‘Strands’ Apart- Brain Behind Brand

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THE SALON CHAIN HAS 60 SALONS ACROSS 15 STATES IN THE COUNTRY. IT IS GROWING RAPIDLY AND AIMS TO HAVE 500 SALONS BY 2018. ISHPREET TALKS TO NAUNIHAL SINGH, CEO, STRANDS, ON HIS JOURNEY AS AN ENTREPRENEUR
The salon industry has seen a magnificent growth in the recent years. As people are becoming more and more conscious about their looks, the industry is at its peak. Naunihal Singh describes how Strands has become the third largest salon chain in India. For Naunihal Singh, sky is the limit. He firmly believes in the philosophy that when we want something, the entire universe conspires to make it happen. This has always been his motivating force. He started his career as a medical representative in 1994, but soon realised that this was not what he wanted to do. The period from 1994-99 saw a phenomenal growth in the salon industry, therefore he worked with major brands like Lakme and Hindustan Unilever. But with his passion to do something big and having an experience of working with L’Oreal as a distributor gave him the feel of salon industry, and then he thought of starting his own brand and launched Strands in 2005.

Journey
Launched in October 2005, the first flagship outlet was opened in Sector 35, Chandigarh. Taking challenges in its stride, Strands has seen immense success over the years. As of now, the salon chain has 60 salons spread across 15 states in India. The salon is growing rapidly and aims to have 500 salons by 2018. During the years, Strands took over seven salon brands like Sylvie in Mohali and Chandigarh, Bubble Lounge in Delhi, Scissorman (which was owned by famous Punjabi singer Alfaaz) in Chandigarh, to name just a few. Naunihal Singh has made sure that the salon consistently provides exceptional quality of services with the help of a highly qualified operational team.

Changes over the years
For the first seven years, Strands had a tie up with Matrix as their hair partner. Later to offer something different to the customers, Strands replaced Matrix with Wella Professionals in 2013. In January 2015, Strands introduced SP NIOXIN Hair Boutique to India. NIOXIN is the number one brand in the world in providing premium hair care services that guarantee to make hair thicker. Presently, India has 20 Nioxin boutiques out of which 10 are with Strands. Strands has always strived to provide something new to its customers. They have recently launched Sebastian, a premium styling and care brand for the elite class. Earlier the brand catered to only hair services but now it is further diversifying into beauty and makeup and also nails. Also, Strands is the only salon brand in India that offers ‘mud makeup’, which Naunihal has directly procured from the USA.

“I regularly travel abroad to stay updated with the latest trends in the salon industry. Soon Strands will be launching ‘brow oil’, as we get a lot of customers who wish to have thicker eyebrows and this oil will help them to get their dream eyebrows. Also, we have started selling a makeup range by Bodygraphy, which is one of the leading international brands,” he smiles.

Challenges
The biggest challenge faced by Naunihal Singh was to have a skilled and dedicated team. For any business, human resource is the most challenging aspect. Therefore, to hire and retain the skilled personnel was a huge challenge as majority of people who learn skill here in India, prefer to take up jobs abroad. With time Strands has built a strong HR department and good managerial staff that have helped the brand to grow successfully over the years.
Finance was also a challenge but was soon overcome with the support from family and banks. Another challenge was replacing their hair brand to Wella Professionals.

Relationship with the customers/customers connect
Strands has been fortunate enough to establish goodwill for itself in the industry as well as with the customers.

“I personally take note of all the customer complaints and feedbacks. I believe customers are the real brand ambassadors for any brand. They are like your family. Therefore, it is essential to have a positive connect with the customers. Happy customers are an asset and Strands shares a wonderful connect with its customers,” shares Naunihal Singh.

Coping up with salon industry dynamics
“I believe that the strategies that we have adopted throughout have led other people in this industry to change. Luck has always favoured us and the market has changed the way we had always wished for. Also, I would admit that coming this far would have not been possible without the support of my family and a qualified team. Because of them adopting a change was never a difficult task”, says Naunihal.

Strands is known for?
Strands is known for providing world class
services to customers at pocket friendly prices.

“I can define Strands as a value for money in a very classy ambience. The management team is continuously engaged in encompassing strategies. When it comes to salon industry, cleanliness and hygiene should always be given priority and thus we ensure cleanliness in all the salons”, he shares.

Marketing techniques
Naunihal Singh claims that word of mouth has been most favourable for the brand. One happy customer brings 10 more customers and that’s how the brand has grown over the years. Also online deals have worked wonders. They are also coming up with loyalty programmes for the regular customers.

Future plans
Strands is all set to spread its wings to embrace a lot more than just hair care services. They are ready to launch Salus Ara Spa in Chandigarh, a spa with an authentic Asian therapist where an array of dermatological services will be provided. The brand is also introducing laser techniques by experienced doctors.

As inner beauty is equally important to outer beauty, Strands is coming up with a yoga studio which has been named as ‘Yoga Gyan’.Their mission is to become the best choice for clients and investors in this industry.

Message for new entrants
Entering the salon industry seems easy, but if an investor has no passion to be hospitable and serviceable, he cannot survive. To be a successful entrepreneur, one must realise the need to build a strong connect with the staff and clients. At times, it is hard to deal with beauty experts and artists who tend to think the salon is running only because of them.

“For the beauty and makeup experts, I can say work and ego can never go hand in hand. Learn to share your knowledge!”

Franchise model
“We have the best franchise model in the entire salon industry. I can proudly say that hundreds of people have copied our franchise model in various different categories”, he says with pride.

Strands follows two franchise model, FOCO (Franchisee-Owned Company-Operated) and FOFO (Franchisee-Owned Franchisee Operated).The model that has proved successful for the brand is the FOCO model, where the franchisee owns the brand’s store but it is managed by Strands itself and no franchise fee is charged. Strands becomes 25 per cent partner in the business and guarantees that the franchisee will not incur any losses.
In the FOFO model, we charge a franchise fee from the franchisee. In our franchise models, we offer all the know-how to make the salon, how to prepare a team, marketing techniques etc.

We also take over sick units and help to re-establish them.

Strands academy
To impart skilful training and professional knowledge in the field of Hair, Make-up, Nail & Spa to the beginners as well as experts, Strands has launched Strands Academies in Chandigarh, Delhi and Raipur. The courses range from 3 months to 1 year and people who pursue the three months course with Strands are ensured a job with a good salary package.

“In the coming years the government will be making it mandatory to have a license to be a beauty therapist, therefore with our academy we seek to deliver skill and competence required to gain the license. We are looking forward to open 20 such academies across India.”

For the upliftment of the society, they also provide free education to poor, needy and mentally challenged children. In an attempt to make poor girls self-sufficient, various training programmes are undertaken by the academy.

Awards and recognition
With the remarkable contribution in the salon industry, Strands has a number of awards in its kitty. To name a few, Young Achievers Award with Times of India, Best Franchiser of the Year by Franchise India, Best Customer Service Award, the Best Integrated Salon & Spa Chain Award of North India, Top 100 brands in Asia.

“The joyful moment of my life was when I was awarded as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs of Asia. I further aim to get awarded as one of the top entrepreneurs by Forbes,” he smiles.

Strands has been registered with majority of government funded schemes. Naunihal Singh has been an active member of BWSSC (Beauty & Wellness Sector Skill Council) in which they appoint 25 persons from allover the country to advise the government on the important matters of salon industry related Education Policy.

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