FT Special

Successful journey of Vandana Luthra: from a fashion enthusiast to a health and beauty entrepreneur

Vandana Luthra, a big name in the corporate and entrepreneurial world, is the founder of VLCC Health Care Ltd.; a beauty and wellness brand represented in Asia, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Africa.

She was born in New Delhi on 12th July 1950 to a mechanical engineer father and a mother who ran a charitable yoga ashram along with an Ayurveda doctor. VLCC was incorporated in 1989 as a beauty, slimming and wellness centre at Safdarjung Development Area in New Delhi when Vandana’s elder daughter was merely 3 years old. she wanted to promote health and fitness, moreover, she loved cutting giving hairstyles to people and experimenting facials on her mother’s face which later turned out to be an implementation in the form of such a huge empire.

Vandana Luthra, Founder VLCC
Vandana Luthra, Founder VLCC

Vandana went on to start VLCC on a small bank loan; she gave a tough fight to time, criticism and judgements against women when the ideas of start-ups or women entrepreneur were mere words with no support from either society or family. But Vandana was lucky to have a supportive and cooperative husband and family. Her husband was willing to financially support her to start her venture but she was adamant to not take money from anyone.

The venture grew from being a local Safdarjung- bounded start-up to having a huge presence in 11 countries in South Asia, South-east Asia, GCC and most recently East Africa. The first ever VLCC centre that was built overseas was in Dubai in 2005 and since then, it has seen a surge in its number of courses and centres all around the world.

VLCC, the name we hear today was built with great dedication, diligence and patience. The brand’s concept and the brand itself were new and unique, that’s why it gained popularity in its initial stages despite fighting societal odds and old-age norms. She started getting clients, started getting returns on her investments which boosted her confidence. In order to get better results and in order to offer ‘A’ grade service to her clients, she started working with doctors on a regular basis which worked well in her favour. From the starting of it, she knew that VLCC was not just a glamorous brand; instead, it was a clinic and thus, needed to be projected in that manner. The brand still maintains its legacy where 60% of her clients come from the doctors.

It took Vandana nearly 5-6 years to convince the medical fraternity about wellness’ increasing domain and its required bundling with beauty, health and fitness expertise. The challenges she faced and the hardships she went through while making VLCC made her a much more deterministic person. Major challenges that she faced were finance and people who tried to constantly pull her down. As the concept was new, it was not easy to get investment at initial stages of building the start-up. Starting up something single-handedly by a woman was something which was seen as an extension of her hobby by the society, but that was not the case with Vandana. She had to be confident and assertive while convincing people about what she was selling and how it would and could help them in a long run. Being born in a male dominated society, She had questions on her independence while growing up but that motivated her constantly. Her motivation initially came from her family and then her husband with whom she had a love marriage.

Her parents used to invite little kids who lived in a slum near their house to watch TV when they bought one. The idea of developing VLCC came to her when she saw her mother helping others feel better, that’s when she decided to add beauty to it. Her upbringing has contributed greatly to the way she tackles and sees any problem or challenge. As she had a love marriage, it was not easy to mingle in the husband;s family and develop a loving bond with them. She is a complete family woman though and ensures that her family and near and dear ones remain healthy, too and age with elegance. Staying away from her in-laws did not deter her respect for them and love towards them. That is the bond she shares with her employees too, she tries to remember the names of each employee and often walks in any VLCC store to have a hearty and candy chat with people. She is always trying to improve what she is doing and what she is offering. She always tries to get a feedback from her employees in order to know if they wish to make any changes to the current system and also from her clients to improve her services.

She has been felicitated with a Padma Shri, Women Entrepreneur Award, Rajeev Gandhi Women Achiever’s Award to name a few.

Vandana Luthra receiving Padma Shri from Honourable President Pranab Mukherjee
Vandana Luthra receiving Padma Shri from Honourable President Pranab Mukherjee

Her sheer dedication and hard-work arose a sense of confidence among many women in today’s era. Her family and most importantly her husband deserve equal recognition and respect as hers because if they would not have been there, she would not have been able to achieve such a huge feat. For the upcoming entrepreneurs, she says, ”Set your goals and work towards it. There is no stopping anyone from reaching the pinnacle of success if there were firm commitment and dedication.” These lines from her side are truly inspiring and a great lesson from someone who has nurtured a brand of hers like her own child.