It’s a well-established fact that a large number of women put their career ambitions on the backburner to take care of their families. According to the Britannia Marie Gold Indian Women Entrepreneurship survey report, 1 of 2 Indian women who were homemakers aspired to become financially independent when they were younger. But the biggest barrier for 69 percent was the lack of sufficient funds, 39 percent lacked the right guidance and around 36 percent women didn’t have the confidence to fuel their entrepreneurial spirit. Even those who worked weren’t financially independent, as they had to be constantly accountable to their families for their spend. Since most homemakers don’t come from a business background, they have no clue about what to do in terms of a business. The survey also showed that of the homemakers who aspired to start their own business or pursue a hobby to earn money, 28 percent wanted to start beauty parlors.
Over the years, Naturals has opened 700 plus salons in India, providing entrepreneurship opportunities 450 plus financially independent women, and over 10,000 smile providers. The idea for the salon came out when founder CK Kumaravel’s wife Veena wanted to start something on her own and take up a more meaningful pursuit after her children began attending school, leaving her with more time. "Irritation is the biggest source of energy. If you are irritated with something, look at it very carefully, there lies an opportunity," says Kumaravel.
During YourStory’s Women on a Mission summit, Kumaravel narrated a story of a franchise partner from Karur, who embodied the importance of financial independence. She was persistent about starting a salon in Karur, Tamil Nadu even though Kumaravel thought Karur wasn't ready for it. "She came from a financially well-off family, and I wondered why someone like her who had everything she needed in life, wanted to open a salon," he says. A year later, she called Kumaravel and thanked him, saying she made a profit of Rs 50,000 in a month. She added that even though she was rich, she always had to provide an account to her family on how each penny was spent. With her own salon, she could use the money for herself, and she was financially independent now.
Naturals Salon’s business model is helping hundreds of Indian women find a new career, enabling them to pursue their dreams and become financially independent. The company has 700 plus franchised outlets, of which more than 450 are run by women. Kumaravel says they have a marked preference for women partners as they are good at working within a framework. “Not only for Naturals, but for any franchise business, women are more suited because they work systematically, are not greedy, and are very detail-oriented,” he says.
Now they are looking for more women entrepreneurs to partner with. “By the end of 2020, we want to enable 1,000 women to be successful entrepreneurs, open 3,000 salons, and create 50,000 jobs,” says Veena Kumaravel.
Naturals is looking for women entrepreneurs across the following cities - Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot, Surat, Jaipur, Udaipur, Noida, Gurgaon, Lucknow – to lead their franchises. They can be women above 25 years of age, looking at career and entrepreneurship options post maternity break, independent women, homemakers, doctors, or even professionals. It takes an initial investment of around Rs 40-50 lakh, and you will start seeing ROI between 20 to 30 months.
According to Kumaravel, they are looking for women with the following qualities: absolute integrity, willingness to be owners/managers, ability to lead a team, good customer management skills, the ability to invest money and finally (and surprisingly) no knowledge of the beauty industry.
Uma, an MBA graduate worked with Satyam Computer Services for a few years, until she got married. She was always passionate about the beauty industry, and Naturals was the first brand that came to mind. She worked in Naturals Salon for a couple of months to gain experience, and moved on to start 3 franchises in a short span of time. "Naturals has given me an identity and enabled me to be a completely independent woman," she says. Another franchise owner from Trivandrum, Priya Harikumar, says that it was the best decision she's taken. "The brand provides a platform for women to grow. There's a sense of achievement as you provide employment opportunities." Mahalakshmi, who worked as a headmistress for eight years before leading a Naturals franchise, adds that it's given her a sense of responsibility.
These women are learning all about leadership, and how to treat customers. Ragini started her entrepreneurial journey in 2011 with one franchise and has now successfully expanded to eight branches in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. She says, “I'm proud to be associated with Naturals, which empowered me and many other women with employment opportunities. Preethi worked in Naturals as a makeup artist, and now owns a franchise. "I can say with the utmost confidence that no other brand could have changed my life this way," she says. Sowmya adds, "More than me trusting Naturals, Naturals placed immense trust on my capabilities and today I am a proud owner of 3 Naturals Salons." Another partner Lopa, who runs 7 salons in Orissa says, "In the last 7 years, I have grown with the Naturals family. The support and love I received from Kumaravel and Veena, I've passed on in my workplace. There's truly an everlasting beauty to this partnership.”
Also watch: CK Kumaravel, Co-founder, Naturals, in conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.
Apart from being associated with an established brand name and gaining immense business knowledge, women entrepreneurs will benefit since Naturals has the support of leading stakeholders in the beauty industry and has also tied up with State Bank for a collateral free loan of Rs 30 lakh. Moreover, this line of franchise business is highly suitable for a small entrepreneur and doesn't face the threat of established ecommerce giants taking over this space.
Naturals has a facility to train 350 people at a time. So, franchise partners can have skilled individuals working for them once they start managing their salon. "They only need to invest time and money, in this order, and I have no doubt they will succeed in this high-margin business," Kumaravel says, adding that if we let women turn their dreams into reality, we're letting them live life on their own terms, and in turn creating a beautiful India. "The best fashion statement you can make is standing on your own legs."