Sagar Malviya, Economic Times
26 October 2023
Surging demand for fitness wear and sports equipment for disciplines other than cricket and football helped Decathlon’s India unit expand sales 37% to Rs 3,955 crore in FY23. With more than 100 large, warehouse-like stores selling products catering to 85 sporting disciplines, the French company is bigger than Adidas, Nike and Asics all put together in India.
In FY22, sales were Rs 2,936 crore, according to its latest filings with the Registrar of Companies. The retailer, however, posted a net loss of Rs 18.6 crore during the year ended March 2023 compared to a net profit of Rs 36 crore a year ago.
Experts said a host of factors – from pricing products about 30-40% lower than competing products to selling everything from running shoes, athleisure wear to mountaineering equipment under its own brands – has worked in its favour. “They have an extremely powerful format across different sporting activities and have something for both active and casual wear shoppers. For them, the market is still under penetrated with the kind of comprehensive product range they sell for outdoor sports beyond shoes and clothing,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. “Even their front end staff seem to have a strong domain knowledge about products compared to rival brands.”
By selling only private labels, Decathlon, the world’s biggest sporting goods firm, controls almost every bit of operations, from pricing and design to distribution, and keeps costs and selling prices low.
Decathlon uses a combination of in-house manufacturing and outsourcing to stock its shelves. In fact, it sources nearly 15% of its global requirement from India across sporting goods. And nearly all of its cricket merchandise sold globally is designed and made in India.
(Published in Economic Times)
Gargi Sarkar, Inc42
7 Oct 2023
The Indian ecommerce industry anticipates a stronger festive season compared to last year with over 20% sales growth, driven by the D2C segment’s expected 40% QoQ surge
The overlap of festive celebrations and wedding seasons, particularly with a later Diwali this year, is predicted to further stimulate demand
Despite the evident purchase intent, retailers are preparing for a possibly neutral festive season as economic challenges may hit consumers’ spending
As the festive season rings in its 10th anniversary in the ecommerce realm, giants like Flipkart and Amazon are prepping for their annual mega sales, set to begin on October 8. This year, however, they will face tough competition from newer players, including Meesho, which carved out a significant slice of the festive sales pie last year.
With new entrants like Tata Neu and JioMart, and fashion and lifestyle ecommerce players such as Myntra, Nykaa, and AJIO, the stage seems to be set for a fierce showdown.
For these ecommerce platforms, the annual festive sales aren’t merely about revenue generation; they’re pivotal customer engagement and acquisition opportunities. These events lure consumers with compelling discounts and promotions, giving a considerable boost to their yearly sales targets.
Through strategic marketing blitzes, they also aim to amplify brand recognition and glean insights into shopper preferences. Following last year’s subdued festivities, market analysts have predicted a revival in shoppers’ enthusiasm this year, forecasting a robust 20% surge in sales.
The festive season this year is set to witness a remarkable upswing in the ecommerce sector’s gross merchandise value (GMV). According to consulting firm Redseer, the GMV is anticipated to see an 18-20% surge, amounting to INR 90,000 Cr, a leap from INR 76,000 Cr in the previous year.
“The preceding quarter (April to June) witnessed a subdued performance in both offline and online retail sectors, primarily due to persistent inflationary pressures. However, the scenario is expected to undergo a transformation during the upcoming festive season. Festive periods tend to unleash latent consumer demand, prompting individuals to open their wallets more liberally,” Ashish Dhir, EVP (consumer and retail) of business consulting and services firm 1Lattice said.
There is a growing focus on electronics and appliances as traditional categories of interest. However, fashion and beauty are also emerging as important categories. The emergence of luxury goods is another important segment, which will likely make waves during the upcoming festive sales.
The ecommerce industry anticipates a stronger festive season compared to last year with over 20% sales growth, driven by the D2C segment’s expected 40% quarter-over-quarter (Q0Q) surge. However, average user spending is likely to remain flat.
Further, Tier III cities and beyond are becoming key revenue contributors, particularly in the fashion and beauty categories. Although consumer sentiment has improved, retailers are wary that buyers could maintain a cautious stance when it comes to spending lavishly.
While there is much to look forward to, let’s delve deeper into what shoppers and retailers can expect from this milestone year, which marks 10 years of festive sales fervour in the Indian ecommerce space.
D2C Brands To Lead The Charge
Notably, the Indian market is projected to have 500 Mn+ online shoppers by 2030, growing at 12% compound annual growth rate from 205 Mn in 2022, according to a 2020 report.
As far as the upcoming quarter is concerned, industry experts forecast that the homegrown ecommerce sector will likely see impressive growth of over 20%.
Playing a pivotal role in this escalation will be the D2C segment, predicted to grow more than 40% QoQ from October to December. Established ecommerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart and Meesho could also be looking at an approximate 30% uptick in sales, according to experts.
Tracing back to the inaugural ecommerce festive sales in 2014, the industry’s GMV was recorded at INR 27,000 Cr. Fast forward to 2023, the GMV is poised to touch an impressive INR 5,25,000 Cr, a nearly 20-fold increase, per a RedSeer report.
Festive Ecommerce OffersAverage User Spending Could Remain Muted
Despite the rise in GMV in 2022 compared to 2021, average expenditure per shopper held steady at INR 5,200 during the initial four days of the festive season sale, according to a RedSeer report.
This year doesn’t seem poised for a significant spike in individual user spending either. However, there is a silver lining in the form of rising consumer activity in smaller towns and cities. On the flip side, elevated living costs in metropolises like Bengaluru and Mumbai could dent extravagant consumer spending, noted Devangshu Dutta, the founder and CEO of Third Eyesight, a boutique management consulting firm.
Yet, with the growing online shopper populace in these cities, there’s potential for the average order value (AoV) to reduce as more users flock online to shop.
“As the online shopping base continues to expand, the average spending per user naturally tends to decrease. This phenomenon occurs as more people venture into ecommerce, with platforms like Amazon and Flipkart extending their reach to cover a broader audience. However, it’s essential to note that this drop in the average ticket size is a common trend when the customer base expands,” Sangeeta Verma, director of digiCart India said.
Consumers Sentiment Positive, But Retailers Remain Realistic
With the waning impact of inflation, India is witnessing a positive shift in consumer sentiment from the previous year. Unlike several developed nations wrestling with inflation, India has remained largely untouched by its dual impact on demand and supply, experts suggest.
For example, Flipkart delivered strong gross merchandise value (GMV) and sales growth in the company’s second quarter of the financial year 2023-24 (FY24), Walmart’s chief financial officer John David Rainey said during an earnings call.
“In India, the distinguishing factor in terms of festive demand is that it’s not merely brand-driven; consumers here are eager to spend, and the purchase intent is notably high. Unlike some developed economies grappling with inflationary concerns, both the demand and supply sides in India have not seen any impact of inflation. The consumer demand continues to stay buoyant,” Chirag Tanjeja, cofounder and CEO of GoKwik said.
The overlap of festive celebrations and wedding seasons, particularly with a later Diwali this year, is predicted to further stimulate demand, 1Lattice’s Dhir added.
Nevertheless, a note of caution reverberates among retailers. Despite the evident purchase intent, retailers are preparing for a possibly neutral festive season as economic challenges may hit consumers’ spending.
However, a recent study conducted by Nielsen Media India and commissioned by Amazon India says otherwise. According to the report, 81% of consumers are enthusiastic about shopping during the upcoming festive season. More importantly, this positive sentiment towards online shopping is not limited to metropolitan areas but Tier II and III cities and towns.
Ecommerce Platforms Ramp Up Efforts To Woo Sellers
In this year’s festive season, a standout trend is ecommerce giants’ intensified drive to court and captivate sellers with multiple strategic offerings like enticing commission rates, equipping them with advanced selling tools, enhancing the overall selling experience, and broadening their outreach.
Recently, ecommerce heavyweight Meesho made its platform accessible to non-GST registered sellers too. Not too behind in the race is Amazon India, which unveiled its multi-channel fulfilment (MCF) last month for D2C brands and retailers. This initiative is expected to aid sellers in managing customer orders from diverse channels.
Meanwhile, Flipkart flaunted its impressive seller growth, citing a tally surpassing 1.4 Mn — a notable 27% jump since 2022. Meesho currently has a seller base of 1.3 Mn and Amazon has over 1.2 Mn sellers.
Echoing the seller-side optimism, digiCart’s Verma said, “As a seller, we hold a very bullish sentiment. We’re so confident that we started stocking up well in advance. The robust build-up is evident from the current numbers. Mature sellers will expand into existing and new categories after.”
A recent survey by Redseer revealed that sellers are projecting a 15% increase in festive sales year-on-year. Even though the recent sales momentum on ecommerce platforms has been somewhat subdued — with only 40% of those surveyed reporting a 10% quarterly hike — there’s palpable enthusiasm for a significant festive sales boost across a multitude of product sectors.
Who Will Drive The Festive Ecommerce Growth?
Tier II and III cities and towns are expected to be the biggest contributors in this year’s festive season sales. According to experts, customers from these cities and towns are keen on giving their wardrobes and beauty kits a festive makeover. Although Tier I cities are spoilt for choice with numerous offline stores, spanning both legacy and contemporary brands, such luxuries are scarce in smaller cities.
However, this is steadily changing now. Some of the prominent D2C brands that have emerged from the country’s Tier II & III towns and cities are Raipur-based Drools, Mohali-based Lahori, Kanpur-based Phool, Coimbatore-based Juicy Chemistry, just to name a few.
Furthermore, consumer demand in the eastern regions of the country, along with enhanced connectivity in the Northeast, is also on the rise. Semi-urban and rural areas are fast emerging as the driving force behind the new wave of ecommerce growth, a trend expected to be pronounced during the festive season.
Considering that a whopping 65% of India’s populace resides in rural regions, the untapped ecommerce potential is immense, according to the Economic Survey 2022-23.
Yet, fostering trust will be paramount. Residents in these regions typically bank on word-of-mouth endorsements and recommendations from local retailers when exploring new products and brands. This is expected to give local D2C brands a much-needed boost in the upcoming festive season.
What’s Beyond The Festive Sale Fervour
As festive trends leave their mark in the ecommerce landscape, we’re likely to witness several transformative strategies. Central to this evolution will be Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) schemes. Yet, the traditional cash-on-delivery remains a preferred choice for many.
Ecommerce brands are increasingly prioritising customer retention, recognising that fostering enduring relationships offers more value. This shift is evident in the rise of loyalty programmes.
Notably, Flipkart introduced “Flipkart VIP” – a direct competitor to Amazon’s Prime – right before the festive sales kickoff. Simultaneously, Meesho debuted a loyalty initiative, targeting both customers and sellers.
Apart from the dominant themes, a few other noteworthy trends are slated to redefine the festive shopping narrative. Black Friday, for instance, is set for a revamp. Gen Z’s influence, especially their propensity to favour specific brands, will be significant.
Last year, for D2C brands, the Black Friday event overshadowed the traditional Diwali and Dusshera festivals in sales figures. GoKwik data indicates that brands on their platform saw a staggering 63% rise in GMV during the Black Friday sale, contrasting starkly with the 10-day Diwali sales.
Also, Christmas, too, is evolving. The allure of winter holidays and modern gifting practices are propelling this transformation, turning Christmas into a significant commercial event.
Given that the final leg of 2023 (October to December) will host almost all the major Indian festivals, the ecommerce players are in for a treat. Even though there will be a lot of cut-throat competition among ecommerce players, there will be no dearth of opportunities for them to woo customers who are eager to splurge to add more flavours to their festive celebrations this year. Going ahead, we will keep a close eye on the ecommerce players and D2C brands that will emerge triumphant after the great Indian festive showdown.
(Published in Inc42)
Gargi Sarkar, Inc42
6 May 2023
With one of the largest consumer bases in the world, the Indian retail industry is on a constant upward spiral, thanks to the increase in the purchasing power of Indian consumers and the ever-increasing ecommerce adoption.
Notably, this has helped segments like online beauty and personal care (BPC) sustain and grow faster than the players in the offline space.
According to industry experts, the online BPC market has been growing in the range of 20% to 25% annually, compared to the offline segment at around 8% to 10% a year. According to a IMARC Group report, India’s BPC market size reached $26.3 Bn in 2022 and is expected to reach $38 Bn by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 6.45% between 2023 and 2028.
Notably, in their endeavour to capture this opportunity, new players are entering the BPC space, and the existing ones have started to scale their omnichannel presence.
The newest entrant in the space is Reliance Retail. The retail major forayed into the BPC market with its omnichannel platform, Tira, earlier last month. Along with launching its app, Reliance Retail also opened its flagship Tira store in Mumbai.
It is crucial to note that existing marketplaces like Nykaa and Purplle, and D2C brands such as SUGAR Cosmetics and Mamaearth, too, have started expanding their offline footprint, after scaling up their online presence.
Similarly, offline retailers such as Loreal India, Sephora, and Hindustan Unilever’s Lakme have increased their focus on expanding their online presence via direct-to-consumer websites.
Given that Reliance’s Tira has entered the market with an omnichannel playbook, piggybacking on its parent’s cash reserves, it becomes all the more important to understand what impact it will have in the long run on the existing players and industry dynamics.
According to the industry experts that Inc42 spoke with, the beauty and personal care market offers more than enough opportunities for multiple players to grow, due to multiple favourable factors.
“The BPC segment remains one of the fastest growing categories in consumer retail because the penetration of beauty products has remained relatively low. With increasing awareness, and more disposable income, the BPC segment has witnessed decent growth. Now, since the segment is growing, there is a scope for multiple players to grow. That is why some of the big players have entered into the market,” Ashish Dhir, EVP (consumer and retail), 1Lattice said.
Despite Dhir’s optimism, it is pertinent to note that Nykaa saw some initial pressure on its share prices and overall stock performance with the launch of Tira. Brokerage firm Macquarie said that the entry of new players such as Tira could exacerbate the problems for Nykaa at a time when the competition in the segment is already tough.
In the past, Reliance’s entry into the fashion ecommerce space with Ajio impacted leading existing players like Myntra. Now that we already have an example from the past, coupled with a falling will to spend due to factors like rising unemployment and inflation, it will be interesting to see how Nykaa performs under such pressure.
How Tira Could Threaten Nykaa & Ilks Dominance In The Beauty & Personal Care Space
It is no wonder that Reliance Retail will look at disrupting the market to emerge as a market leader as it has done in every segment.
Compared to sectors such as apparel and telecom, the BPC segment is different, and it is not very easy to scale here the way Nykaa has done over the years, according to Karan Taurani, SVP Research, Elara Capital. He noted that many other players in the past tried to scale but failed.
“Nykaa has emerged as a winner due to several factors such as a superior consumer experience on the app, trustworthiness, and product variety. Currently, the product delivery time is also lesser on Nykaa compared to Tira, although the latter could improve it. Moreover, Nykaa has created a network of influencers over the years, and its approach on social media is very different,” Taurani added.
He, however, highlighted that there will be an initial consumer churn as some customers will try Tira as well, and whether the new venture, Tira, can retain all these customers will depend on the consumer experience it provides.
As per Taurani, marketplaces like Nykaa will see some sort of pinch in terms of demand but will not have a significant impact until Tira offers a differentiated experience. Right now, Tira has very few differentiating factors.
However, we should not forget that Reliance Retail is experienced in building brands and has the heavy financial backing to scale in the offline segment.
Given that many players do not have much experience in the offline segment, they may see a visible impact facing the retail giant in the offline BPC space.
It is important to note that Nykaa’s consolidated net profit fell 70.7% year-on-year (YoY) to INR 8.5 Cr in the December quarter of the financial year 2022-23 (FY23), despite the festive season.
In addition, Mumbai-based beauty ecommerce startup Purplle’s net loss almost quadrupled to INR 203.6 Cr in the financial year 2021-22 (FY22) from INR 52 Cr in FY21.
An optimistic Dhir, however, likes to believe that Tira would only increase the competition in the segment and would not impact the profitability of its rivals, at least in the near term.
Will D2C Beauty & Personal Care Brands Face The Heat?
Along with conglomerate-backed large players such as Tata Cliq and online marketplaces, there are several Indian startups and brands such as mCaffeine, Mamaearth, Sugar and Minimalist, which are looking to capture a big chunk of the ever-increasing BPC market pie.
According to an Inc42 report, BPC will remain one of the fastest-growing D2C segments between 2022 and 2030, growing at a CAGR of 27%.
Talking about Tira’s impact, experts said these (aforementioned) D2C brands will not see any major impact due to two factors.
“Firstly, these brands will have similar arrangements with Tira as they have with Nykaa. Secondly, these brands have created a loyal customer base for the products they offer and they have their recall,” Taurani said.
“While deep-pocketed companies can spend their way into buying the market share, all brands need to be prepared for the long term. Also, for these brands a clear positioning be crucial to stand out, not just in their product and service mix but also the overall customer experience specific to their target audience. This would also give opportunities to several beauty and personal care brands to profitably serve niches that may be too small for the larger companies driving for the market, “Devangshu Dutta, the founder of Third Eyesight, said.
Also, Nykaa and Purplle have a portfolio of private labels, which includes skincare brands such as Dot & Key, Earth Rhythm, and Good Vibes, among others. Hence, it will not be surprising if Tira launches its private labels or acquires small brands to grow its portfolio.
As brands like Dot & Key, and Good Vibes are already direct competitors to these D2C beauty brands, a new player can pose more challenges for them.
What Else Could Work In Tira’s Favour
“Our vision for Tira is to be the leading beauty destination for accessible yet aspirational beauty, one that is inclusive and one that harbours the mission of becoming the most loved beauty retailer in India,” Reliance Retail’s executive director Isha Ambani said at the time of launch in April 2023.
When Reliance entered new segments like telecom and fashion ecommerce with Jio and Ajio, respectively, many of the existing players struggled to sustain in the segment as the Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate scaled up quickly, thanks to its strong financial position. Hence, it will work as the biggest favourable factor in the beauty and personal care space as well, industry experts believe.
Tira is also expected to lure customers with big discounts. “For Tira, a big chunk of revenue will initially go towards marketing and customer acquisition, at least for the first couple of years, as it is a new brand. More than marketing, Reliance will look at discounting more prominently. Reliance will try to give higher discounts compared to other players,” Taurani said.
He added that Reliance has some expertise in building new platforms, such as Ajio, and a rich talent pool and strong brand exposure.
While players like Tata Cliq, Purplle, and Myntra’s beauty segment have tried to scale up in BPC, none of these players has seen significant growth. Hence, the market consists of one large player, making it easier for a deep-pocket player like Tira to carve its positioning quickly and create a duopoly with Nykaa.
At the time of Tira’s launch, the company said that the brand would offer a curated assortment of the best global and home-grown beauty brands. In terms of its offline play, Reliance Retail can leverage partnerships with global beauty brands and suppliers to get better deals. As it is looking at an omnichannel play at an entry stage itself, it may be able to gain market share from smaller beauty retailers, especially in bigger cities.
The Tira offline store will have the latest beauty tech tools such as virtual try-on to create customised looks and a skin analyser that will personalise and assist consumers in making purchasing decisions based on their needs, the company said.
On the luxury side, Reliance Retail is also directly targeting the market which has higher margins and could eat into the margins of Nykaa easily. It must be noted that Nykaa’s Luxe is still in its infancy.
While it is true that Tira will increase the competition in the BPC segment, it is not likely to rewrite the industry’s future over the next couple of years. Tira currently has very few differentiating factors in both the online and offline segments. Additionally, in the offline segment, Tira has opened only one store while Nykaa already has 141 physical stores across 56 Indian cities, as shared in its Q3 earnings report.
Even though there are glaring differences, some industry experts see Tira’s journey to be the same as that of Nykaa, going ahead.
(Published in Inc42)
Akanksha Nagar, Christina Moniz; Financial Express
April 7, 2023
Reliance Retail’s (RR) launch of an omnichannel beauty and personal care (BPC) retail platform Tira this week brought the fight in the $27-billion market right to the doorstep of entrenched brands such as Nykaa, Sephora, Shoppers Stop, Tata Cliq, Myntra et al. Along with the app and website, the Isha Ambani-led company unveiled a 4,300 sq ft flagship store at Jio World Drive at BKC, Mumbai, and is working to set up stores in at least 100 locations across the country over the next few months.
RR already sells BPC products via its large network of department store chains and on its JioMart platform and last year, acquired a controlling stake in makeup and personal care brand Insight Cosmetics. RR was also in talks with Arvind Fashions to acquire Sephora, but media reports suggest the deal was called off earlier this year.
Clearly, RR has been working hard to capture the lion’s share of the fast-growing market.
According to Statista, revenue in the market will amount to $27.23 bn in 2023 and is expected to grow annually by 3.38% (CAGR 2023-27). Calling it a bottomless market, Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, says, “There is definitely a huge untapped opportunity for beauty. Though we have seen a fair bit of growth in India over the past few years, we have barely scratched the surface. Its consumers are no longer just women, but also men. Additionally, differences between young female consumers in small cities and those in metro markets are reducing.”
Taking on competition
No doubt Tira has a lot going for it.
Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, through its subsidiaries and affiliates, operates an omnichannel network of 17,225 stores and digital commerce platforms across categories including grocery, consumer electronics, fashion and lifestyle, etc.
Sinha points out that RR has a huge advantage in terms of its distribution reach and suggests it look at tapping the huge, pent-up demand in the smaller markets more than the metros, as consumers in these markets today have similar aspirations as metro consumers.
When it comes to categories like colour cosmetics or fragrances, consumers still will opt for offline retail than online, especially in smaller cities since they have limited retail outlets for product trials. That is what Reliance should be focussing on – creating a large offline footprint for its brand and if there is any company that can meet that need, it is the large corporates like Reliance, he adds.
Distribution apart, RR also needs to have a very clear positioning for the brand, notes Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight. “Differentiation is the key and for that, it has to be clear about what segment of the market it is targeting and its offering. RR formats and the online presence provides a certain possible viable size of distribution, but beyond that, it has to create its own distinctive position in the market.”
Of course, competition hasn’t been sitting tight. Online market leader Nykaa, for instance, has 141 stores and plans to add another 50 in 2023; Tata Group too has announced the launch of over 20 beauty tech stores in the country.
While it has opened multiple outlets, experts say, Nykaa is still primarily an online brand. And this marketing is getting increasingly cluttered.
The online BPC market is roughly around Rs 10,000 crore in India (which is $1.2 billion) and could double in the next 3-4 years, points out Karan Taurani, senior VP, Elara Capital. That means the category could grow to reach $2.5 billion in 3 to 4 years with a CAGR of 25%.
Also, the BPC market requires a differentiated approach compared to other categories, with a lot of influencer-led campaigns and other marketing efforts to build consumer recall. “Other companies have struggled to acquire the kind of success and growth that Nykaa has seen,” he says.
That said, we have all seen how Reliance’s Ajio has given Myntra a run for its money in the fashion category with heavy discounting; so it is quite possible RR will play spoilsport in the online BPC marketplace and give Nykaa tough competition in the medium to long-term.
Tira is leaving no stone unturned. Its online platform has shoppable videos, blogs, tutorials, trend-setting tips, personal recommendations, and a virtual try-on feature, while its brick-and-mortar store offers beauty tech tools such as virtual try-on, skin analyser, fragrance finder and gifting stations to personalise purchases, along with trained beauty advisors.
Even as Tira is looking to differentiate itself via technology or by offering personalised services, Nisha Sampath, managing partner, Bright Angles Consulting, believes the only way Tira can truly stand out will be through the experience it offers. The proof will lie in how seamlessly it guides the customer through the purchase experience, she sums up.
(Published in Financial Express)
Written By Akanksha Nagar
Urban Company aims to bring quality, innovation and affordability to the unorganised beauty services market
As the pandemic started hammering the business, a sizeable number of beauty professionals who worked at salons jumped onto the up and coming tech-enabled home services marketplaces.
The bulk of the Indian beauty services industry remains unorganised and fragmented, dominated by expensive salon brands or small players that offer dubious products, inconsistent service and unsolicited advice. With a push from the pandemic-led restrictions, there has been a sudden rise of a clutch of organised, on-demand players that offer professional beauty care services in situ. Urban Company, for one, has witnessed a big rise in service calls in recent months, driven by rising aspiration levels and disposable income, and the growing demand for standardised and safe in-home services. The segment contributes over 40% of the total revenue for the company already. As per published documents, the firm posted a 13.8% increase in revenue from operations to `239 crore in FY21 compared to `210 crore in FY20.
According to Expert Market Research report, the Indian beauty and personal care industry attained a value of `54,558 crore in 2020, and is set to grow at a CAGR of 11% in the 2022-27 period. Of this, the Indian salon market, which stood at `55,000 crore in FY20, is expected to touch a whopping `2 trillion in FY25, at a CAGR of 28%.
Numbers aside, the spread of the Covid pandemic forced the industry to switch to reverse gear as many salons shut down permanently or closed down unviable outlets just to stay afloat. Enrich Beauty which had salons in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, for instance, shut down five salons since 2020, bringing the total count down to 83.
As the pandemic started hammering the business, a sizeable number of beauty professionals who worked at salons jumped onto the up and coming tech-enabled home services marketplaces. Says Anand Ramanathan, partner, Deloitte India, “Service aggregator marketplaces have helped increase organisation and bring standardisation in delivery.” It was a win-win for both the customer and the brand. Brands could directly engage with the end consumers and the customer was assured quality—of both the products used and the services rendered.
Mukund Kulashekaran, chief business officer, Urban Company, says the fundamental shift in the beauty service market has been in terms of improved quality. As long as the market remained fragmented, there was zero investment in training or upgradation of services, or in product innovation. None of the small regional players really had the wherewithal to take that leap.
Focus on quality
Urban Company devoted a lot of time and attention to training the service providers while also pursuing innovations to raise the standard of the products on offer. While it uses a number of high-end brands, it has also begun to develop its own to make its services more accessible and compete on a larger scale. It operates three levels of salons: the luxury (average ticket size `2,500), the mid-mass premium (`1,200), and the classic, which is at the economy end of the spectrum (`750) and uses proprietary products for the classic and mid-mass premium segments.
Quality is assured by continuous testing and keeping a sharp eye on customer feedback. There is also significant investment in training and automation. It currently has an in-house team of over 200 full-time trainers across 50 cities. It is stepping up investments in technology to both improve product quality and to act promptly on feedback.
The firm had introduced in-home hair and nail services for women amid the pandemic, which, Kulashekaran says, has scaled quite well. Demand for men’s salon services, launched right before the pandemic, has increased from 20,000 transactions pre-pandemic to as high as 150,000 transactions per month. It launched a Skin Clinic for laser and advanced facials in seven cities and has signed on more than two million clients already.
In terms of geographical spread, while the top ten cities account for more than 80% of its revenue, non-metros are rising fast in terms of revenue share.
The company prioritises brand-related communication rather than performance-related. The focus is more on the video medium than the click-through media. So the focus area is TV, but YouTube in case of a targeted campaign.
In the next stage of expansion its communication strategy will be key. Jagdeep Kapoor, founder, chairman and MD, Samsika Marketing Consultants, says that while expanding beyond metros the brand has to be less urban in terms of perception and imagery and take into account the culture and taboos, and the differing definition of beauty.
Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, says to keep up the pace of growth the brand has to invest in its service providers, and not just its customers. This is a business model that will not be difficult to replicate. The trick will be to incentivise the beauty care technicians so that they are able to offer high-quality services to the customer and have little reason to join a rival brand. The thing to remember: Like most other service businesses, beauticians too can bypass the company and establish direct relationships with customers — a phenomenon that has plagued the ride hailing and ride share services in India.
BOX: Staying on track (Insights from Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight)
Three factors that will determine success
• The customer sees the aggregation platform as the “provider” of service, rather than a listing agency. So the company needs to totally own the customer experience, end-to-end.
• Ensuring quality of service consistently is the biggest enabler for growth.
• Over time, UC has moved to this “ownership” of the experience, which does mean additional investment, but also pays off in the end.
Three factors that might undo the good work:
• If it doesn’t keep working on customer experience ownership, it could slip
• Margins/commissions need to be reasonable, otherwise, service professionals may abandon the platform
• Given the high customer acquisition costs, it has to drive repeats rather than one-time or low-frequency purchases.