From subsistence to aspirational – How booming beauty business can attract and retain youth

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Rajesh A R Chairman LabourNet

Rajesh A R, Chairman, LabourNet

Beauty salons and home services have opened up many opportunities for job creation and new careers for the youth in India. Being one of the fast growing industry sectors with a continuous demand for professionally trained people, jobs in Beauty and Wellness are yet to evolve as an aspirational career choice and exploit potential for entrepreneurship in Skin Care, Hair Care and other specialized segments.

While it attracts many young men and women both in urban and rural India as a means of decent employment, today, most jobs in this sector are just about providing a means of subsistence. People who enter into this industry are mostly paid just enough to make a living irrespective of their training and they are not aware of how they can shape their careers or try out their business ideas. Often, they face wage disparity, they work with sub-standard products, tools and equipment, multi-tasking without proper training in skin care, sterilisation, hygiene or soft skills. This is often the case with hundreds of non-branded salons and home services that are catering to huge customer base, mostly operating as unorganized businesses, set up in residential colonies, in homes or small shops in semi-urban and rural areas.

How do we make them aware of the basics of setting up a business that meets professional standards in a highly competitive environment? Do they have a long-term vision to retain their employees and grow as an enterprise? What if their customer base starts dwindling because of the deteriorating quality of services in the absence of right knowledge, skills and competencies? Finding answers to questions such as these will initiate a process of formalizing their identity and building aspirational value. Here’s how we can build it.

3 imperatives to move employment and entrepreneurship in Beauty and Wellness sector from subsistence to aspirational

beauty business attract retain youthIndustry orientation and market growth in beauty and wellness industry

The estimated market size of the global beauty and wellness industry is around $1.4 trillion with a CAGR of 15 % over the last five years. India figures in the five top beauty and wellness markets of the world. (NSDC and KPMG report (2017).

People working in this sector must be aware of the larger industry and its growth prospects. This means they should be informed about the need for following professional standards in their services, seek the right accreditations with industry bodies and hire employees who are certified by respectable organizations. This will require formal orientation of the entrepreneurs of all categories through sensitization programs, meeting with industry experts, exposure to processes, quality products and use of tools and equipment. This will help them develop their services and transform their identity from a small beauty parlour to an organized salon that can attract employees on a wage premium, social security and deliver quality services to discerning customers.

Certification, continuous education and skilling in the beauty sector

Growing market comes with its own challenges for talent acquisition, retention along with research and development to build the knowledge base. Today, India is seen as a potential market for a wide range of beauty services and has attracted many international partnerships, particularly the recent one with CIDESCO or certifications from Finland. This brings a sense of pride for the industry and it has to be made covetous for the youth too. For the thousands who are employed in this sector, there is an immediate need to train them formally as per the job roles. Though they may be delivering different services, industry-specific qualification and certification is absolutely necessary through programs like Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and bridge courses for their identified skill gaps.

The knowledge and skills of existing employees needs to be certified through RPL and skill gaps can be filled through bridge courses that bring them to desired level of competencies. At the same time, we need to create flexible paths for improving their qualifications through access to higher education and research. For an enthusiastic and initiated professional, an admission to specialized course in Cosmetology or Salon Management can transform their outlook towards the potential of the industry in fulfilling their aspirations for higher education like a post graduation or a doctorate.

Entrepreneurship enablement and growth continuity in beauty business

As we have seen, there is a great tendency for people working in this sector to start their own business as soon as they acquire few years of industry experience. However, the survival and scaling of such business poses many questions. How do we turn these random businesses into small enterprises that have a formal identity? Most importantly, do they have required financial literacy? Can they ensure continuous business growth to reach high productivity levels and income premium?  Can they access and use technology to grow their customer base and build their business? Is there a way to incubate the startups through an organized network of funding agencies, market linkages and domain expertise?

While it is necessary to take many initiatives in this regard, the most significant first step is to formalize their businesses through appropriate registration to obtain a legal identity and link them with mentors, networking platforms and loans such as MUDRA through PMMY scheme or LabourNet’s FLDG-led micro loans.  In addition, hand-holding them in times of necessity to cope with vagaries of business would be equally important.

Whether one visits a salon or opts for home services, Beauty and Wellness will continue with demand for large number of professionals. Now, it is for us to ensure that the attractiveness of careers and compensation is not just skin-deep as the business of beauty is definitely not!

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