When she did her cousin’s wedding makeup at age 14, little did she realise that it would lead her down a path that would see her successfully start her own spa and become the Global Wellness Ambassador for India. Today, Rekha Chaudhari is Managing Director of JCKRC Spa Destination, Mumbai, here is her inspiring story.
How did your journey begin?
What kind of research goes into starting a spa?
Who are the biggest contributors in the beauty and wellness industry?
How long have you been in the industry? How has It changed in that time?
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
What are some of the skills necessary for this field?
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
What are some recent advances made in the spa industry?
Did you undertake any training before you started?
What is your advice to people who want a career in this field?
What is the vision you cherish for your organisation?
Tell us a little about your patented Rope Therapy Treatment.
What are the most common issues in the industry?
Are there any products that you have rolled out or client services you have introduced?
Where do you source your trained staff from?
How do you update your staff’s skills and counter competition?
How did your journey begin?I come from a tribal area in the Northwestern part of Maharashtra called Nandurbar. Exposure was limited in our village, and girls did not have much encouragement to venture out on their own. I once did my cousin’s wedding makeup when I was 14 and it turned out exceptionally well. It was the beginning of the journey for me.
I came to Mumbai to pursue a life in the beauty industry. Getting an initial break was a huge challenge. Mumbai was a new city, and I didn’t know anyone here. It was a major shift for me, from my rural lifestyle to the urban one. Those days were tough! I found it difficult to enter and understand the workings of the beauty industry. Around 2004, I came across Rémy Laure,
a French skincare line and international brand.
I was chosen to represent the brand here in India, and this was a turning point in my life. There has been no looking back since. I worked hard and tried to apply all my skills and ideas while working with the brand, to make sure it got a good name in the market and to establish it in the market using my own concepts. The road to recognition, however, was not smooth.
When I transitioned into the spa and wellness industry, I soon realised that it had existed throughout the ages in India. You read about many treatments in Indian mythology for various ailments. The idea was not new, but we had never really thought about it before. As a child, my father used to ask me to walk on his back when he felt tired or had a back ache, which was the foundation of my award-winning patented Rope Therapy treatment. My father was also responsible of starting a vyayamshala (exercise school) for girls. It was a challenging step to have taken in those times.
I was the first student in the school, and under my father’s guidance, I transformed into a fitter and athletic person. I get tremendous satisfaction in the fact that it helped me start my journey and made me the person I am today.
What kind of research goes into starting a spa?Our research before starting the spa was based on the 3C model, where the consumer, the competitor and the communication are all important. Firstly, it is important to understand the basic expectations of consumers and the new trends that are coming
up in the market. Secondly, the spa industry is highly competitive, and it is imperative to understand who your competitors are. This might not necessarily be another spa on your street. It could be whatever competes for the customer’s attention and time. Lastly, we spend a lot of time researching communication that works. We believe that even with great service, the customer needs to understand the value of the service we are offering and appreciate how unique it is. This allows us to build a platform that can be successful over time. We offer the same benefits to our franchises also, with whom we work closely to build successful spa businesses.
Who are the biggest contributors in the beauty and wellness industry?The beauty and wellness industry has matured in India in the past two years. Despite the industry having a good growth ratio, industry players still struggle to drive profitability for their organisations. In the wellness industry, the biggest contributors are product providers, service providers and talented manpower.
The wellness industry continues to face a talent crunch. This shortage of skilled talent has resulted in high manpower costs and attrition levels. Organisations that provide credible and accessible training infrastructure and add to skilled manpower aid the growth of the industry.
Traditionally, product providers have had higher margins than services. So many wellness service providers are diversifying into products in order to improve business margins. They are adding premium products and services to increase profit margins.
Service providers also have to develop innovative strategies in order to manage cost pressure increase. The industry suffers from issues such as rising input, distribution, rental and manpower costs. Salons and spas are constantly examining options in order to cut operating expenses. This can be achieved when spas constantly examine their existing practices and re-align their
How long have you been in the industry? How has It changed in that time?I have been in the industry for more than 25 years. During this time, I have seen the spa industry go through huge changes in many aspects. Firstly, the industry has evolved from small boutique spas to large chain spas. Secondly, many destination spa brands are being built. Lastly, the industry is slowly undergoing standardisation because of the many international players entering the market and bringing their global know-how and best practices to our country.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?The issues we face are similar to what others in the industry generally face. One of the biggest challenges is sourcing skilled labour including massage therapists and beauticians. There are high attrition rates in the industry making it hard to deliver consistent quality on a day-to-day basis. The second is managerial talent. Good managerial talent is required to translate a good vision into operations. The managerial talent in the Indian spa industry is young, but I see the quality improving each day.
What are some of the skills necessary for this field?The strength to face challenges is the most important skill to enter into any field. When a person gets a platform to perform, he/she must have the skill to expand his own strength to become stronger. I believe that a person’s strength is the only required skill to enter into this competitive world.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?I love innovating and coming up with new ways to keep others happy. The satisfaction I see on client’s faces not only makes me enjoy and love my job, but it gives me a deep sense of achievement too.
What are some recent advances made in the spa industry?Technology plays a major role in the spa industry nowadays. At Caressaa Beauty Clinic, we have introduced many new and innovative technologies in beauty and body treatments. New-age software is being used to efficiently manage the back-office operations, to ensure cost control and drive profitability.
Did you undertake any training before you started?Yes, I did undergo training. I completed a basic beauty training course, and was running my own beauty parlour. Then in 2007, I realised I needed more training and underwent the CIDESCO training, a world standard certification in beauty and spa therapy that also teaches you about moor therapy.
What is your advice to people who want a career in this field?This industry is for people who are passionate about serving others and improving the wellness of others in the community they live in. My advice is to ensure you are passionate about the work, because it is such a demanding industry. Passion and energy will see you through the hard times. Secondly, each person who wants a career in this field needs to make it a priority to continuously invest time and energy into learning new things. Remaining flexible and adaptable to changing industry standards is a must. Just because you cannot speak English or because you are not from a metropolitan city does not mean you cannot be successful. You have to believe in yourself, and you can achieve your goals. I never stopped learning, and I believe in continuous education and never miss an opportunity to update my knowledge. Always work on developing your personality, and work on your self-confidence. Even if you are from a small town, do not alienate yourself. Things will work out the way you want them to if you have enough self-confidence. Always listen to your heart, be firm with your decisions and don’t step back. Absorb as much as information you can. It is hard work, but you gain knowledge and understanding.
What is the vision you cherish for your organisation?My dream is to go back to where I started! I want to educate and generate empowerment for rural youth in India by providing skill and education in the beauty and wellness sector. It is my dream to enable a future in our country for holistic wellness training and work towards the betterment and development of youth and women from villages.
Tell us a little about your patented Rope Therapy Treatment.In the olden days, when older people were tired, they used to make children walk over their sore muscles for relief. This would help the body drain out the congested fluid in the muscles. I studied the process and devised a therapy where the practitioner carefully walks and applies and releases pressure over the client’s body. The pressure applied by the practitioner is controlled and modulated using his/her body-weight and the support of ropes that hang from parallel bars. The Rope Massage helps improve blood circulation, aids congested fluid drainage, provides relief to fatigued muscles and relaxes body and mind.
What are the most common issues in the industry?The first issue concerns quality. There is a tendency to cut corners to reduce costs, which adversely affects the customer experience. There is a serious lack of standardisation of services. In other words, you could receive a totally different service quality with two different therapists from the same spa. This reduces trust and ability to retain customers. Secondly, on the operations side, finding qualified therapists and floor staff is a big issue for everyone.
Are there any products that you have rolled out or client services you have introduced?We’ve recently launched many technology-driven treatments. This includes Endermologie (a technology that offers slimming and skin-lifting options as a natural alternative to Botox), sauna capsules and luxury European anti-ageing treatments. In an effort to cater to time-constrained customers, we have also developed many express treatments that use European bio-technology to deliver quick results. We are excited about the express service from our brand partner B.LAB called Beauty Boost, based on BioNanoCellulose technology from Europe. This service delivers beauty regimens with visible results in just 20 minutes.
Secondly, we have launched slimming services using Endermologie technology from France, a non-invasive and relaxing way to remove inches from your waist, thighs and other problem areas on your body. We are also piloting new hair services for damaged hair using a new generation of bio-mimetic treatments to reverse damage from excessive colouring.
Where do you source your trained staff from?We have our own academy, where we train staff in international standards. We are extremely lucky that we are able to collaborate with many European brands to bring their know-how and best practices to our spa. We also actively work with government bodies and drive industry initiatives to create standardisation and mobilisation of trained staff.
How do you update your staff’s skills and counter competition?We have developed strategies to transfer new innovations from our European partners and localise it to Indian requirements. Having adopted a philosophy of continuous learning, we are able to achieve a sustained leadership position in the industry.
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