Issue / From Beauty To Wellness With Vandana Luthra

From Beauty To Wellness With Vandana Luthra

Feb 03, 2015

We speak with the Padmashree awardee who helms VLCC, India’s leading beauty and holistic wellness brand.

Vandana Luthra owes the inspiration behind her 25-year-old holistic health care company to her trips to Europe with her father as a young girl. “I was exposed to a whole new world that helped me widen my horizons,” she says. A fundamental lesson she learned was that beauty is not just cosmetic. “One has to feel good from within to look good on the outside. It’s about being healthy, not skinny,” she says. The Indian beauty and fitness market was not geared toward holistic wellness three decades back and New Delhi-based Luthra decided to fill that gap.

After graduating from New Delhi, Luthra set off to London, Munich and Paris for specialized courses in beauty, fitness and nutrition. She returned brimming with confidence and with multiple ideas.

A Humble Beginning

In 1989, Luthra opened India’s first “Transformation Center” in New Delhi, offering scientific weight management programs and cutting-edge skin and hair treatments. But initially, her customers went to her only for slimming programs. “People came to us primarily with the intention of losing weight,” she says. It was only much later that people began to realize the importance of a complete transformation of the body through a change of lifestyle. “Now the thought process has changed and people understand that wellness is a necessity rather than a luxury,” she adds.

An Established Brand

Today, the 55-year-old Padmashree awardee (the fourth highest civilian award in India) is an authority in the business of wellness in India and runs Vandana Luthra Curls and Curves which provides a complete gamut of services including beauty and holistic wellness, the VLCC Institute of Beauty and Nutrition and its own line of hair care and body care products under the VLCC Natural Sciences banner. Three hundred VLCC centers can be found in 121 cities across 16 countries. A zealous team of experts including doctors, nutritionists, cosmetologists, physiotherapists and beauty professionals are responsible for the success of VLCC.

A Women-centric Business

VLCC is run with the help of 6000 employees, 70 per cent of which are women. But when Luthra started out, there weren’t too many women entrepreneurs in India. “It was particularly rare to find a first generation woman entrepreneur from a middle class background trying to make a mark in an unexplored sector,” she says. However, Luthra is a pathbreaker. She is the first person in her family to take up entrepreneurship and being a woman, things didn’t come easy. Her daughters were six and three years old when her first center opened in 1989. Playing the role of a good wife, mother, daughter-in-law and an entrepreneur required a lot of grit, which Luthra had plenty of. “I kept working hard because I knew I had to do well for the sake of my team,” she says.

The Challenges

Getting funds was a challenge for Luthra when she started out. Not many people trusted women entrepreneurs to do well or even take their business seriously.

Today, however, the challenges are entirely different. “Our clients are well-travelled and far more discerning and are willing to spend more on quality treatments.” The Indian customers are very aware of new trends and technologies in the beauty, health and wellness sector and expect nothing but the best. “In a highly fragmented, yet high-growth and competitive industry like wellness, we have to stay constantly alert to changing trends both in terms of technology and also customer expectations, in order to maintain our status as pioneers and leaders in the domain,” she says.

The Key to Success

Luthra believes that quality and research and development have taken her brand a long way in earning a name for itself. “One per cent of our revenue goes into research.” VLCC has an in-house research and development team which keeps itself abreast of the latest products and technologies available. “Moreover, our acquisitions in Singapore and Malaysia have also helped us gain access to a larger pool of both experts and technologies globally,” she adds.

Her long stint with entrepreneurship has taught her an important lesson. “Leadership is less about an individual’s needs and more about the needs of the people and the organization,” she says. “As a leader and founder of VLCC, I try and inspire people and then lead them on effectively to meet their dreams and defined goals,” she adds.

Despite being the founder of the business, Luthra is not involved in the day-to-day decisions of the company. “I only focus on the people, she says. “As a leader, I define my organization’s vision and culture and then provide my team the space and power to make decisions.”

That explains why VLCC employess are so passionate and loyal.

EXTRA: Download ANOKHI Magazine to get her exclusive tips for South Asian women entrepreneurs! 



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