Business of transformation
In the 30 years since she opened her first wellness centre – as opposed to a beauty salon – in India, the most significant change Vandana Luthra has witnessed is the number of men seeking professional help to look good. “When brides come for bridal make-up on their big day, the grooms come along. They want to be pampered too,” she says. Since the first centre she opened in New Delhi, India, in 1989, her wellness and preventive healthcare brand VLCC has expanded to over 400 centres in 186 cities across 14 countries.
On a visit to Muscat earlier this week to launch a new beauty treatment, she said 35 per cent of her business - including the two centres in Oman - currently caters to men. “Looking good was a luxury. Now it is a necessity; a way of life. And thanks to so much awareness, people adopt a preventive rather than a curative approach,” she said, adding that wellness is big business today, growing at 18-20 per cent annually. Operating in Oman for ten years, she revealed VLCC’s plans to open centres in Salalah and Sohar in 2019.
There’s no mistaking who Vandana Luthra is in the throng of VLCC staff, clients and well-wishers gathered for the launch of the new treatment. She glides into the expectant crowd greeting people one-to-one. According to a corporate legend, Vandana knows the names of her employees individually. It’s a reflection of her HR strategy that has helped her grow her business. “A successful homemaker can make a successful entrepreneur, because that’s where we get our initial training. The home is where we learn how to be patient. We learn how to care, and share, and manage our relationships. Every entrepreneur is the best HR head for her organisation,” said the grandmother of three.
A recipient of the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India, and named in the Forbes Asia 2016 list of 50 Power Businesswomen in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Vandana showcases her life story starting from a middle class home to inspire other women. “If I can do it, anyone can. You have to believe in yourself first, then you can get others to believe in you.”
More than business skills, she attributes the exponential growth of VLCC to its approach of the business. What she founded was a wellness and transformation centre, rather than a slimming centre, working closely with the medical fraternity. “We consider all the biomedical parameters and most importantly, the visceral fat - the fat around the vital organs that cause major problems – in our line of treatment. From the beginning, I didn’t take the glamour route, but a scientific approach,” said the trained nutritionist and cosmetologist.
In keeping with the holistic approach to well-being at VLCC, which generally begins with weight loss, the centres are staffed by medical doctors, dermatologists, nutritionists, cosmetologists and many other specialists within the gamut of beauty services, besides managers with management degrees in wellness.
The new treatment – Gold Micro Botox AA – that Vandana was in Muscat to launch is a combination of FDA-approved bone marrow stem cells, Botox and gold administered using a needle that is thinner than human hair. She described it as a revolution in dermatology, classified between facials and dermatological treatments. “The human hair is 0.18mm, while the needle we use is 0.13mm. So you won’t even feel the needle prick. This treatment is for people who are averse to the needle. It has immediate results, wiping away 3-4 years from your face within an hour after just one 30-40 minute session,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “Our business is like a barter. We give happiness and get happiness in return.”