At the end of May 2020, when the Indian government began rolling back its two-month-long lockdown, Naturals’ founder CK Kumaravel was relieved. Naturals is India’s largest salon chain, with nearly 700 salons across 92 cities. Anticipating pent up demand, it used the lockdown to enforce Covid-safety measures. With staff trained on new hygiene protocols, it was ready for business.
Kumaravel’s relief soon turned to worry. Instead of “queues” of eager customers, walk-ins were only 40% of pre-Covid levels. Adding to Naturals’ woes, the customers who came opted for ‘door-buster’ services such as haircuts or threading—services that salons usually incur a loss on.