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La Vida hopes Marilyn Monroe Spas draws globally


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In bringing Marilyn Monroe Spas to India, Jyotirmoy Bose, La Vida's executive director and CEO, says he expects the brand's association with glamour to appeal to the middle class.

She has a global draw that transcends generations and, one master franchisee hopes, continents. Fifty-five years after her death, Marilyn Monroe’s beauty and image endure, still evoking glamour and, in the case of Marilyn Monroe Spas, still selling a luxury experience. The allure of the legendary actress is a key reason why Delhi-based La Vida Investment Holdings signed a master franchise agreement to develop and sell 250 Marilyn Monroe Spa locations in India over the next 10 years.

“The Marilyn Monroe name is recognized here and associated with popular culture, glamour and America, all of which are on the minds of Indians, particularly our exploding middle class,” said Jyotirmoy Bose, executive director and group CEO at La Vida. “We believe that name recognition will give us an initial advantage that will then be backed up by the excellence of our services.”

With operations spanning hospitality real estate, management consulting and information technology, La Vida sought to further diversify its portfolio with a spa concept, always with the intention to integrate spas with another of its franchise businesses, hotels.

As the master licensee for Red Lion Hotel Corp. (Red Lion acquired Vantage Hospitality Inc. in 2016), La Vida is expanding its economy and midscale hotel brands in India.

Jyotirmoy Bose

Jyotirmoy Bose

Bose expects to follow, at least in part, a location strategy similar to the one taken by Marilyn Monroe Spas in the United States, where the brand has five hotel spas, along with full-service spa and nail lounge concepts.

“La Vida chose to enter hair and beauty segment with the aim to exploit mutual synergies of both businesses and latent market need,” explained Bose. “Once we took that decision we evaluated various approaches to enter the market and determined that Marilyn Monroe Spas was the best fit.”

Marilyn Monroe Spas’ “exclusive hold on the Marilyn Monroe name in the spa industry” was another factor Bose noted in viewing the brand as a “promising partner and a probable wealth creator in the long run.”

The Orlando, Florida-based franchise was granted an exclusive licensing agreement in 2012 to use the Marilyn Monroe moniker from Authentic Brands Group, which owns the rights to the deceased actress’s estate. The brand was launched that same year.

Marilyn Monroe Spas, too, evaluated La Vida, and CEO Jim Lewis said he was particularly impressed with the standard operating procedures the Indian company had established.

“I was really blown away—they’re very bright people, very smart,” said Lewis, who spent a week in India meeting La Vida executives and visiting potential sites before the deal was finalized. “They already had a really strong interest and knowledge of the spa industry … that was a big leg up.”

That spa industry is growing in India. The Global Wellness Economy Monitor lists the country as one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing spa markets, generating more than $1 billion in annual revenue. The overall beauty, grooming and cosmetic industry in India is projected to grow from $6.5 billion today to more than $20 billion by 2025, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

La Vida is poised to take advantage of this evolving spa culture and a fragmented sector in the country currently filled by independent salons offering specialized services versus the Marilyn Monroe approach of hair, makeup, massage and nail services all under one roof. Bose noted Marilyn Monroe Spas stands out with its focus on cleanliness, hygiene and safety, and services specific to the Indian market, such as a wedding makeup, will be combined with the franchisor’s offerings to appeal to local customers.

Jim Lewis

Marilyn Monroe Spas CEO Jim Lewis sees many global opportunities for the brand.

“Spending power of an Indian household has increased,” Bose noted. “Indian women are keen to maintain and groom themselves. A lot of women are very much aware of the new treatments available. Same goes for the men.”

Delhi, La Vida’s home base and the national capital of India, and Mumbai are slated to get the first two or three spa locations later this year. They’ll be La Vida-owned and operated, an approach Bose insisted on before moving to sign local franchisees.

The plan to open company-owned stores first, he said, “will be an excellent benchmark for the sub-franchisees coming on board and an essential laboratory where new services, product ranges, and changes in operations, management and sales techniques can be tested and proved to work before being rolled out to the sub-franchisees.”

An exercise in patience

That commitment on the part of the master franchisee was further evidence to Lewis that La Vida was the right partner for Marilyn Monroe Spas’ first international deal. La Vida “even hired a consultant to check us out to make sure the concept could adapt and be a success in India,” Lewis said.

It took about 16 months before the companies came to their final agreement; it was a process Lewis acknowledged was an exercise in patience as the two sides went back and forth, “revisiting every detail … to make sure it’s a win-win.” He emphasized the importance of each side feeling confident in the other because, “it’s kind of like asking them to take care of your baby in a foreign country, so you want to make sure they’re going to nurture it and take care of it.”

Like in India, Lewis sees emerging middle classes in many global markets, with potential opportunity to expand Marilyn Monroe Spas to Dubai, China and several South American regions.

“We’re still an emerging brand, so we want to be very careful” about where to go, said Lewis. “We’ll turn down money because we want to be in this for the long term and we want to do it right.

For its part, La Vida was formed with a philosophy of providing international brand experiences to aspiring Indian consumers through franchising, Bose said, and “will certainly expand its portfolio of international brands, including those from the U.S. of A.”

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