Vandana Luthra is not coy about her success. Her flamboyance has spawned a million imitations and several envious detractors. This well-spoken beautician, weight loss a nd health specialist, who is perhaps the best advertisement for her business, says if she had not been a beautician, she would have been an actress.
Her father steered her away from celluloid aspirations. He could not, however, stop her from scripting her own remarkable success story.
When did you start VLCC?
Well, I started in 1986 but we got registered in 1989 so that is when we say it actually started. My first centre was at Safdarjung Enclave in Delhi. I was a housewife for five to six years when I had both my daughters. I got married into a very conservative family but I liked every moment of it.
It was my husband Mukesh who told me, "the house is set, the kids go to school, you should do something." Within three months of him saying that I started VLCC.
I remember my father-in-law saying, hamaare ghar ki bahu naai nahi banegi. (The daughter-in-law of our house will not become a barber!) My husband was very supportive.
In just 12 years you are a major presence in almost every corner of India. Why is VLCC so successful?
It is the combination of beauty and health together that we offer. Also the fact that it came at the right time. We were the pioneers. This industry was totally unexplored, there was nothing but gymnasiums as that time for weight loss.
The kind of clientele I got. amazing. I do not know if God sent the clientele. I think I am a blessed child of God, at least my father tells me that.
You press advertisements show people who have lost a huge amount of weight. The Before & After difference is phenomenal. People wonder if these claims are true.
We have already treated 3 lakh people in India, our success rate is 93 to 94 per cent. We have 37 centres now and 20 more opening.
Are these sensational advertisements a way to grab attention?
Yes they are. But our claims are true.
Do such obese people come to VLCC?
Yes, we get very, very obese people. The maximum weight loss we have given is 85 kilos to a girl called Gita Makhija. There are many more like her. We not only have the best technology but also personal care.
We get very involved with our clients. We have machines like face lifters; we have certain machines for weight reduction too like the FDS, (Fat Distribution System machines) and body firmers.
Can one lose weight on a machine? You also claim there is no diet restriction, no strenuous exercise in your programme.
Only a machine cannot make anybody lose weight. We make people eat a balanced diet, which is low in carbohydrates and high in fibre. VLCC believes that most people have very busy lives and are unable to incorporate exercise into their lifestyle, so VLCC recommends a half an hour walk before dinner.
Because then your Basal Metabolic Rate remains activated. One must eat very light at night. Also, our machines focus a lot of inch loss, skin tightening; we give a lot of body therapies to mobilize the fat.
But can you move fat?
Yes. You mobilize it through massage. Counselling is a very, very important part of our weight loss programme too.
Do you emphasize any time limit?
Well, there is no guarantee for weight loss but we try making a person lose four to five kilos a month, we do not go beyond that. I have 196 doctors on my panel to treat clients with medical problems.
You say you have doctors on the panel of VLCC from the Indian Medical Association, but there is a part of the IMA which says that they do not want to be a part of VLCC.
I have no idea about this. We have always worked very closely with the Indian Medical Association. They have always been very supportive. But definitely it is against medical ethics to endorse a private organisation. So we are very, very agreeable on that. We don't want them to endorse us.
VLCC is supposed to be extremely expensive with packages going up to a humungous Rs. 80,000.
Our packages are very reasonable. In fact, you have so many people going for slimming programmes, if you take the rate list of VLCC it is at least 30 per cent cheaper than other places. When I open a centre, I look at the competition very closely, I am extremely aware of what the others are doing. Our rate is Rs. 3,600 for five kilos.
VLCC also charges money for the inches lost during a weight loss programme?
No, the rate of Rs. 3,600 for five kilos is all-inclusive. What is the use of losing weight without tightening the skin? We have to do that treatment too. But the rate is all inclusive.
You faced an income tax raid recently. Would it help if you were less flamboyant? Less in the public eye?
We do advertise, but our work is such that we have to tell people what we are doing. I have to be in the public eye. I guess this is the price one pays for success.
Are people jealous of your success?
You know I never thought like that before but now I am beginning to believe it after the Income Tax raids. After all, what was the need of an income tax raid? We are clean; VLCC's records are straight.
Even saying this, I must add that the income tax officers were extremely nice. My centres were not even closed while we were raided.
What do you have to say to reactions from detractors like Vandana Luthra is a fraud?
They do not bother me at all. My husband often tells me: Look, what is being said about you, look what they are writing in the papers about. I do not care because I have always been a very satisfied person.
I always think, tomorrow I have to get up and go to work again, come what may, so why should I bother about any detractors?