The ongoing global financial crisis has made industry giants go on cost-cutting sprees to keep margins in line with expectations. But given the high expectations of Punjabis on how they must look,the beauty industry in Punjab and Chandigarh continues to thrive. Head honchos of other sectors may be downsizing,but entrepreneurs in this sector are expanding in the region and beyond – going even overseas.
Strands,a chain started by Naunihal Singh,in 2005,has salons in Chandigarh,Panchkula,Mohali,Patiala,Ludhiana,Panipat and New Delhi,with one opening in Faridabad next month. This week,Naunihal launched the Strands Academy in Chandigarh for beauty,hair,make-up,nails,spa. In the first week of August,he is opening in training academy in London for hair and beauty courses. He has Strands Aroosh in Trivandrum,and will open a spa on Kovalam beach later this year.
While thats quite a handful,Naunihal,based at Chandigarh,is cool about it. We have plans to go all over the country with our franchise model,and have more than 70 queries in hand, says the 34-year-old. Recession or cost-cutting are not among his worries as he travels four to five days a week,setting up his beauty business.
Sisters Richa Agarwal and Ritu Kolentine,both in their late 30s,are also taking their spa-and-salon chain Cleopatra places. They started in 2005 and have outlets in Chandigarh,Panchkula,Mohali,Jalandhar,Mumbai and will now be in Gurgaon by September. In addition,they have a Cleopatra Beauty Academy in Chandigarh,and one in Jalandhar too. Further expansion is on the cards. We are planning to open salons in Ludhiana and Jaipur,and other cities in the region, says Agarwal.
So what drives their profits? Says Indira Ahluwalia,the Ludhiana-based owner of Grace beauty salons,A woman can live without eating good food,but can not go without her beauty regimen. She will only take it forward,never decrease it. Indira has been in the beauty business for 28 years. She owns three beauty clinics,a beauty institute and a showroom of beauty products in Ludhiana,and a salon in Mumbai. Our third unisex salon in the city will open in six to seven months. We want to open salons in Jalandhar,Amritsar,Khanna,and also go out of Punjab.
There is reason to expand. The growth rate of salons in Punjab and Chandigarh is a healthy 20 to 40 per cent. With a good revenue graph,their numbers are increasing,and so are their services. The icing on the cake is that the industry is benefiting not just from the indulgences of women,but also of men. Naunihal Singh says 30 per cent of their clients are male. Metros are an indication of future trends in cities like Chandigarh,and at our salon in Mumbai,the ratio of men versus women is 50:50, he says.
Ludhiana has deep pockets,and Abhay Girdhar,co-owner of the Ludhiana-based Piazza chain of salons and Piazza Hair and Beauty Institute,is taking the family business ahead with gusto. The 28-year-old is drawing up plans to open outlets in other towns of Punjab,and admits that the beauty industry is surging ahead,unaffected by recession. Personal grooming is not a luxury but a necessity now,for both men and women,he highlights.
The craze for beauty care only increases, agrees Devinder Chugh of Yours Beauty Parlour,a flourishing outlet on the elite Lawrence Road,Amritsar. Devinder,who runs the outlet with her sister Neelam Arora,says they have their hands full with business here.
What has kept the beauty industry on a high is that while its old money spinners like bridal make-up and hair-styling continue to generate a handsome revenue,new areas of growth like hair rebonding have taken the industry ahead. Hair rebonding,a process to get hair straightened,is now a must-have for all women,and can cost Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000 depending on the length and quality of hair.
Dr Shobha Suri,Director of Ivy Lounge,a salon in Chandigarh,says recession is something women only talk about. Our clients are willing to take economic beauty packages,but they dont say no to it. They dont stop calling or coming. With such loyal patrons,no wonder business is booming.