Salon as an organized vertical in the beauty and wellness market has relatively been a newer and fragmented space. Of course then, existence of legacy players in this space is quite unlikely and if at all there were, you won’t see any of them around today. But exceptions exist like unisex salon chain Enrich Salons and Academy (Enrich) that was launched as a friendly venture way back in 1997. And it took its own sweet time – 13 years precisely to scale up instead of withering away. And then it was nothing short of a transformational growth.
Straight out of college, the young finance graduate in 1997, Vikram Bhatt along with his buddy Rohit Dedhia and a common friend played out on an idea of setting up a salon business. “It was not the initial idea. So it was quite an accident as only our common friend knew how it could work. Back then, the salon business wasn’t considered as a great profession and it was neither popular,” recalls Bhatt, Founder and Director, Enrich.
Three years later, the common friend moved overseas after her marriage leaving Bhatt and Dedhia in the lurch but, “We clung to it as we started liking it,” adds Dedhia, Co-founder and Director, Enrich.
Enrich grew to four salons till 2004 and to 12 till 2010 setting up back offices and learning how to manage a small chain. But the growth was average and Bhatt reasons for that. “We weren’t serious about fast tracking growth but then we realized of a great opportunity and the need to scale it up as a premium yet value-for-money brand,” stresses Bhatt, former vice president at the global IT and consulting company Accenture.
Quitting Accenture in 2011 and focusing on Enrich led to 35 per cent annual hyper growth. From four-page to more than 30-page menu and from 12 to 60 salons across Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Vadodra.
Bhatt takes great pride for being one of the very few salon brands that is extensively pro-employee or technicians focused company. “Our people management skills are one of the best. For e.g., our technicians and entire team work five days a week. No other salon or retail business offers that,” says Bhatt.
Enrich believes in self-love first to do other things in life and that’s what reflects in its tagline – love begins with you. Salon industry suffers from very high employee attrition rate, anywhere between 50- 100 per cent a year.
One of the reasons among them has been unstructured career path. The duo wary of this trend made Enrich the first chain to create a career path for them.
“Within a year they become master stylist or beauty therapist and grow further in few years to becoming trainer as well,” explains Dedhia.
There are other industry firsts as well that they claim. To name a few, setting up a central call centre for managing customer requests, introducing disposable aprons and towels made of Viscose, doing rigorous quality and customer experience audits of each salon, enrolling employees for professional counselling services, etc.
The company forayed into home-based services by acquiring home salon brand Belita in August 2016. But Enrich too has been getting buyout offers since early days. And Bhatt is serious of not letting it go, though he quips, “If somebody today give us handsome multiples of revenue then why not, we will hand over the business but we are not that easy to give up.”
Scaling Up Prettily
Year Of Launch: 1997, Mumbai
Total Centres: 60 across Ahmedabad, Vadodra, Pune, Bengaluru apart from Mumbai
Technicians: Over 1,000
Customers Per Month: 1,200-2,000 per centre
Expansion: 150-250 centres in next five years
Revenue Mix: 45% from hair services, 35% from skin services, 17% from retail products, 3% from memberships
Average Bill Value: Rs 1,400 for women, Rs 900 for men
Funding: $10m from JM Financial Fund in 2010 & 2011
(This article was first published in the May issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)