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Istayak Ansari: Man on a Mission

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, Director, has brought into India the international barber shop, to give a luxurious salon experience to the Indian male client. Salon India talks to him to know more about his plans for the brand

I have been in the wellness industry for over a decade now. I was heading an international fitness chain with over 85 branches in more than 56 cities in India till last year. I have been observing and tracking the growth of the wellness industry for over a decade where three major verticals namely salons, gyms and spas have witnessed an exponential growth over the last five years. Salons have been the fastest growing segment in the wellness industry with over 40 per cent year-on-year growth. When I decided to switch from being a professional to an entrepreneur getting into the salon business was an obvious choice. The journey so far is good. We acquired the master franchise in November 2013 and have set up two stores in Mumbai in the last seven months. The response from the market is encouraging and as per our expectations so far.

Modus operandi
Truefitt & Hill is the first luxury barber shop in India. We are a men’s only salon. The biggest task ahead of us is to drive customers into our stores to experience our signature services that have been introduced in India. We will be setting up stores in premium localities with high street properties, which will help us to target the right audience and have a brand visibility. Our success will ride on the unique experience we offer to our customers which will bring in repeat business. In the salon business, nearly 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the revenue is generated from existing customers once the business is established which takes over a period of one to two years. We will also be promoting the brand through celebrity endorsement and advertising in print, electronic media and Internet. Our major focus will be on the Internet as it is a best medium for mass reach and also engages our customers for feedback and insight on customer experience and expectation.

Investment in the brand
We intend to set up over a 100 stores in India over the next 10 years. The investment per store is in the range of `125 lacs to `150 lacs based on the size and location with an area of 1,000 to 1,500 sq ft carpet area.

Biggest challenge
Since we are a new brand, we will first have to establish our self as a luxury service provider in the wellness space. A luxury barber shop is still a concept in India, which will take time, effort and monies to develop and grow. The biggest challenge is to get skilled staff and control attrition which is ‘the’ biggest challenge in the wellness industry. We have master barbers from London who train our staff to bring in uniformity and excellence in our services. Intensive and regular training will be a part of our core to deliver a high standard of service and a pleasant customer experience.

Competitors
Currently there is no other player operating a high-end barber shop in India. We will be competing essentially with the home grown and international unisex salon chains and five star hotel salons. Men account for 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the total clientele in unisex salons. The majority of the male population still goes to mom and pop neighbourhood barber shops.

Brands associated with
Truefitt & Hill have more than 130 men’s grooming products. The majority of the products used for services are from Truefitt & Hill.

Tie-up or collaboration
Not at the moment.

Expansion plans
Our focus will be to set up stores in the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad in the first three years of operations.

View on the industry
Though the industry in India has been growing at a rate of 40 per cent year-on-year, it still hasn’t received an industry status. The growth is fuelled by expansion of existing salon chains and the entry of organised players in the market. The industry will grow at a higher pace over a period of next 10 years. The growth will be fuelled by two major factors i.e. higher disposable income and increased awareness and acceptability of services offered by the wellness sector.