Former Gladrags Manhunt contest’s semi finalist Santosh Kumar is an entrepreneur who breathes versatility. Hyderabad-based third generation entrepreneur, Kumar’s family has been into textiles business from past four decades even as he wears multiple hats – running real estate, jewellery, furnishings and the one, most dearer to him – Paris De Salon, a luxury salon brand which was set up in 2010 has already created a niche in the premium salon market.
Coming back from modeling in 2003, Kumar still had a wish to try his hands dirty in the wellness space. “I was into modeling from 2000 to 2004 but it was out of passion, it couldn’t be the career path,” admits Kumar. But before he launched Paris De Salon, Kumar was already heading several businesses under the company Starlet Group and he reasons for that, “I believe in having diversified businesses so that I don’t have to depend on one single business during recession,” he explains.
More than his connect with the glamour world; Kumar forayed into salon business because he believes it to be recession proof. “Salon is one of the markets that I feel is not prone to recession. At the end, people would still need a haircut every month,” adds Kumar.
Hyderabad-based Paris De Salon has two centres in the city catering to the premium society for their hair, make-up and skin care requirements. Among its elite customer base are ace badminton star Saina Nehwal and veteran Bollywood actress and politician Jaya Prada. While Kumar believes he could have scaled it up to more centres in past seven years but is satisfied with the growth as he could only give that much time to it with multiple businesses that drove away most of his time. Both the centres of Paris De Salon are profitable today.
“I don’t want to focus on number of centres for growth. Jean Claude Biguine salons have just two centres in India but still they are such a big brand. So, I run it for passion and believe in quality not quantity, giving personalized touch to every business,” asserts Kumar. It is the only brand in India to have European standards certification (UKAS) other than ISO certifications.
The Menu-less Masters
Unlike a typical salon that has a menubased approach for offering services, Paris De Salon’s skin and hair analyzers analyses skin and hair before suggesting the treatment. “There are no menus. Customers are misled because other salons have daily targets to meet. We don’t believe in that,” he claims.
The name in itself, says Kumar, has a story behind it. “Paris is my favorite city and during one of my visits in 2008, I went to a luxury salon that completely stood out from the others and so I decided of recreating the same experience for customers in India, particularly the upper class. I even named it keeping the city in mind,” he states.
However, Kumar had to look for differentiation for its salon brand. He came across a pattern among the existing ones – all of them were 1500-2000 sq. ft in size. Also none of them had any product exclusivity. So he jumped into it and launched a massive 4,500 sq. ft salon with exclusive products from Paul Mitchell – international luxury salon brand.
“I realized that if I am starting it, then it has to be the biggest salon,” maintains Kumar. The competition, believes Kumar is into mid and mass segment not into luxury and that’s where he is targeting.
“That’s the reason I am not so keen in expanding rapidly but gradually via franchising to other metro cities with partners who are equally passionate about it.” The brand’s 65 per cent business comes from beauty service and the rest from hair service.
The salon also has a unique concept of VIP room for customers seeking exclusivity and privacy. The biggest challenge however for Kumar is finding the skilled manpower. The brand has retention rate of 70 per cent and going forward, Kumar aims to scale it up in Southern and Western India.
The Luxory Quotient
YEAR OF LAUNCH: 2010, Hyderabad
TOTAL CENTRES: Two (in Hyderabad)
CENTRE SIZE: 4,500 sq. ft
FOCUS AREAS: Hair care, make-up, beauty and skin care
REVENUE MIX: 65% from beauty service and 35% from hair service
DAILY FOOTFALL: 40
AVERAGE BILL VALUE: Rs 3,500
This article was first published in the May issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)