The Nail Tycoon ; Dr. Leena S
What better way to celebrate Woman’s Day (March 08) than listening to an exceptional woman entrepreneur who has made her mark. Dr. Leena S., the brain behind the super-luxury nail salon ‘The Nail Artistry’ in Kochi, has such an inspiring story.
Extremely analytical, Dr Leena has a flair for the spectacular and has captured the imagination of the young elite Indians through her salon. And, her business is growing rapidly. Considering the success of her venture, Forbes called her the ‘Nail Tycoon’ while Femina addressed her as the ‘Nail Empress’. Needless to say, Dr Leena, who is savvy, stylish and foresighted, is truly a woman of substance.
In a candid conversation with Unique Times, she elucidates her work and reveals what it takes to be a spunky businesswoman. Dr. Leena S
Nails are small and not so noticeable even in close vicinity. Also, it is a niche industry. How did you get the idea to make a business out of it?
Yes, it’s very niche. But it is an area that has long been ignored by the beauty industry and therefore presents a huge opportunity. Like it or not, your appearance matters as that’s how people form opinions about you. Nails might be small but they have a big impact on our overall personality. Especially during business or personal interactions where one can’t help but look at your hands and unconsciously take in how beautiful or dirty the nails are. I strongly believe that if you don’t wish to turn people off and ruin your meetings, you have to take care of your nails, giving them the same attention and care you provide for your face.
People who understand this use it to their advantage by paying extra attention to their hands and nails and benefit from the positive impression they make. We truly believe that everyone must look at their best and that’s exactly what we offer. We must be doing things right because our patrons also seem to share our belief and consider it a big deal and care about and pay for our niche services.
You have a cosmopolitan perspective, yet you started this in Cochin, a place not as liberal as Mumbai or Delhi. What was the reason?
There is a lot in India beyond places like Delhi and Mumbai. Even though I have many friends and acquaintances in both places, it was just the reason why I chose to start from Kochi. I simply did not want to begin my business in a place where many people knew me. I wanted to gauge if my venture could make a difference. In a new place, I would have nothing but brand philosophy and quality of services to cover for me. If people accept it, I could say that my business idea had merit. So, it was kind of a test and it proved to be the right thing to do. People in Kochi loved what we offered. They kept coming back to us. Our patrons gave us the confidence to experiment and we introduced additional services. Our audience has been growing ever since and now we are in expansion mode and have plans for several operations in several other places.
What is the force behind you? Who have been your all-time influencers?
If there is one person whom I’d credit for all my success, it has to be my husband. He has been my strength. Someone who truly believes in me and wishes nothing but the best for me. His work ethic and integrity inspire me to do better every day. He has been there for me since day one and helped me realise my dream. He has been my strength in moments of weakness, gave me clarity when I was in doubt. Most importantly, he taught me to believe in myself and reach out for whatever I feel worth working hard for.
Apart from my husband, I believe it is the members of my team at The Nail Artistry who contributed towards making this venture a success. They stood by my side through thick and thin and helped me meet the expectations of our customers. I can never thank them enough for their hard work and dedication.
I would also like to credit myself a bit for having the vision and the will to pursue it relentlessly to realise the dream. Of course, being a Taurean also helps!
You’re an actor, entrepreneur and model. Which role do you enjoy more? What are the challenges that helped you become this version of yourself?
All roles have their benefits but being an entrepreneur makes me content and liberated. I value achievements and being independent. It is only through what I love to do that I can have control over my life’s direction. I also believe that a business person has more shelf life than an actor or model. So, that is yet another plus.
As a socialite, you tend to be a victim of rumours. What are the most bizarre rumours you have heard about yourself? You can list 3 or more:-
As someone who respects everyone’s personal space and privacy, I steer clear of any rumour or the people who indulge in the same. Frankly speaking, I believe that giving even an iota of importance to a rumour or its perpetrators is a huge disservice to my value system and ethics. Rumours are what they are – unworthy of my time or a comment.
How has your husband been a rock for you throughout your life?
My husband supported me like no one else in my journey. He always believed in me and had faith in my dream, maybe even more than I did. I am truly blessed to have him in my life. Had it not been for him, I might have given it up a long time ago. He made me believe in my capabilities and encouraged me to chase my dreams. He stood by my side through the darkest of my days, encouraging me to stand up for myself. He is the reason I have been able to prove that I have what it takes and the success of The Nail Artistry is proof of that.
What can bring the best out of a woman entrepreneur?
Staying focused. There’s a lot of noise and negativity around us. People will let you down and enjoy seeing you stumble. But no matter what, you have to keep moving on. Staying focused makes a huge difference. Always keep your head high and nothing else matters.
Where would you like to see yourself five years from now?
Five years from now, I see myself as a more successful and mature businesswoman than I am today. I’d like to see at least 100 The Nail Artistry salons operational across different countries around the world. It may take a few more than five years, but it is a dream I am determined to accomplish.
COVID has impacted the lipstick industry. Is it Good news for your business? Do you think nails are in vogue now?
COVID-19 has not been good news for any business. Even the healthcare businesses that flourished during the period won’t call it good news. They are the ones who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic as they are at the forefront dealing with it. The amount of suffering, deaths and despair that they witness every day would render any amount of money meaningless. However, this has also been a time when many people started self-care and I must say that maintaining the nails has now become a part of one’s beauty regime like never before. We find that people are taking care of their nails’ health and hygiene like never before and as a business, we definitely will benefit from the same.
Tell us about the kind of clients you come across and the amount of work you indulge in to make them happy.
The Nail Artistry is a luxury salon chain that has established itself as an absolute favourite amongst its target audience. The Nail Artistry is where the elite and celebrities head when they wish to be pampered with a relaxing and luxurious manicure or pedicure. We also get a lot of brides who wish to be at their relaxed best on their special day. They all seem to love the sheer luxe experience they receive from The Nail Artistry team where they are treated royally.
We don’t find any of our clients challenging. A few of them do require more than usual pampering once in a while. But, all of us get into that kind of mood once in a while. For us, it is a part of our job to gauge the state of mind of our patrons and meet their requirements. I can say with confidence that except for one or two rare occasions, no client has left our premises without a broad smile.
You are born and brought up in the Middle East. What is missing in India, particularly Kerala?
I may have been born and brought up in the Middle East but I am a proud Indian. There’s nothing amiss in India and for me, Kerala seems the best place. The natural beauty of the place and its people is just too much to ignore. I am proud to have chosen Kerala as the base for The Nail Artistry.
Your business is with the fashion industry. What has changed in the fashion industry? Where do you see it going in the post COVID world?
Like every other industry, the fashion industry is also adapting to the post-COVID-19 world. Rapid changes are happening across all levels. Fashion weeks are going online and a more robust and fast-growing online market has emerged for fashion products. Brands and designers are working more on online-oriented marketing strategies. Consumers are also rapidly becoming accustomed to online shopping.
What makes Nail Artistry unique?
Competition is irrelevant to us. What we do at The Nail Artistry is unique. The Nail Artistry offers the most luxurious and safest salon experience to its patrons. Others might try to copy us but they can never achieve our absolute focus. We have always treated our patrons like royalty. Most regular salons miss out on the nuances of a professional manicure or pedicure. They treat them just as a part of their routine while at The Nail Artistry, this is the crux of our very being. This is what we specialize in. We’re India’s first super-luxury nail salon and our focus is altogether on a different level. No regular salon can even come close to the quality of service we deliver to our clients.
During the lockdown, how did you cope with the complete halt of business? How did you overcome it?
Like everyone else, the lockdown hit us hard. We have mostly young women working at our salons whose families depend upon their earnings. We made sure that none of our employees suffered because of money issues. We paid everyone’s salaries even when our salons were shut down. I was available to them throughout the lockdown for counselling. As an entrepreneur, I knew I had to be strong for my team. We all must stay positive to see through such dire circumstances. Thankfully, I am a Taurean and have strong will power. Because of the pandemic, we now have a sharpened focus on safety and hygiene while ensuring a luxe experience for our clientele. All our salons follow elaborate safety measures and strict hygiene protocols and procedures that only big hospitals follow. All our salons have their autoclave machines to sterilize instruments that are used and all the manicure and pedicure pods are disinfected after every session. All our clients draw confidence from our efforts and it has helped us a great deal in pulling them all back to our salons for their nails and beauty routines.
Your five secrets of looking beautiful?
Feeling Positive, staying Happy, eating Healthy, regular Yoga & Exercise and finally, a beauty regime at The Nail Artistry.
Why should all women think about paying attention to nails?
Whether we’re at work or home, we use our hands and feet all day long. While most of us take good care of our face in the regular beauty or grooming routines, somehow we just tend to ignore our hands and feet. They need our attention too and we need to take good care of them as we use them so much. So it’s necessary to give both our hands and feet the much-deserved pampering to help them de-stress. It adds a lot to a woman’s overall feeling of wellbeing. Proper manicure and pedicure can be as extensive as taking care of your face. It gives you confidence and makes you ready to take on the world.
Your favourite actor:
Your most romantic moment:
Ten years ago, when my husband proposed to me by booking an entire theatre for just the two of us where the movie Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa was running.
One thing you remember when you were five years old:
My impatience to be a grown-up.
The most attractive character of a man:
His intellect (I’m a sapiosexual).
The most annoying character:
Your most favourite holiday destination:
Paris, any day!
Your house is on fire. You can take only five things. What will they be?
Just my purse. It always has all that I need – my mobile, cash, credit cards, car keys, makeup and more!
Tell us what comes to your mind
when you hear these words.
Kerala: God’s own country and my Karma bhoomi
Religion: Humanity First
Nation: India First
Bollywood: Life Ka Tadka
Nails: Embellishment to your personality
Women: Have Arrived
Politics: Better left unsaid
What makes a woman beautiful?
A woman’s grace and dignity make her beautiful. A trip to The Nail Artistry also helps!
As a woman, what makes us stand apart from the men in the business world?
Women are more mindful, intuitive, flexible and resilient. Also, we have gratitude and empathy, which I find are sourly missing in most businessmen.
Who is the strongest woman you have come across? And why?
That woman who stares back at me in the mirror is the strongest one for me. I look up to her for the strength and determination that she displays every day in her quest to prove herself. She may go through a lot on a given day, still, she chooses to keep moving. That takes real courage. She’s my hero!
Gender is dissolving; we are talking about LGBT, Transgender, and more liberal views on gender? How do you see this?
I truly believe that what matters is that people remain comfortable in whatever identity they choose for themselves. We, as a society, need to grow up and stop categorising and chastising people for the choices they make. Instead, support them in their quest to find their true self.
What quality should a woman entrepreneur possess to be successful?
Women are ambitious and focused. We’re mindful, intuitive, flexible and resilient. We have gratitude and empathy. All these must be there in the personality of a good business leader. As such, I sincerely believe that a woman has all the qualities inside her to be successful in business. We just have to stay positive consistently. Despite all the odds and those people around who might want to bring us down, we have to learn to stay positive and keep moving towards the goal.
Has patriarchy brought your spirit down?
Since it is all around us, patriarchy does get under my skin once in a while too, but I don’t allow it to sustain and influence my spirits for long. I remind myself that I am not only fighting it but I am doing it well. I also remind myself that I am not fighting it alone either. There are millions of women like me in all corners of India, and the world, who are fighting it every day. I tell myself that I have to be strong and prevail for the sake of future generations of women. All of us deserve better and we are together in this fight against patriarchy in our society.
Three points that women who wish to fly high should keep in mind?
One, being financially independent is as important as being emotionally strong.
Two, being good at what you do is as important as being good to those around you.
Three, your hands and feet deserve the same tender love and care you reserve for your face.