On Demand Beauty Services: The big ticket ecommerce opportunity

“Beauty is only skin deep.” — 16th century English proverb.

“Beauty is a Rs. 264.13 billion industry.” — Indian Market Research

How far we’ve come! Wouldn’t you say? From the doe eyed innocence that saw beauty at the level of the soul, and wrote poems about it, to the big bucks that the cosmetics, skincare and beauty products industry of today. No longer is beauty simply a matter of poets to debate, today it is a serious business. Now add technology, e-commerce and beauty services to the mix and we have the makings of the next great business opportunity!

Until recently, beauty products have been the sole thrust of the industry’s presence in the e-retail sector. E-commerce portals like Nykaa, Purplle, Cilory, Healthkart and others have all prospered by retailing high end cosmetics, beauty salves and unguents at reasonable costs to consumers, who’ve taken to this form of retail like the proverbial ducks to the water. While industry analysts are typically tight lipped about the numbers, it is rumoured that the online beauty market in India is worth anywhere between Rs. 375 and 590 crores. Granted that it is still in its nascency, but the future is bright, with valuations soaring and funding being pumped into online beauty start ups.

In the hullabaloo about the cosmetics part of the market however, the beauty services bit however has remained in the background. Large beauty startups like Purplle have always had a salon finder, but until recently, bookings were not a feature of their service portfolios. With the market on beauty products however filling fast, the online beauty shops are now looking towards monetisation of beauty services, booked online, as their next major source of revenue.

Srishti Chandra has worked in this space almost since its inception and has an intimate knowledge of what makes the online beauty market tick. She says, “the products game in beauty will always be the numerous uno money driver, but with a vastly untapped market in the beauty services market, it was only a matter of time before the major dotcoms in the space sought to cash in on the pie as well. With women and men getting more and more

conscious about the way they look, facing a hectic schedule and wanting more or less quick turnaround times, and with a vast network of salons (other than the Lemon’s, Kapil’s, Bblunts of the world) largely untapped this is a business opportunity that couldn’t be missed!”

The Hidden Cash Cow

“The on-demand beauty services market in India is valued at close to $4.8 billion.” — Indian Market Research

Take a moment, let it sink in. Now imagine you are in a rush to attend that party that you’ve had on your calendar all week. Obviously Murphy’s law takes precedence and your neighbourhood salon is packed to the rafters. And you can forget about the Juice’s, the Bblunt’s and Aalim Hakim’s, because they won’t entertain you without an appointment, which has slipped your mind completely! Thankfully now there is a technological solution to this predicament. Apps like VanityCube, StayGlad and MyGlamm are hoping to cater to you, with quality beauty treatments in a hurry.

In an interview with yourstory.com, VanityCube founder Renu Bisht, sums up the startup’s philosophy as being the beauty services equivalent of mega taxi services provider Uber. She says that she envisions beauty services provided in a crunch, at the customers’ doorstep to be the next big thing. Currently operational in the Delhi-NCR region, the beauty services startup, aims at aggressive expansion in the very near future.

Quite like VanityCube, Bangalore based MyGlamm is also targeting young, savvy and time-crunched professionals with doorstep beauty treatments. The startup is hedging its bet on the fact that a weekly beauty regimen for women and men, is more than just a lifestyle thing, it is a necessity; and with people always on the clock, and unable to take dedicated care of themselves, their product offering is just what the beautician ordered.

Aligning With The Winning Side

While providing on-demand beauty services isn’t a new concept, after all didn’t your mum’s neighbourhood beauty parlour always go out of their way to accommodate her, especially since she was always pressed for time. Beauty salon owners and operators are all for extending this service to their loyal customers. Leila Daswani, owner and operator of Gloss, a beauty salon in the Northern suburbs of Mumbai says, “the immediate catchment area always brings me terrific business, but the opportunity to provide on demand beauty services is a real opportunity for me to spread my salon’s reach across a wider area. I have clients who come all the way from Andheri and Borivali. There have been times I have provided these services to these clients at their doorstep on request. But with the absence of a booking system providing these on a regular basis is a challenge. Having heard of apps like MyGlamm, I’m more optimistic about getting on board with this new trend.”

From the salon business perspective, on-demand beauty services is an excellent addition to their services catalogue. Most salon’s (barring the chain salons) are small to medium operators with a nil-to-minimal budget for marketing. Aligning themselves with on-demand beauty service apps like VanityCube, MyGlamm and others seems to make a lot of sense to them. Like Daswani, many owner-operators of salons seem to be more receptive to the idea of on-demand beauty services.

Bullish On Beauty

Another reason why investors too, are quite optimistic about the sector. Little wonder then that Purplle and Nykaa this year raised $5 million and $3.4 million in funding. Mobile spa, salon and beauty services booking platform Ziffi too raised close to $2 million in funding last year. If you needed more validation that this is indeed the space to be in, how about superstar cricketer Yuvraj Singh’s startup incubator funding mobile salon booking app Vyomo, for an undisclosed amount! Hyperlocal startup LocalOye is reportedly looking at offering beauty services as a part of its services in Bangalore soon, food and restaurant directory app Crown-It recently announced beauty services as a new offering. The Home Salon too recently picked up a sizeable investment to help market its services better. No better time than the present apparently, to get on the beauty bandwagon. There are no two ways about that!

Pandering To Human Comfort

Psychologist Krutika Handa gives another pertinent reason for the imminent success of on demand beauty services, she says, “human beings are creatures of comfort, and given the stresses and strains of modern life, and a time crunch, most of us find it extremely difficult to get out of bed on the weekends, the very same reason of the paradigm shift from offline to online shopping therefore applies to the on-demand beauty services sector as well.”

The very essence of on demand beauty service apps is convenience. According to Renu Bisht’s partner in crime at VanityCube, Pragya, VC’s USP is providing home based on-demand beauty services in 60 minutes of booking a service. In the past 3 months they’ve serviced over 1500 customers in NCR, with a staggering 70% repeat business ratio and new customer acquisitions on the upswing.

The beauty of this beauty services space is the fact that a woman, on an average spends anywhere between Rs. 2000 to Rs. 4500 on basic beauty treatments. Imagine then the scope of add-ons and upsells! As with stylists in salons, simply using the power of suggestion, and rapport, an upsell made in the comfort of a customer’s home can yield in serious profits!

The $4.8 billion pie is up for the taking and the winner will ultimately be the one that truly pampers the consumer with services that please the senses and protect the pocket. The end result though is going to be a happier, more satisfied customer. And that is always a proposition you can take to the bank!

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