Dream merchant

When the product is an idea, a dream, a promise, the results have to be tangible. Vandana Luthra has achieved that in style

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She has a dream. So do many of us - in some deep recess of our subconscious. It is a synergy of her dream and our dream - at the core of which is something as intangible as a desire to look and feel good - that is the cornerstone of the success of Vandana Luthra's business.

In Muscat to open the first VLCC centre in the country, Luthra, the lady who many credit with having brought the wellness" mantra into the drawing room of many a middle class family, says when she started her first centre in 1989 in Delhi, such a concept was non-existent. "People didn't spend much on themselves to look well-groomed and beautiful. They would rather spend on clothes, jewellery or make-up. We were pioneers, but the market picked up very fast." So fast that within a year she had opened a second centre in Delhi and soon a third one in Mumbai.

Sitting with Luthra, one can't but get the feeling that there can't be a better brand ambassador for VLCC than its founder and mentor herself. At 50, the soon-to-be grandmother can give a complex to even the svelte 20-somethings. Luthra says her focus, right from the beginning has been on complete transformation, not just outside, but from within, too. "I wanted people to look completely transformed and feel different with a positive thought process. That's why at VLCC counselling is an integral part of our sessions."

When the product is an idea, a dream, a promise, the results have to be tangible. That Luthra has achieved in style with a net weight loss of 59,000kg per month across her centres - 57,000kg in India and 2,000kg at the seven VLCC centres in the UAE. She is happy that she has been able to make more and more people confident. "We follow a holistic approach. When a person starts looking good, he starts feeling great about himself, and that brings a lot of positive synergies into his life."

The single centre enterprise that started in 1989 on a bank loan of Rs50,000 (approximately RO5,000) is now an RO40mn group in less than 20 years. There are plans for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2009, details of which are expected to be announced later in the year. Driven by the buoyant market trends in the wellness domain, VLCC has already announced plans to increase the number of centres in the Middle East to 35 by 2010, of which six will be in Oman.

Does it all feel something like a dream at any time? Luthra says business is not in her blood. She is from a "service family" - her father was a senior official with Seimens in India and wanted her to join government service. It was only nine years of marriage and two daughters later that she decided to venture into her dream business. "It wasn't easy to find a balance between a rapidly expanding business and family even though my husband was extremely supportive. I wanted to spend more time with family. In fact, it was for this reason that I delayed entering the international market till my daughters grew up and settled down." But now there's no looking back.

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Dream merchant
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