Vandana Luthra is a successful Indian women entrepreneur and Founder of VLCC Health Care Ltd. The organization is a wellness and beauty conglomerate represented in Asia, the GCC and Africa. Due to her outstanding contribution to the world of business, she has won multiple awards, including the Padma Shri. In 2010, she was awarded the Women Entrepreneur Of The Year by The Enterprise Asia. Luthra also had the rare achievement of being featured in Fortune Magazine’s list of ’50 Most Powerful Women in Business in India’ five times in a row.
Vandana Luthra was born in an affluent family in Delhi; her father was a mechanical engineer by profession, while her mother was an Ayurvedic doctor who ran her company. Inspired by her mother’s focus on self-development and healthcare, Luthra studied Polytechnic for Women in New Delhi with an ambition to change society and bring women to the forefront of entrepreneurship. After earning her graduate degree, Luthra travelled extensively to European countries in an attempt to follow her passion and study cosmetology and nutrition. She learned about lifestyle care, nutrition, beauty and the fitness industry. An industry under-researched, unorganized and practically non-existent in India in the 1980s.
When she returned to India, she got married in the 1980s; however, the initial years with her husband’s family were not smooth sailing as it was a love marriage, and she was not her in-laws’ choice. “I had the chance to live away from my in-laws, but I have always held the belief that family is meant to stay together, and I took up the challenge to change the family equation. It took me three years to win over my in-laws, but once they opened up, I received a lot of encouragement and love from them,” she says, reminiscing fondly. This focus on connecting at a deeper level served her well when she established her wellness company to form a strong bond with her employees as well as her customers.
After giving birth to her two daughters, she embarked on her entrepreneurship journey. She founded the beauty conglomerate Vandana Luthra Curls and Curves (VLCC) in New Delhi, which ultimately transformed the wellness industry in India.
“When I started, there were hardly any women entrepreneurs. It was a male-dominated environment. I had to face a lot of criticism, a lot of people tried to ensure that I did not succeed and grow. The only thing I believed in was that my concept was unique, unusual and it was being introduced in India for the first time,” Luthra says.
She wanted to stand on her own feet even though her husband offered to fund her organization initially. “My husband was very supportive and offered to fund my dream but I was adamant that I would not take money from anyone. I booked the place and took a small loan and got started,” she added.
“My approach was scientific and I started working with doctors from day one. This worked in our favour too,” Vandana explained. The other thing she felt that placed the brand in the limelight was the branding of VLCC. “From day one I was clear that the brand would not be a glamorous one. The centre was a clinic and was projected in that very manner,” she added.
Since the brand and the concept of health and wellness were unique, customers were drawn to it and soon fell in love with the product. Luthra broke even in the first month, and in the next few months, she started getting a return on investment.
However, in the initial days, she faced a ton of criticism and had difficulty convincing doctors and the medical fraternity to work with cosmetologists and nutritionists. “It took me a good five to six years to convince the medical fraternity to understand that wellness was a larger domain and it required the collaboration of beauty, health and fitness experts; in other words a cosmetologist, a nutritionist and a doctor. Eventually I did manage to convince them,” she said.
Luthra was inundated with queries from people since the concept of wellness was relatively new. Today, however, the scenario is the complete opposite, with the focus on self-care gaining momentum. She explains, “People are more educated, women have started to work and they all want to look good, feel good and feel positive.”
Explaining the concept behind her brand, she says, “I wanted VLCC to be a one-stop shop for everything, from top to toe, so it saves a person time and energy. Every service is provided as per their requirement and their needs. We also started services and then launched products. We wanted the clients to try our products and that really worked for us.”
The products were also created and customized as per the client’s requirement, with a different product based on the various geographies VLCC worked in, thereby helping the company cater to unique needs. “This helped the brand evolve and have global presence as well,” she added.
VLCC has kept up with technology and the latest trends and research. “We have our own R&D centers, I myself travel extensively to all parts of the world to fairs, conferences etc., to keep up with the latest in the health and beauty sector,” Luthra says.
Under Luthra’s watchful eye, VLCC has emerged as a significant employment generator across India, providing a range of services from slimming packages to lasers at affordable prices. Thirty years since the company’s inception, Luthra remains a critical part of the empire. The company has now expanded to incorporate manufacturing units in India and Singapore and has also added training and vocational education under the Insitute of Beauty and Nutrition.
In conclusion, she says, “From the start, I was clear in my mind that whatever venture I get into should benefit the society and be accessible to all segments. VLCC is a manifestation of that dream.”