9-11 December 2021
Cosmoprof India
EMPOWERING WOMEN IN THE BEAUTY SECTOR IN INDIA

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An interview with Dr Rekha Chaudari

Indian society has changed a lot in the latest 20 years. The rapidly expanding economy and its demographic growth attracted the attention of foreign countries and multinationals. Today, the Republic of India is considered one of the world's potential superpowers. Nevertheless, such an excellent visibility put Indian social rules under the spotlightSocial justice and empowerment have become strategic aspects in the general development of the country.

We discussed the topic together with Dr Rekha Chaudhari, a symbol of empowerment for women and underprivileged people in India, to understand women's conditions today in India and the difficulties women have to face to reach their independence and social recognition.

   



Dr. Rekha Chaudhari is the Global Wellness Ambassador for India and a social entrepreneur of non-profit organizations. A visionary leader, Dr. Rekha has foreseen the challenge ahead for mental health, which led her to start the WORLD DIGITAL DETOX DAY in June of 2018.

She is also the Founder and Managing Director of Oneline Wellness, the one-stop destination for beauty and wellness solutions in the Luxury segment. Dr. Rekha Chaudhari has an inspiring story of transforming from a housewife of rural India to a global figure in the beauty, spa, and wellness industry

She has transformed the lives of more than a thousand tribal and rural young men and women by providing them free-of-cost wellness education. She has provided jobs to many in various high-end luxury spas, salons, and hotels across India. Read

Q: Thanks to your hard work and your commitment, you have become a symbol of empowerment for women and underprivileged people in India. How have women’s conditions in India changed over the latest years? Which are the main difficulties today for Indian women fighting for their independence and their social recognition?

I would like to thank Cosmoprof for recognizing my efforts towards women’s empowerment and Industry efforts. Yes, empowering woman is a subject very close to my heart. Whether it is the village, tribal or urban women, I feel women from any segment of the society should get empowered so that she can recognize her own voice and self-identity and self respect. I strongly believe in this and love to work for this unconditionally.
I would say India has changed in the past few years with contributions from the government towards women’s empowerment. The government has started talking about women empowerment and ministries like MSME are contributing towards encouraging women entrepreneurship.

The scenario is changing and its a good move for the society. However, Indian women fighting for their independence and their social recognition are still challenged due to the existent system and the patriarchal society. Women are still expected to remain under some kind of control or bondage, an attitude I feel will take years to change.

Of course, women are becoming stronger by the day. Earlier it was their docility and weakness that was exploited and taken advantage of by this society mainly controlled by men. But today I would say the scenario has changed significantly.
Women today have immense freedom to choose their profession and can work or start any project. The coming generations will be able to create a society where every woman will be empowered and share equal status in society.

Q: Traditional culture and rituals are a driving factor for Indian society. How do you think should traditions and contemporary lifestyles match each other for positive social development? Do you think that traditions could bring important opportunities for the empowerment of Indian women?

Traditional culture and rituals is a driving factor for the Indian society. I firmly believe in this because I have worked very closely with such a lifestyle as well as global lifestyle. I have observed closely how traditional culture can provide a well-being lifestyle to society. Wellness and well-being lifestyle has been always a priority in decade  in Indian cluture and society but somehow it has lost due to mordancies hybrid culture. I hope Our admirable culture and our contemporary lifestyle positively to blend together.
Of course, sometimes the modern world fails to understand the traditional culture as people often fail to see what is close at hand but feel that the grass is greener on the other side. The modern contemporary-lifestyle driven mindset always believes anything that is internationally popular is good for them. But the problem is that they do not see the traditional culture has so much more to give to society.
Since the last decade I have been trying my best to bring this kind of culture in the modern society. I have designed a concept which will help to empower thousands and thousands of women. My concept of Mothers Touch is based on the traditional ancient culture of India and it is meant to give solutions and answers to the needs of modern mothers and new born for well-being lifestyle. This research has been published and registered with WHO, John-Hopkins, Harvard and Oxford University. This research is an example of traditional culture being merged with contemporary lifestyle.
We can certainly do a lot to improve the modern lifestyle by blending traditional culture with it. This is an area that holds great possibilities and opportunities. It is a huge area where women can get work opportunities if traditional culture is properly matched with the contemporary lifestyle.

 

Q: Wellness and beauty have been the starting inputs for you to build your own business, and they are also a vehicle for you to help young people and women from rural areas to reach their goals and express their talents, thanks to your foundations and initiatives. Why and how do you think that beauty can be a tool for a social rebound?

Thanks to my company Oneline wellness Pvt. ltd customers and employees for supporting my dream to educate and empower youth and women.
Yes, my foundation, which is now named the Rekha Chaudhari Foundation (ZEP Foundation), has hugely contributed to the beauty and wellness industry by empowering and educating the rural and tribal youth and women. 
I firmly believe the beauty and wellness business has a great opportunity to empower women from the villages and the underprivileged youth.
The youth remain idle in the villages and cannot find job opportunities while skilled labour is a challenge in the urban areas. Bridging this gap is important and that’s what I have been trying to do through my foundation. So far, I have been able to successfully train thousands of youth and able to transform the lives of more than 2000 youth by creating livelihood opportunities for them through the beauty and wellness industry. Also, the skilling of the youth and women is helping the society as the industry is really in need of highly skilled workers.

My company Oneline Wellness’s funding is a social investment in the rural youth and women which will never go waste because they will not only be earning for themselves but will also be feeding the members of their families by getting skill training education and jobs through us. That’s what we have been doing. This kind of infinitives always need financial and moral support from the industry which I always look forward to.

The beauty and wellness industry depends a lot on the concept of touch or massage techniques. You need to know how to win your client’s heart. I have noticed the village youth or tribal women are very innocent and authentic. They do not have the idea of commercializing their work and offer their services genuinely. I have received excellent responses from the clients who were all praises for the kind of massage therapy they offer. They are truly God-gifted because they offer their services from their heart which creates a positive aura around the clients. I have experienced this myself. Their minds are not corrupted by the need for commercializing their work nor they expect anything from anybody in return. They simply want to lend their service. This trait in them made me skill them. Their positive approach towards the clients is extremely rewarding.
So, I feel through the beauty and wellness industry social rebounding is possible. The beauty and wellness industry has a lot of job opportunities in India. The industry should not forget that offering an opportunity to one youth will open an avenue for four more members in the family to be fed. Because in the village or the tribal areas there isn’t much work except that of farming. So, this earning by one member will give security to others in the family. I have witnessed for many touching stories, my students being able to build or buy their own houses with their salary in their native places, where they did not had small shelter to stay, they are able to buy farming equipment and seeds seeing all this is very rewarding.

I had met a girl who was working on the fields. She was educated but didn’t have any option for a job. She used to cry while picking cotton from the plants. Today, she earns more than many well-educated people by working in the beauty industry. I saw her entire family change. Being from a lower caste they were not respected in the village. But after this girl was empowered she not only changed herself but brought a change into her family and society , they are now well respected in the village. This kind of examples has open up door for wellness workforce as carrier for the village girls.

There are different experiences each person goes through. I am glad I am being able to bring hope into their lives through my initiatives. It feels good to see the change it has brought to society. So, I feel that the beauty and wellness industry has more than enough to offer the underprivileged youth and women and that’s what my foundation is striving to do.

Q: In the latest months you played an active role to facilitate the reopening of the industry in India and supporting people in difficulty. How did you manage in motivating people to restart, and which will be your initiatives to offer inspiration and encourage people to face such a frustrating economic scenario?

I am happy that I could facilitate the reopening of the industry through a few measures that helped the industry immensely. At the same time, I am proud not because I accomplished this task but because I felt that at least I could bring the industry together and work together closely with all the players.
The times have been difficult for everyone, even in our industry, but the biggest problem I was facing is that the industry didn’t have the direction on how to approach the problem, where to start and how to go about it.
Initially, some people were wandering away but I am glad that they believed in my leadership and accepted whatever I could do for them. That gave me immense strength to work on this initiative.
I started approaching our ministry. But the industry was not completely aware of which ministry we come under and the guidelines were not clearly defined. So, I started guiding the industry along with a few industry leaders and industry friends, and could, finally, make an impact and make the industry stronger.
To understand the structure of the industry and which ministry we follow, I organized several online meetings and discussions with Government of India. After working with the MSME ministry, under which our industry runs, I along with my colleagues and industry acquaintances succeeded to reopen the industry. Read more

After reopening, the industry had a huge task to handle. In this frustrating economic scenario, spas have not yet opened in few states like Maharashtra. Recently, I had a talk with the Maharashtra government and finally they are ready to permit us to reopen the spas and skin services from the First of Feb 2021 with the upcoming new guidelines for Maharashtra for the hotel spas and training institutes. 
However, gaining the trust and confidece for the  industry by consumers, we realized certain steps were necessary to be taken during the lockdown to restart the industry more towards the hygiene and safety guidelines, but to gain their confidence we have done a huge amount of work by creating awareness through the Indian professional hygiene platform, which is working on the hygiene and safety guidelines. With the prominent players from the industry together we did formation of the IPBWHA (Indian Professional Beauty & Wellness Hygiene Alliance). The IPBWHA which soon will be called BWAI (Beauty &wellness association of India) is an industry body formed to mitigate the COVID19 impact on Professional Beauty and Wellness Industry and to drive initiatives leading to the Professional Beauty Industry  business continuity and the safety and security of its stakeholders. 

The industry has come together to support my IPBWHA initiative. So, we have been able to train thousands of students and skill beauticians and therapists about hygiene and safety measures. This has given us the boost required to start the industry. Soon we will be coming up with our first professional Indian Wellness Association which will be focusing on the activities that I did in the recent years.

All my initiatives are available in details here:
•  Formation of the IPBWA

•  The MSME Ministry Inclusion
•  Enabling Government Support
•  Training on Safety and Hygiene via Webinars
•  Mission Parasmani -Supporting, Motivating, and Mentoring skill workers

Q: Being the Global Wellness Ambassador of India, how do you think will the wellness and spa industry change, and which will be the new trends impacting the beauty market in your country?

As an ambassador, I tried my best to restart the industry, which after a tremendous effort and struggle and the support of the government and my industry colleagues, I could finally achieve desire results.
Of course, the industry suffered a lot with many salons having shut down permanently. Especially, the spa industry and skin services  has faced a huge setback. Due to this, it will take many years to recover the losses.
The spa industry has always been a challenge in India. Now the pandemic has given rise to a bigger question as to whether it will survive?
 But on a brighter side, after the pandemic, society has become more aware of self-health and a well-being lifestyle. I can see the growth in the wellness centres, mental wellness business opportunities, self- improvement, meditation and mindfulness, brain-boosting Nutraceuticals and botanicals, senses, spaces and sleep, mutual supporting groups, workshops and online platforms, personal and life coaches, Ayurveda, herbal, and botanical traditional medicines, sound therapy , aroma therapy, stress toys and gadgets, sleep hygiene ambience, tech and app.
Since the pandemic, in all my speeches I have been talking about the importance of changing the trend of offering traditional services not just for the time being but henceforth. For instance, the beauty clinics can start providing advice on nutrition, exercise, online advice and classes, becoming personal coaches to take care of your consumers well-being lifestyle. The industry has to change its approach. It has to work harder to create a more personalized impact for the consumers.
In my company Oneline Wellness where we exclusively represent and sell premium European brands in India, we had launched a technology platform two years back. But many big players had denied to accept this. Though we say that India is an IT-based country we still face a huge problem when it comes to technology.
In fact, I lost one of the well-known European brands and even some clients because they didn’t want me to adopt the technologies and go via online approach. Today, that same brand is promoting itself on social media showcasing its use of technological tools. And those same customers are using the new technologies. This shows the market have to have mindset for open thoughts to changed.
Due to the pandemic for New trends are being accepted and they are entering the market.
My company, Oneline Wellness is known as a simplicity platform in the industry.
We are not only skincare brands but we have brought few important technologies into the market. These are mostly driven by the developing technological advances with the coming of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and a developing range of fourth industrial revolution technologies. 
Oneline has launched the SkillsPro- a Learning Management Platform. This is not only launched for the product lines which I carry for the Indian market for the online academy for all the brands but also complete training module through this platform.
The salon/spa owner and therapist can at any convenient time look for the lessons and learn anything needed, anywhere. The same platform is offered to the industry where the industry can take the platform on rent from us and start their own online academy. I have also initiated talks about our own online academy.  We have brought a revolution in online and offline education through this platform.
I had noticed there is a huge gap in digital content creation. Many organizations do not know how to make digital content. I see the need to create digital content for everything today since that’s the latest trend. That is one more area that I intend to develop soon. Besides, LMS will capture a huge place in the market.
We are soon launching a digital magazine, which consumers can directly read, see or listen to while getting a haircut, pedicure or manicure in front of the mirror. Whatever services they are availing, while availing these services they can consume different information through this digital magazine.
So, these are the new initiatives launched personally by my company, and I see these kinds of activities will be increasing in the market in the near future. Such beauty trends will be soon flooding the market. Of course, the home services have increased a lot and chair-based skin services which have launched by us, I see growth in this segment too. after reopening the industry salon retail sector has increased and seen the growth in the future for the same. These are some of the trends that I have observed in the market recently.
As the arrival of vaccines in 2021 brings in new hope and success in the Indian wellness and  healthcare field, the technological advances in the previously fast-paced year can serve as a future perspective in facing new challenges. 

Dr. Rekha Chaudhari says, “To do good deeds you don’t really need to have big funds, but a small effort and a beautiful heart can go a long way. We need to be like water drops and work together. Thus, we can become the ocean that can make a big difference”.


 

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