • Services which bring you close to the customer like shaving and facials are going to be re-invented to become safer. Maybe a gadget is an alternative. But how will it replace ‘touch’?
  • It is a difficult situation for our staff from north east and other places… today they are in trouble… everyone wants to go home to be with their family in difficult times. They always
  • look after us. Look after them in these difficult times with open hearts.

Is there any silver lining to this situation? One learning from COVID?

  • Online training is a big opportunity discovered during this time.
  • I see the salon industry evolving into services and retail. Today retail contributes 10%. Over the next 2-3 years, it will be 50/50 as customers will prefer to buy products, accessories etc. in their salon. This is an opportunity for a salon to launch its own brand. Also possible is an online/offline store combination.
  • Another big opportunity post COVID is Home Services. Some customers will feel that home is safer that the salon and will prefer to call their service provider home.

“Losers let it happen & winners make it happen… Be a winner.”

Any future projects in the pipeline?

We are not going to try anything new for 1 year… not the right time.

By when do you expect business to get back on track? What support does the industry need for this to happen?

We will get back on track whenever Government unlocks us.

We need lot of support… especially financially. Our industry creates lakhs of blue collar workers as well as women entrepreneurs… employment as well as entrepreneurship. So the Government must look upon us more benevolently. 20 years ago, this was a taboo industry. Today, we pay large amount of GST and the Government benefits immensely. GST should be avoided for salon services.

The Government must also look at who should be allowed to open salons. If the big boys e.g. Ambanis etc. come, they will make life miserable for the existing players, big and small. They can create scale, but it is the MSMEs who can create jobs.

Finally, what other skill or talent have you discovered within yourself during this lockdown period?

  • Online marketing, Instagram is key. LIVE is best.
  • Collaboration with all stake holders and competitors.
  • ‘Reinvent’ is the new buzz word post Corona. Reinvent physically, reinvent mentally, reinvent financially and reinvent business models.
  • Keep your eyes & ears open, you may see new opportunities which will take you much higher.
  • A safe India begins with a safe Indian. Together let us build a beautiful India.
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