Shibani Vasundran opened her first salon in Chennai in January 2004. Things have gone so well, she has been looking at expanding not only in Chennai but also in other cities. She tells Salon India about this process.
Does a salon chain make for better economics?
Absolutely. The growth rate for salons in Chennai has been around 40 percent. A single salon chain has been opening two salons every month for the last year in Chennai. Others have been looking at the franchise model. It is not only top end salons but also middle and lower segment salons which are growing rapidly. However, there is still a lot of space in the premium end. Salons are a serious business here in the South.
How did the first Anoushka salon & spa start?
I returned to Chennai from New Zealand and started Anoushka salon & spa in T Nagar in 2004. It was a premium 300 square foot salon with a focus on achieving a truly international look. I wanted this to be the benchmark for salons in India, one that would stay ahead of its competitors for the next 10 years. I selected a space for the salon which was on a high street with ample parking.
What kind of investment did you make in the first salon?
The investment was around Rs 80 lakhs, an amount that was unheard of at that time. I was told that it would take 10 years to start making profit, but in fact it took less than three!
How did the concept of a salon chain come about?
I could see the single salon option being limited and I wanted more. Today I have three premium salons in different parts of Chennai, with the fourth opening later this year. But I want to look beyond metros. Cities will begin to get saturated soon and there is a lot of scope in smaller towns. Coimbatore, Madurai, etc are a natural choice.
Is it difficult to differentiate your salon in a competitve market?
It is important for people in the industry to understand that we have to present a united forum so that we are not fighting ourselves. Our competition is really not from one another, but from the retail market. A customer often has to choose between fashion and a haircut. Retail brands have a strong advertising focus and provide more temptations to the customer. Unlike retail, salons often cater to customers in their catchment area.
Your advice for those opening new salons?
I would say train yourself to be the best — improve upon your skills. It is easy to run a salon as a business but you will not know what your staff is doing unless you really know how to do it yourself. You should know every aspect of the industry. Second, look for newer avenues all the time. Innovations in products, skills, and keep abreast of new trends, equipment and styles. Attend seminars, workshops, tradeshows, read journals. Keep an open mind!