Before she became a successful dermatologist, Dr Shuba Dharmana says that she wasn’t always as confident in her skin as she is now. She first noticed the psycho-social impact of skin diseases on young adults while trying her hand at modelling in college in the 2000s. “I had childhood eczema, which hit my confidence. I was conscious of the scars on my legs while swimming. I closely observed the impact skin diseases were having on young adults while working as a general practitioner in the UK for 11 years, which had me gravitating towards cosmetology,” says Shuba. Years later, she is now running two successful clinics and helps people by boosting their confidence with a wide range of services.
Shuba moved to the UK for her masters after completing MBBS from Andhra Medical College. She specialises in cosmetology, practical dermatology, facial aesthetics, and hair loss and hair removal. The range of services that one can avail at the Lejeune Clinics include botox, laser hair removal, fillers, non-surgical face lift, microneedling/dermaroller, hair transplants, pigmentation treatments, medifacials, body contouring, weight reduction and spa services.
“When I was in the UK, I saw the mushrooming of clinics that were offering services like body contouring and fillers. I wanted to do something similar in India,” says the 42-year-old doctor-turned-entrepreneur.
Shuba relocated from the UK and set up the first Lejeune clinic in Hyderabad in 2012, which received a good response. By March 2020, the business was netting an annual revenue of Rs 70 lakh. She went to open another clinic in 2013 in Bengaluru.
Mapping the path to success
Shuba introduced a number of standardised protocols in Lejeune Clinics with procedures like professional medical photography, facial assessment and aseptic contactless techniques for handling patients in 2019. The clinics were also fortified with important medical equipment like crash cart trolleys for emergencies.
Shuba feels that it is important for companies to get their brand positioning right for growth.”We may be slightly more expensive than others in the market, but we provide value and take pride in what we have to offer. We would like to be seen as pioneers, market leaders, experts and the go-to clinic for beauty, skin and hair needs,” says the cosmetologist.
Hits and misses
All was well until the business was hit by demonetisation, and subsequently, the implementation of the GST regime. “Despite many challenges and ill-thought partnerships that failed, we survived the storm,” adds Shuba.
Talking about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on her business, Shuba says, “COVID-19 has been a major challenge this year, but we have managed to earn at least 50 percent of our revenue ever since the lockdown restrictions eased on clinics. We are now seeing good growth in business.”
She says that the pandemic has enabled her to re-evaluate her business model. “COVID-19 has helped us re-evaluate staff roles and retain those that absolutely mattered to the clinic. We have lowered our overheads. It’s very encouraging to see people who are interested in skin, hair and beauty services coming back to us despite the hardships. Beauty and grooming increases one’s self esteem and confidence. And it’s been a humbling experience to know that in these tough times: people have chosen us,” says the entrepreneur.
Shuba says that she wants to explore global markets in the future. “Our business has been growing organically through word of mouth, but I would like to gain insights into sales and marketing, so I can take my company in the right direction not just in India but globally,” she explains.
She adds that her biggest struggles are currently sales and marketing. And that’s where participating in GAME’s Xcelerator Bangalore — a programme for supporting women-led businesses by way of investor connect opportunities and mentorship — can steer her to come up with a robust business strategy. “Ours is an investment-heavy business which needs investment in new machines on a regular basis. The cosmetic industry is fast evolving and we have to keep up and offer the best procedures and treatments. These machines depreciate very quickly and if you do not work on getting your ROI soon, you have to face competition from businesses using the new generation machines.”
Xcelerator Bangalore aims at accelerating the growth of women-owned businesses in Bengaluru and provide support to growth-oriented women entrepreneurs across sectors and support them to learn, collaborate and network with various stakeholders through a multitude of workshops, learning and mentoring sessions. This series highlights the work of 24 women entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first cohort of the Xcelerator Bangalore programme.