CEO and Co-founder
C K Kumaravel was destined to be an entrepreneur with a difference. Born into a small town business family, his achievements as CEO & Co-founder of the Naturals salon chain — recognised many times over in the past few years – confirm him as a true pioneer.
He, however, believes that his successes are shaped by the several failures marking the early years of his professional life.
Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, Kumaravel was instrumental in driving the growth of multiple personal care brands, including Velvet shampoo, Meera herbal powder and Chik shampoo. The turning point came when he launched Raaga, a herbal shampoo brand. This venture failed to take off as Kumaravel had envisioned, but the struggle taught him valuable lessons in brand-building and marketing.
“There have been many other lessons learnt since then. When I launched Naturals, the first few years were simply painful; gathering the necessary funding from banks was a Herculean task,” he discloses. “In addition, marketing the concept of a unisex salon and spa to customers and franchisees was an incredibly challenging.”
Kumaravel’s perseverance has paid off in spectacular fashion. Launched over a decade ago, Naturals today is one of India’s leading unisex hair and beauty salon chains with a pan-India network of over 425 salons. Among the fastest growing retailers in the country, it aims to reach a target of 3,000 salons by the year 2020.
Naturals was one of the first salon brands to introduce the concept of unisex salons in India, and added affordability as a USP to take the branded grooming services business to the masses. To steer this consistent growth, the brand recently appointed Bollywood actor Kareena Kapoor as its new brand ambassador.
As to his mantras for success in retail, he believes it is critical to minutely monitor and analyse consumer behavior and aspirations. “In the initial years, during our market studies, we realised that the Indian grooming services industry was characterised by men’s-only salons and small beauty parlours for women. We saw an opportunity in the unisex salon model, where customers from both sexes could avail high-quality personal care services in a comfortable, pleasant ambience. And we managed to cater successfully to this unspoken market need,” he adds.
Recent trends in marketing strategies sees Naturals with an increased digital footprint. Being active on the social media has become a thumb rule for the brand. The salon industry is one of the few industries that have not been adversely affected by the onslaught of online retail and Kumaravel considers the digital impact on this industry as extremely positive for the brand.
The focus for expansion is now in non-South regions of India and in the international market too, a direction in which our brand ambassador Kareena Kapoor will take us effortlessly. It is now quite established that salon chains are here to stay and smaller local single entity salons will find it difficult to play a major role in the beauty business. Tier II and Tier III cities in India are where the brand plans to move into, and they are also looking into franchises in Dubai and other GCC countries as well as the USA.
Kumaravel’s mission goes beyond numbers; he is using retail as franchising as tools to change communities. His immediate aim is to create 1,000 successful women entrepreneurs and generate 50,000 job opportunities by December 31, 2020.