What motivated you to get into this business?
Initially, we never thought about getting into the salon business at all. However, my mother used to visit a lot of salons in the city, and this made us think that we should also have our own salon one day. Ultimately, our salon-cum-slimming and beauty centre came up at Sadhashivnagar in Bangalore in January 2001. It is currently our flagship store.
What was the area of your first outlet and how much has it changed since you began?
Our Sadhashivnagar centre is spread across 4,000 sq.ft. We had to revamp and remodel the whole place after some time. Since we were new to the business and didn’t have much idea about the establishment costs, our set-up costs were a lot higher. It was an expensive experience and we managed to learn a lot from there.
How long did it take to expand to another outlet?
The Prestige Group
was so impressed with our marketing techniques, they approached us to open an outlet in their mall. So we opened our second outlet at the Forum Mall in Bangalore in 2004. This centre caters to the high-end clients living in the vicinity of Sadhashivnagar. We have never thought of Affinity
as a model to make money blindly. Instead, our intention was always to build a brand through goodwill of customers, since Affinity
is not tied up with anyone or franchised. We are in total control.
How many salons do you have at present? What is your salon format?
We have six salons and one fitness centre. We have been getting several offers from malls in South India, including Hyderabad and Chennai, to open a store. We do not have a fixed format yet – it varies from location to location.
What are your expansion plans?
I am looking at Hyderabad, Chennai and Cochin in the next one year. Hopefully, everything will go well since it is our own brand and we do not plan to get into franchising. We have to be present in these markets but at the same time we also have to maintain our quality standards.
It is easy for me to open 10 to 20 outlets in a year through the franchising route, but I want the brand reputation to grow and that can happen only if I am personally present in other locations through company-owned stores. A franchisee will not view the business from my angle as he will be more interested in the commercial part.
What is the USP of Affinity?
Most of the salons and slimming centres in India make tall and, sometimes false, claims by placing “before and after” ads in newspapers. We, on the other hand, would like our customers to come to our salons and experience the service. We charge half of what other centres are offering and tell our customers to take trial sessions. If they see a difference, they are welcome to continue.
How do you differentiate yourself?
We set ourselves apart from others through the high quality and standards that we maintain. We send our staff for training to Singapore, Malaysia and Germany.
How have you tackled attrition?
Around 70 percent of our staff has been with us right from the beginning. Our salaries are very competitive and we provide training to our staff free of cost. We invest in them. Some salons get into the practice of signing employment bonds to stem attrition. I believe it is a free market where people can come and go as per their wish.
How do you see Bangalore as a market for modern salons?
The salon business in this city is actually saturating. There is a salon in every nook and corner and people think it is a very easy job to do. But it is a tricky business as you have to be sure of what you are doing and you need to keep upgrading yourself. When you are talking to high-profile clients, you need to be sure of what you are doing. There is so much exposure now that everybody knows what is available in the market. When you call yourself international, the customers expect high quality. Whatever you do is never enough for them.
What kind of brand tie-ups does affinity have?
We have tie-ups with L’Oreal Professional and Schwarzkopf Professional
for hair; with Easseberry for manicure and pedicure; with Ettre Belle and Beaubelle for face care and Caviar gold facial from Germany; with Jessica for nails; and with Kryolan
and Mac for make-up.
Do you plan to set up spas?
We offer slimming, beauty, spa and fitness but do not plan to have spas. At the mall, we offer body wraps, but they are not a proper spa treatment.
What has been your growth rate in the past few years?
We have grown on an average by 60–70 percent since 2001. The growth is stable now. We work purely out of passion and so even if someday we have 60 centres, my goal would still be the same. For me, it is only about doing a good job. I have certain commitments to the company. I want to reach out to my niche segment.