The salon industry is coming of age in India. With a decade of experience under her belt as an entrepreneur, we spoke to Vaijayanti Bhalchandra to know what keeps YLG thriving in a competitive environment under her leadership.
1. What is the most valuable advice you got as a woman entrepreneur?
“Focus on serving, not selling. In this profit-oriented world, genuinely serving your customer is what makes all the difference.”
These words hit me hard as soon as I heard them, and I’ve imbibed them as core business values for our brand, ever since.
2. How challenging was it starting off in a competitive environment?
ANS: A smooth sea never makes a skilled sailor. In order to have some gravitas to the businessperson you become, a fair share of hardships are necessary. Every emerging business faces trials and for us it was quite a challenge to enter the beauty market in 2008, which had well established players in each segment and at the same time the Indian and global economy was staring at a huge slowdown. In that moment, the game became all about us creating an offering which would focus only on giving customers a completely unique experience. To this day we attribute a large part of the DNA of YLG is a creation of starting in tough (economic) times.
3. How important is it having the right team to be successful?
ANS: Someone has rightly stated, “if you want to walk fast, walk alone but if you want to walk far, walk with people” It’s extremely essential to have the right team to be successful. A team that has the brand’s vision instilled in their minds and believes in it as much as you. From then on, it’s working as one unit towards achieving that goal and that’s how winning is done.
4. Your ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ moment?
ANS: Having an engineering background (M.Tech Hons from IIT Bombay) did not suffice in our skill based business. Having faced a huge issue in scaling the manpower and maintaining quality of service, re-skilling oneself at the age of 38 and train to become a Hairstylist and Aesthetician with international qualifications has made me far stronger
5. How do you measure success? What is your success mantra?
ANS: It’s simple, you measure success by the numbers of lives you touch and impact. My success mantra is, “Discover your passion, go after it like a fanatic and use it to create value in society”.
6. Any specific advantages and disadvantages of being a woman entrepreneur/professional?
ANS: I would neither call it an advantage, nor a disadvantage, but would call ‘being a woman entrepreneur/professional’ an opportunity to prove to the world that when you step into the field, your gender does not and should not matter. You just do your job and do it well, you have got to prove your mantle to no one but yourself.
7. Can you give us insight into your business?
ANS: YLG is a salon chain established in 2009. We provide a vast range of beauty services and products and aim at redefining the salon culture in India. Having over 62 salons across Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad with over 5,00,000 loyal customers, YLG provides exclusive services such as Bright wax, Body Spa, Light Therapy Facials et al.
“We have been rated as one of the five hottest start-ups by Forbes and have also received the Indian Salon and Wellness Award for three consecutive years. As a brand, we continue to strive forward with a passion for excellence, maintaining openness and transparency with our customers and aim to follow our motto of ‘We do Great’ and continue re-engineering the salon industry in India.”
8. What are the most common mistakes novices make and your advice to avoid them
(i) Turning a blind eye at employees: When hiring employees, a detailed background check should be carried out. The staff, white and blue collar alike, should be evaluated on a regular basis with a keen focus on their growth being a paramount concern of the employers. Making your employees as important as your dream is something that’s missing from many businesses, resulting in their failure.
(ii) Not valuing feedback: It’s natural to be in one’s own bubble, when venturing into a business. The idea of following your own perfect way to run a business and using the strategies and techniques that you had thought about can be quite tempting, but what’s more important to any business is to never underestimate the value of customer feedback and acting upon that. It’s simple, if your customer doesn’t feel valued, you can’t survive.
(iii) Not Innovating: A report by IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics found that 90 percent Indian start-ups fail within the first five years, lack of innovation being the main reason. As entrepreneurs, you should always be aware of the shifting trends, upgrading technologies, and changing needs of the customers. Understand that and adapt accordingly, else you’ll be left behind.
9. Which female role model inspires you the most and why do you look up to her?
ANS: To many people’s surprise, my female role model is not a corporate tycoon, or someone from the business fraternity, rather she is someone from the entertainment industry, Oprah Winfrey. She’s someone who has taught me and millions of other women out there to be their own person, to own who they are and never let any ordeal or person stop them achieving their dreams, all the while creating a difference in others’ lives.
10. What are the three most important lessons that you have learned in your journey
(i) Be Yourself! Your business is an extension of you.
(ii) Get back up! Make your rock bottom your trampoline.
(iii) And most importantly, dare to dream! It’s where your journey truly begins