The Life: Indian wellness company plans residential center in Dubai to tap medical tourists besides expanding in Middle East, says VLCC chairman Mukesh Luthra.
Healthy approach to regional expansion
More than a decade ago, Mukesh Luthra joined VLCC Health Care, a wellness company his wife, Vandana Luthra, started in India. Now the chairman of VLCC, he is spearheading its expansion the region. It is already present in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Malaysia.
What are your plans for the UAE?
We have 11 centres in the UAE and we want to grow by 55 per cent in terms of revenues this year here. Last year, we grew by 45 per cent. We would also like to come up with a residential centre for medical tourists in Dubai.
What made you join VLCC?
If you cannot beat them, join them. When VLCC started in India in 1989 'wellness' was a new concept in that part of the world. I saw that the way VLCC was going then, it will become a new phenomenon. And it is a highly profitable [sector].
How do you differentiate yourself as a wellness centre in an increasingly competitive marketplace?
There is no company providing the all-round services that we provide under one roof. We provide slimming, beauty, dermatology, skin and hair care and nutritional advice. We have our own research and development wings, two in India and one in Singapore, and four factories - three in India and one in Bangladesh - where we develop and manufacture our own products so that it is easy to control the efficacy of the products. We are looking to develop a fifth one in Bahrain, Dubai or Oman, but have not decided on it yet.
About 85 per cent of the 300 centres VLCC has in nine countries are company-owned, while the rest are franchises. Why do you not consider more franchises if you want to grow rapidly?
Currently, we have franchises only in India and those, too, in tiny towns with no air links. We choose franchises very carefully because at VLCC we are dealing with people. And we have to see to it that service delivery and retail delivery are uniform across all centres. But we aim to have 600 centres by 2016 and another 200 franchises. So, that will be a 75:25 ratio between company-owned and franchise centres. We might consider franchises in countries where there might be political instability, but now we are looking at franchises only in India. Our first centre in Kuwait will be operational by March 2013 and the centres in Egypt and Saudi Arabia are likely to open by May 2013.
Also, companies go for franchises if they need capital to expand. We are under-leveraged and we are closely controlled.
Your turnover for the fiscal year ending March 2013 is expected to be 10 billion rupees (Dh676 million), up from 7bn rupees this year. Why are you seeking private equity investment?
For international acquisitions. The acquisition in Malaysia has already been concluded, while the ones in Singapore and Indonesia are under negotiation.