Beauty Delivery. iWow


iWow is essentially a beauty UBER. The product is new to the CIS market. Is it scary to be the pioneer, in whose head a light bulb went on, when and how the idea was born?

Saltanat: The light bulb went on in my head in 2019, but it took another couple of years to make up my mind. We came to business from big consulting, worked for international companies, accompanied transactions, worked with investors, helped Kazakh companies raise money on global capital markets, and attracted strategists. But at some point, we found ourselves being a little bored with this; we wanted something more and to open our own business. It was clear that it must be something in the IT sphere. It is important to stress that initially we have been involved in neither IT nor the beauty industry.

Rinata: We've considered the product aggregator at fi rst, but discarded the concept upon deeper research. And the idea of the iWow format grew out of our own needs: frequent business trips, both inside and outside of Kazakhstan. When you travel to negotiate in other cities, you urgently need to get your look done, and it is challenging to do it whenever you need it. Because there is no time to call salons, let alone go anywhere. Almost all salons are also open 10 AM to 8 PM  – exactly when most women are at work, and you may need styling or a manicure earlier than that or later. Plus, at iWow, we have organized a marketplace of ready-made solutions in the beauty industry. When there is no time to select care procedures, combine care cosmetics of various brands, boxed ready-made solutions are very helpful.

Rinata Zhulaeva

Gulfiya: It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, not the most severe quarantine we had, but when the companies started to come to life a bit. Of course, we researched the market and realized there was no substitute for our project in the CIS. More precisely, there was something similar in Russia, but they entered the market too early. At that time, even food delivery, which most people can't imagine their life without, was in its infancy.

Saltanat: Another thought that pushed us was that traditional IT business is too masculine, that's been the other thought to give us impetus. Only men are in EdTech, FinTech, MedTech, and IT marketplace businesses. Yes, there were fears that a serious investor would ignore us…

Rinata: ...thinking that girls would just play with it an abandon! (Laughs)

The difficulty is that a project like iWow requires a change in the behavior of both consumers and partners. That is, our task is to teach people to do what they have never done before. In such conditions, of course, the absence of competitors is not an advantage, but a challenge: since the financing of marketing aimed at changing consumer behavior is expensive. Also, if there are two alternatives, it is easier for the client to get used to the new model than if these options were absent. You are right.

Now it is easier to attract customers than ten years ago: many of them already use delivery services, for example, and it is not a problem for them to let a person they have never seen into the house. Masters generally divide into two groups. Some are conservatives who are more accustomed to working within the traditional business model: in salons. And the second, who are open to something new. At fi rst, we tried to win the fi rst ones over to our side, but then we realized that we needed to capture the hearts of the innovators fi rst, and others will follow their example.

Saltanat Dauletova

Saltanat: In general, the main diffi culty of platform solutions is the need to create conditions for both groups of clients: both the customer and the service provider. It is diffi cult for people to accept change. Still, we offer them the fl exibility and the options to make it comfortable to embrace change. For example, often, from Friday to Sunday, beauty salons are totally booked. However, there is a decrease in customer interest during the day from Monday to Thursday. Therefore, first, we propose cooperating with iWow to fill these unpopular hours.

How do you deal with conflict situations between beauty experts and clients?

Saltanat: We have a call center with operators who answer both the beauty specialists and the clients, and we are aware of all disputes. You really have to listen to both parties. Of course, each case is unique, but in the future, we plan to develop a methodology and conflict resolution algorithms.

How do you three deal with conflicts among yourselves? Undoubtedly they happen from time to time.

Rinata: Great experience in consulting has taught us that work is work, and personal is personal. We will argue for a satisfying resolution about professional issues, but this does not affect our relationship outside work.

Saltanat: The thing is, we weren't originally girlfriends who communicated since childhood and then decided to open a business. We have an excellent relationship, but we agreed precisely on a professional code, having learned how to solve exactly work conflicts jointly. And the situations that could lead to serious conflict (shares, personal plans for years to come), we have discussed in advance.

Gulfiya Kurmanova

Gulfiya: If we talk about conflicts strategically, as people mature enough, we understand that the vision of business partners can change. Personal goals and plans can also transform. All of these are totally okay. This is why we agreed to coordinate our positions watches periodically. As for the divergence of opinions on the issues of the business operation, anything can happen (laughs); the main thing is to ensure that this is not counterproductive.

What are your plans for scaling your business?

Saltanat: Our service is already operating in four cities of Kazakhstan (Astana, Almaty, Aktau, and Shymkent). Now we are considering the possibility of entering the Arab countries. In addition, we want to develop training for masters. I can't help but ask how you combine business and family life.

Rinata: Saltanat and Gulfi ya are family women, but I am not. So they exploit me in every possible way (laughs).

Saltanat: Of course, there are 24 hours a day  – we manage to do everything (laughs)! Seriously, I have come to terms with the fact that I will not be an exemplary (from the standpoint of society) mother and wife, who rushes home after work, and, dropping her shoes off, sprints to the kitchen to cook Baursaks (laughs). If I had to choose between family time and household duties, I would qualty choose the former because it is crucial. If there is time  – I will please the family with a delicious dinner; if not  – there is always food delivery. Therefore, my family does not pine for my attention, even though Ispend a lot of time at work.

Gulfiya: I tried to be perfect in all aspects of my life for a long time; it seemed to me that spreading my efforts too thin I failed in achieving the result I needed at one thing, which wasn't right. Then I accepted the fact that there would be no perfect result anywhere. My daughter is now 17 years old. When she was 13–14 years old, she quite consciously said that the mother and father should not sacrifice anything for the sake of the family or their children's achievements.

Rinata: Unfortunately, in our society, women experience tremendous pressure regarding the need to get married at a certain age, start a family, and have children. This pressure culminates when women reach their thirties. However, you need to understand that everyone has their own life and a unique path, and it is useless make it adapted to fi t societal perceptions. In addition to iWow, I am engaged in mentoring: I help professionals and entrepreneurs strategically build and grow their businesses. So, I am also involved in upbringing. 

Author: Igor Toporkov

Photo: Aidyn Ahmet @aidyn_ahmet

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