CATEGORY: Woman-led Emerging Company of the year
In 1989, Vandana Luthra launched her beauty and wellness company, VLCC (Vandana Luthra Curls and Curves), from a small basement at Safdarjung Enclave in New Delhi. Luthra, in her late 20s at the time, was sure she did not want VLCC to be yet another beauty parlour. "I wanted to transform how people live by providing them a complete wellness solution from head to toe. We also focused on providing proper nutrition counselling for the body. I worked a business model around this," she says. Today, VLCC offers weight-loss solutions and a therapeutic approach for beauty, fitness and health.
Luthra maintained a punishing schedule in the early years of VLCC, working from 5:30 am to 10 pm daily, to make the venture a success. She is a wellness expert herself and has completed advanced programmes in beauty and wellness from different parts of Europe, including London.
VLCC is striving to become a global wellness brand. It has 300 salons across 121 cities and 16 countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, the UAE, and Kuwait. "In any kind of job, one has to be committed to succeed," says Luthra.
VLCC focuses on three business segments - wellness services, training, and skin-care and body-care products. It's hard to find another similar wellness services chain globally, says Sandeep Ahuja, Managing Director, VLCC. "The biggest bottleneck of this industry is well-trained manpower. To address this, the VLCC Academy of Training was opened in 2001. It has 54 campuses across the world and every year it trains 8,000 professionals," he says. The training business contributes about 10 per cent to its total turnover. VLCC is also working with the Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGET), Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India, to raise the bar of vocational training in the sphere of beauty and nutrition in India.
FULL COVERAGE:India's Best Emerging Companies 2014
VLCC was relatively small till 2001 with some 35 centres. Thereafter, it started scaling up aggressively. Funds came from global investors. CLSA and Everstone, for instance, invested in VLCC in 2004 and 2007, respectively. It opened its first store abroad in Dubai in 2005, followed by expansion in other emerging markets such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Malaysia. It has launched operations in Kenya in August and now plans to expand in East Africa. "A lot of entrepreneurs entering the wellness industry aspire to create a 'VLCC-like product'," says Dr. Manish Patwardhan, Director, Spa Consultants.
Meanwhile, the future in India holds promise for beauty and wellness business players like VLCC. According to the KPMG Wellness Sector Report 2014, released in April 2014, the next decade will lead to opening up of the beauty market as the Indian youth, who account for more than half of the country's population, want to be physically fit and look and feel good. Luthra wants to position VLCC as a strong brand. And given her track record, it is clear she means business.