Dream is a divine power in itself. It fuels efforts and inspires to explore possibilities. A dream instigated with persistence and adaptability is capable of creating wonders. And a dreamer triggered with such blend of abilities can challenge stereotype perceptions and make their own mark by achieving something considered impossible. A woman establishing and leading a world’s renowned venture, in the society were women are considered inferior to men is one such impossible dream, according to stereotypes.
Vandana Luthra, Founder and CEO of VLCC Healthcare, is the cover feature of our exclusive edition. She challenged this perception by forming a company in 1989, and proved her mettle in the evolving industry like Beauty and Corporate Wellness by making it world’s leading platform.
In an interview with Insights Success she exhibits her journey of creating VLCC Healthcare. “VLCC was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, but a well-nurtured dream which took years of dedication, hard work and perseverance to bring it where it is today.” She derives.
Below is the highlight of the interview between Vandana and Insights Success.
What is your take on your journey as an entrepreneur?
I was privileged to be born into a family that encouraged me to study and pursued my dreams. From an early age, I wanted to be independent and start something on my own that would help the society at large. When I decided to start VLCC, I faced a lot of challenges from arranging finance to working my way up in a male-dominated environment and having medical doctors onboard. However, none of this could stop me from realizing my dream. Over the years, I have withstood the test of time, criticism, and competition to establish VLCC as the leading Indian beauty and wellness brand, whose operations today span 330 locations in across South Asia, South East Asia, the GCC Region and Africa.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience?
At VLCC, we constantly strive to offer the latest technology, services, and products to suit the modern customer. We focus on providing a scientific approach towards beauty, slimming and wellness services. We introduced a first-of-its-kind DNA Wellness Program where a new series of tests are performed to help the individual understand his/ her body tendency towards weight gain, lifestyle diseases, and also to understand the right changes to be made in diet, exercise and lifestyle to lead a healthy life. Moreover, considering the body sculpting and contouring market is expanding and people are now looking to seek their desired shape, VLCC is one of the first brands in India to introduce Coolsculpting ― the most futuristic fat freezing technology for body shaping using Cryplypolysis.
Adding more to our plethora of services, for detoxification and overall wellness, we have LipoDetox program which focuses on weight loss and cm loss. Apart from this, we also have several therapies and appliance-based programs like Curve Xpert and 3D treatments for accelerated weight loss and cellulite reduction.
In the beauty domain, we offer multiple services which include skincare with exotic natural ingredients like DiamondLite 60 and plant stem cells, marine-based skin care, and anti-pollution skin care. We also offer a range of scientifically advanced facials from Bellewave which is powered by Swiss Bio-Technology and combines nature and science in the most unique way, picking exotic ingredients to address multiple skin concerns in a single facial regime. Besides this, we have partnered with renowned French skincare brand Ericson Laboratoire, to introduce their premium range of facial treatments in India. The treatments are suitable for all skin types and successfully tackle the visible signs of ageing and various skin problems.
What are the most essential traits that every entrepreneur should imbibe according to changing times?
The most essential trait that every entrepreneur should imbibe is adaptability. If you are going to be an entrepreneur, the only thing that will be constant is change. You will have to adapt according to the changing dynamics of the industry and consumer preferences. A close second to adaptability is persistence. Inevitably, you will encounter bumps in the journey. To succeed, you will have to be willing to persist through difficult times. The third necessary trait that every entrepreneur should imbibe is the ability and the willingness to work hard. Running an organization is filled with challenges, but if you’re adaptable, have the willingness to persist, and are willing to work hard, you will greatly improve your odds of success.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that have shaped your journey?
My journey can be best described as a roller coaster ride which had its share of ups and downs. There have been lots of past experiences, achievements, and lessons that have shaped the journey. VLCC was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, but a well-nurtured dream which took years of dedication, hard work and perseverance to bring it where it is today. It has definitely not been an easy journey for me. From arranging for finance to convincing and having medical doctors onboard, I faced it all. Being a women entrepreneur in the eighties, and trying to scale up in a highly unorganized sector like beauty and wellness was one of the biggest challenges initially. It was the support of my family and the belief in my concept that gave me the strength to win against all odds and achieve my dream. The reason why I chose this path was because of my interest in transforming lives; something that also helped me keep going at every step of the journey.
Today the fact that I can contribute towards skill development and women empowerment through VLCC Institute and in my capacity as the chairperson of B&WSSC also gives me immense happiness.
What’s your strategy to contribute effectively in a hyper-competitive market?
The beauty and wellness industry is ever evolving, and hence it becomes important to keep me abreast of all the latest happenings in the industry and simultaneously adapt to changes. Being part of a hyper-competitive market like beauty and wellness, I prioritize the tasks according to importance. I believe in delegating the tasks to the people who are skilled in their respective areas of work. Doing this allows me to act upon the changing dynamics of the industry and also contribute effectively.
What are the frequent challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the workplaces and what are the ways to tackle them?
When it comes to entrepreneurship, women have many odds stacked against them. From arranging for finance to establishing a stronghold in a male-dominated environment, women have faced it all. The only way to tackle such challenges is to fight for your rights and work relentlessly towards pursuing your dreams.
Fortunately, times are changing now as we can see some government-led initiatives creating entrepreneurship opportunities by making banking finance more accessible for even the small entrepreneurs. However, for better progress, organized players and the government sector need to work together to provide support to women.
As a Shepreneur how do you manage to achieve a balance between work and family?
Frankly, it is easier said than done. But then, my family and I have learned to cope. While I always wanted to do something, I started my entrepreneurial journey relatively late – in 1989, with the opening of the first VLCC Beauty & Wellness Centre in New Delhi – once I felt my two daughters were old enough. I was also very fortunate. I could not have done this without the support of my husband Mukesh, who always had more belief in my abilities than I did. Nor would I have spent that kind of time in building what I had started, without the understanding of my parents-in-law, given that I had married into a joint family.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
The year 2019 marks the 30th year since VLCC’s inception in 1989. VLCC’s journey that has brought us to this milestone year has been path-breaking, and I am confident that with our continued dedication and hard work, we will surpass our expectations to date and breach new frontiers that will take the organization to its next level of growth.
Personally, I would like to create some regulatory body for the beauty and wellness sector. It is still mainly an unorganized sector. I see a future where this sector is going to become big support for initiatives such as ‘Skill India’ and women empowerment.
What advice would you like to give to young women to succeed in the workplace or as an entrepreneur? How do you perceive the role of mentorship to guide aspiring Shepreneurs?
The road to entrepreneurial success is not always easy, especially for women. All aspiring women entrepreneurs should develop the skill set first and then eventually gain domain knowledge once they start working in the field. A woman should always believe in her abilities and be confident enough to fight against all odds that may come in her journey. The key to succeeding in the workplace or as an entrepreneur is to never give up on your dreams.
It’s heartening to see so many women from different walks of life doing exceptional work. Becoming role models for each other and inspiring one another to achieve the pinnacle of success. Back in those days when I started out, my mother became my greatest role model, who had a huge impact on me both personally and professionally. She was an Ayurvedic doctor and always helped people feel better, which actually sowed the seeds of my interest in beauty and wellness at an early age. So while I would say that having a mentor definitely helps in guiding an aspiring shepreneurs, it is equally important to derive the motivation from within. You have to be a self-starter if you wish to achieve all that you want to accomplish. There will definitely be many challenges in your path, but what will keep you going is the faith in yourself and the belief in the dream you harbor in your heart.
How are Shepreneurs contributing to the Economy and women empowerment?
Gender inequality still exists globally despite international measures to gap it. It prevails in basic education, political, economic, social empowerment and opportunities. Usually regressive cultural and social norms lead to further inequality for women.
To think on a positive note, women along with men can strive to create a better future. This is exactly what some exceptional women are doing, the present-day female entrepreneurs, who are ruling and empowering businesses and sustaining the economy. According to me, education is necessary and essential for entrepreneurship. It builds character and personality, boosts self-esteem and confidence in an individual. More women should be highly encouraged in vocational training courses, which will give them the ability to excel on their own terms and enhance their control over financial, intellectual and human resources in the society.