Remember how as kids, one hated the sight of the barber at home or in salons and would submit to his scissors only under the stern supervision of father, all the while shedding copious tears of innocent anger and helplessness. That's from an age and time when parents called the shots. Nowadays, however, kids decide and demand fashionable hairstyles and other grooming services in order to look their best.
As modern parents, Preeti Harkare and Marya Lanewala, saw an opportunity in the kids grooming market, when they found themselves and their friends struggling to get something as basic as a hassle-free haircut for their kids.
“Parents were either taking their children to their own adult salons or the local neighbourhood salons, which are not always adept at handling fussy little clients and stressed parents,” says Preeti.
Thirty four-year-old Preeti and 37-year-old Marya, before becoming business partners, were colleagues at a PR firm, Adfactors PR. The two spent over 12 years in the domain of corporate communications and public relations. What brought them together was the similar outlook and strong determination they shared with regard to providing a high-quality salon service for kids.
While Preeti comes from an economics background, Marya studied sales and marketing from NMIMS. They pursued their post-graduation from St. Xaviers Institute of Communications (XIC).
A deep-dive market research, which took through several parents in Mumbai and other cities, confirmed the existence of a gap in providing good quality salon services for children of all age groups. The parents said they would take their kids to a child-friendly salon, if there was one in their vicinity.
From market research to an executable plan, it took them one year to come up with the idea for Starfish Kids Salon in March 2014.
“Our idea was not to start a one-off salon in any specific locality, but to create a multi-outlet chain. The branding, look, experience, processes, and scale of the salon is something that we have kept in mind from the expansion point of view. Our focus is mainly on three areas–safety, hygiene, and cheerfulness–resulting in overall high quality of service,” says Preeti.
The first and foremost element to building a kid-friendly salon was to craft the store design and service offerings in a way that would be appealing to kids. Starfish Kids Salon was created keeping this philosophy in mind. From the brand name to the concept and design, every minute detail of Starfish Kids Salon, according to Preeti, was worked out by taking into account the first-hand views of children in the age group of two to 14 years.
The duo bootstrapped the salon with a seed capital of Rs 20 lakh to start their first outlet.
Since the concept of a kids salon was relatively new, hiring skilled staff, introducing them to the idea, and training them to handle children was a considerable challenge initially. These challenges led them to develop an effective training and induction programme for the staff. Moreover, the founders, with zero experience in the beauty and salon space, went ahead and hired a good consultant to undertake training in hair dressing and basic spa services.
Starfish Kids Salon caters to a wide range of children, right from infants to teens, with various products and services. For example, they also provide mundans, hand and feet clean-ups with non-toxic products, chemical-free lice treatments, and nail art on natural nails. The average price of a haircut is Rs 450, while the specialised services cost an average of Rs 2,000. Currently, they have two stores in Bandra and Powai.
Preeti says the daily footfall at a Starfish Kids Salon is between 20 and 25 children. The total number of employees across the two stores, meanwhile, is 11.
The size of India's beauty, cosmetic and grooming market will reach $20 billion by 2025, up considerably from the current $6.5 billion, on the back of a rise in disposable incomes of the middle class and rising aspirations of people to live a good life and look good, according to Assocham.
The desire to look good and the increasing awareness of fashion trends has gradually changed the consumption pattern of cosmetics among teenagers. Over 68 percent of young adults feel that using grooming products boosts their confidence, the report states.
Apart from Starfish, there are salons like Flick Kids and Kiddyzappy in Mumbai and Diva & Dudes in Bengaluru that aim to take advantage of this change in consumer behaviour.
In the next two to three years, Starfish Kids Salon is looking to expand in Mumbai and other nearby cities.
“In three years, we have been on a growth trajectory, and have seen healthy revenues. We have a healthy year-on-year growth rate of more than 30 percent, and our first store has been profitable from the first year itself. Compared to an adult salon with double the size and operating expense, our one store achieves 70 percent revenue on an average,” said Preeti.
Website: Starfish Kids Salon