Image: Aditi Tailang for Forbes India Adhuna Bhabani
We had designed our first salon ourselves, by roping in friends, and anyone who would do the work for free. And in a space of 1,500 sq ft, we put only four [hair-dressing] chairs,” laughs Adhuna Bhabani, as she remembers the beginnings of her venture in Mumbai. “It was a great hang-out space, and we had a lot of fun. But we didn’t make any money, and couldn’t pay the rent!”
Sitting at the BBlunt Academy in Andheri, Mumbai, Bhabani, 50, the founder-director of the BBlunt chain of salons and hair care products, is comfortable talking about the learnings from past mistakes. This comfort comes from the fact that Bhabani and her football-loving brother Ashoke (44, he is Osh to everybody)—they are from Liverpool in the UK, so football is a given—have come a long way since setting up their first salon in 1998. They have now established 20 salons (eight self-owned, the rest franchises) in 10 states across India, along with two training centres (in Mumbai and Bengaluru), a range of 29 hair care products and a division that handles shoots for films, fashion and advertising. Along the way, they have won the confidence of Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL).
“GCPL collaborated with BBlunt, with a 30 percent stake [in 2013], with a view to enter the premium category with a line of products for hair care and styling, especially made for Indian hair and weather,” says Sunil Kataria, business head, India and Saarc, GCPL. “The brand has grown by 100 percent year-on-year since 2014 [when hair care products were launched] in stores and on ecommerce platforms, taking about 5 to 6 percent share in some ecommerce chains within the hair care and styling category. Overall the business has grown at 50 to 60 percent since 2015.”To Check Out The Full 2018 W-Power Trailblazers List, Click Here
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Passionate about sharing her knowledge and expertise—perhaps because of the training she received when she took up hairstyling in the UK—Bhabani has developed her business based on the training academies, from which she recruits for her salons; this ensures a uniformly high standard of service, regardless of whether the salons are owned by BBlunt, or are franchises (which they started in 2011).
At present, salons contribute the largest share (70 percent) to overall revenue, followed by shoots (13 percent), franchises (8 percent), training academies (6 percent) and products (3 percent). “We are focusing on growth dramatically,” Bhabani says. “But a metered, overall growth across all verticals, and we are trying to ensure high quality… In the last year, we have been focusing more on our franchises.” She adds that the company aims to continue with the 50 to 60 percent growth trajectory in the coming year.
“This is something that I had never imagined I could be a part of—working with GCPL, with products that are a whole new arena for a little hairdresser from the northwest of England. It’s a dream becoming a reality.”
(This story appears in the 16 March, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)