Meet the SHEROES - Veena Kumaravel
Veena Kumaravel, stepped into a beauty industry, carving internal and external beauty to the lives of those ‘young at heart’ through ‘Naturals’ Chain of Salon and Spa. A commerce graduate, Veena, took to entrepreneurship and established Naturals in 2000.
Since then, Naturals has expanded its presence to various locations in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the South and in other parts of the country including the states of Uttar Pradesh ,Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. She is the first woman in South India, pioneering in Unisex Salon format with 375 outlets.
SHEORES in conversation with the lady about careers is beauty industry, starting-up and more-
Tell us more about yourself
I was born and brought up in Chennai, lived most of my life there. Graduated with Bachelor’s in Commerce and worked with my father before I got married. After I had kids, I felt the need to do something, a playschool or a boutique were on my mind but even in my wildest dreams I had not thought of doing what I am doing now.
What is the Naturals story? How did it happen?
After marriage the kids happened, I wanted to start working but didn’t want to do something in accounts. I thought of starting a playschool, since that gives a lot of flexibility. At that point in time a lot of playschools were coming.
It was in 2000, the idea of starting a salon came up because there were no good salons in Chennai. Then, the beauty salons were either around the neighborhood or in 5 star hotels. The former didn’t provide the best quality whereas the latter were too expensive and people weren’t comfortable going there. So we decided to come up with a standalone salon in a prime location of Chennai. The opportunity just came up and I took it up at the right time.
What were the challenges that you faced? How did you overcome those challenges?
The first issue that came up was finding skilled manpower. The beauty industry hadn’t evolved much in Chennai and nobody wanted this as a career. There were no training schools, and it became very hard to find good people. The employees took it as a temporary job and left within 2-3 months of joining. It has hard to get the right people.
Secondly, we didn’t know anything about getting the distributors in early stages. It took us sometime to figure that out.
At later stages it was finances. Even after 3-4 years banks weren’t willing to give us funds. They were ready to give us 3-4 lacs whereas we needed 20 lacs.
How did you start expanding to other cities?
Our initial 6-7 salons were in Chennai; we wanted to expand but realized it would be hard to run so many salons on our own. Since Naturals wasn’t a big brand then, franchisee wouldn’t have worked well. We decided to rope in friends and family and began partnering with them. My cousin in Coimbatore was our first partner. Since, we were doing well and financially stable by then , most of the friends and family were willing to partner.
How does the Naturals franchisee model work?
We help our franchisee with things like finding the right location in their city, manpower, equipment and finances. For the initial three months, we literally handhold the franchisee owners, assisting them at every step. We provide them with branding, help with interior design, trained professionals, pre-approved loans from Mahila bank and Indian Overseas Bank.
Why would you recommend this industry for women entrepreneurs?
The beauty industry has evolved greatly over the years. It is somewhat similar to the hospitality industry. Since women are naturally hospitable it is easier for them. You need to a people’s person and know your customer’s needs well.
What is one most valuable advice you will like to give to women who want to start-up?
Give yourself time, starting up isn’t just about investing money but giving your venture time as well. It took us nearly 20 years to be where we are today. Be patient and persistent, success does not happen overnight. Choose what you love doing and are good at. And never ever give up, that is the key.