Beauty and Wellness Industry Amid The Pandemic
‘Survival and Revival of the Beauty & Wellness Industry amid the Pandemic‘ was a roundtable hosted by Dutch Uncles on the as part of our ‘Rise Again’ series. The series was moderated by Sapna Bhardwaj, Editor-in-Chief, Dutch Uncles. Our esteemed panellists included: C. K. Kumaravel, Founder & CEO, Naturals Salon & Spa; Monica Bahl, CEO, Beauty and Wellness Sector Skill Council; Nikhil Kakkar, COO, Gold’s Gym India and Rajendra Dabade, CEO Studio11 Salon & Spa.
I remember back in December when people being killed by a strange virus in Wuhan, China made headlines repeatedly. Just like most of the world, I did not pay much heed to it. If only we all knew what lay ahead in the coming months. If there is something the entire world will remember from the year 2020, it is the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. It was the first-time people all around the world witnessed a pandemic that bought their lives to a standstill.
During the beginning of the pandemic, there was an assumption that it will only last for a few weeks or months. Unfortunately, even right now after almost a year, the world is not what it used to be. The pandemic has had a lasting and scary effect on all our lives. It had drained the economy; many businesses had shut down during the lockdown months which further led to millions of people losing their jobs around the world.
Before the coronavirus, the beauty and wellness industry in India was expanding rapidly with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.40 percent. However, the industry suffered a severe blow during the Coronavirus pandemic. This is because the foundation of this industry lays in “the human touch.” It seemed too risky in the beginning to open up salons, spas and gyms where social distancing is near to impossible.
To pinpoint specific issues, during survival mode, places with high rentals, especially in metro cities, tier-1 cities I had to really go in the shell.
- Rajendra Dabade
Why did the beauty and wellness industry suffer such a severe blow?
According to the Founder & CEO of Naturals Salon & Spa, C. K. Kumaravel, the major reason why the industry suffered such a massive blow was unpreparedness. He added how an entrepreneur’s mindset can be a gamechanger for him/her during such unprecedented times. He stated, “When your mind is weak, the same situation will look like a problem, when your mind is normal, the same situation will look like a challenge when your mind is strong, the same situation will look like an opportunity.
Imagine you are going to a forest and suddenly one lion comes in front of you, you have a problem. Imagine you are going in a forest and the same lion comes in front of you. This time you have an AK-47 in your hand. Now, the lion has a problem. The lion which has come in front of us is the corona and we were all unprepared. After seeing that lion, whoever is going to win is going to be whoever is most prepared. Are we going to be equipped with new skills, new talents and new potentials? Are we going to go with the same thing?“
The Beauty and Wellness Industry witnessed accelerated growth over the past decade. However, an unexpected pandemic left everything at a standstill. Simply because people were not prepared for it and did not know how to react towards it. The industry by nature is a touch-and-feel industry. The social distancing norms during the pandemic were bound to hit an industry that works in such close proximity to its clients. When the lockdown was announced, salons and gyms were among the first to shut down completely.
The hygiene protocol became a major concern. Were you asked to keep a six-feet distance, how can you let someone else touch your face? The very nature of the industry is such that they have to work closely with clients and provide a service where the ‘human touch’ is non-optional. The nature of the industry and the social distancing norms that the coronavirus required us to follow were completely contrary, causing the industry to collapse.
Impact on the beauty, salon and spa industry
The CEO of Studio11 Salon & Spa, Rajendra Dabade spoke about his observation specifically regarding the salon and spa industry. “We saw a lot of observation during this time with high rental. So, to pinpoint specific issues, during survival mode, places with high rentals, especially in metro cities, tier-1 cities I had to really go in the shell. Even when they came out of it when the unlock-1 started and the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns were removed the same thing happened. The metro and tier-1 cities, majority of the salons which were in survival mode were struggling very badly.”
These big cities usually have a high rental cost and with the salons being completely shut down during the lockdown, huge losses were incurred. Rental being one of the biggest costs associated with the salon and spa business, its impact marked a hollow dent. With their businesses being at a complete standstill and real estate cost such as rent and other utilities still to be paid at the same time. Across the world, several salons and spa businesses could not bear the loss and had to shut down their businesses completely. Making no money but having a recurring cost to bear can dig a huge hole in any entrepreneurs’ pocket.
Impact on the gym and fitness industry
Gyms just like the salon industry were completely shut during the lockdown. The COO Gold’s Gym India, Mr Nikhil Kakkar shares how he saw an unexpected twist in the functioning of the gym industry. “The entire industry, the service industry specifically has gone through a tough time, a tough phase of the business. We are trying to revive and recover. The new normal is completely different. A lot of changes, a lot of cost-control methods have been applied to survive and sustain during the business. We are learning, we are also learning with time. We are adopting things l feel. New strategies, ‘figital’ is the new word that has been adopted I feel during the lockdown. So basically, there would be people who would be physically coming to the gym, there would be people who would like to use digital mediums to workout at their home. So, it is going to be a mix.”
Since gyms and other fitness institutions were completely shut down during the lockdown. There were huge losses incurred in the rental aspect of these businesses. However, some fitness institutions used the digital medium to reach their clients. Online workouts became one of the most popular things during lockdowns. It is continuing even after the unlock as people feel safer working out in the comfort of their home. Many fitness institutes also launched their apps to retain their clients and even make new virtual ones. Though the fitness industry suffered a huge blow during the pandemic, online classes and digital mediums proved to be their ray of hope.
The survival strategy of the beauty and wellness industry
The beauty and wellness industry did start picking up again after the lockdown was over. The unlock did witness some clients coming back. However, things are completely different from the way they used to be. As CEO, Beauty and Wellness Sector Skill Council, Monica Bahl rightly points out, “This is the time when an unlearning had to happen of the previous way the services were being done. A re-learning had to be done and an upskilling had to be done. We had the challenge of three things. First, to make them unlearn, which is the most difficult thing. As already mentioned, somebody who is used to doing a particular way, a particular thing would like to do it that way. So, unlearning is the first thing, re-learning the new skills and the hygiene protocols has been the most important thing. We make sure that our hygiene protocols have been approved by the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. We are at par with any hospital or a lab hygiene protocol. So that being followed at the salons and upskilling in terms of the knowledge and skills have happened through an online media which has helped.“
The way to survive in the beauty industry that works in such close proximities with their clients is definitely by following all the hygiene protocols. How a business manages to keep their clients safe is going to be a big game-changer here. The brand value of a business will be directly impacted by how their staff is catering to a client while maintaining safety. The staff of salons who wear a PPE kit, gloves, masks and constantly sanitise themselves will be chosen over those who do not. It has become a non-negotiable requirement for the clients who are visiting the salons and spas.
Unlearning is the first thing, re-learning the new skills and the hygiene protocols has been the most important thing.
- Monica Bahl
In the fitness industry, the gyms have started after the unlock. The number of people who come to the gym will be determined on how well a gym is adhering to the social-distancing and safety regulations. Having alternate treadmills to use, calling clients in batches to avoid overcrowding, conducting a routine check-up of the staff and sanitizing the place thoroughly will help in gaining the trust of your customers. The time is such that people want to feel safe wherever they are. Taking the above-mentioned measures will make them feel safe while working out in your gym or fitness institution.
Coronavirus – The time to enter or exit?
The coronavirus undoubtedly bought the entire beauty and wellness industry to a standstill. While many businesses could not bear the loss and had to shut down, there were others who were looking forward to venturing in the industry even more. This is mainly because the new entrepreneurs have nothing to lose. They have seen how the industry fell and can take the lessons without suffering any damage. They can also take advantage of low rentals, reducing one of the biggest recurring costs. Also, since the safety protocols for coronavirus are already known, the new businesses can train their employees accordingly from the start itself. Even entrepreneurs who are planning to venture in the fitness industry can have a pre-established structure that is following all the rules of social distancing.
Though the beauty and wellness industry crashed when the pandemic had begun. After the unlock, it is recovering slowly and steadily. As an entrepreneur, take lessons that you learnt during the coronavirus pandemic. Work on those loopholes that were existing for a while now but became more prominent during the pandemic. An entrepreneur’s journey is a roller coaster ride and any business is bound to have ups and downs. Take lessons from the past to build a stronger foundation for your company’s present and future.