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Reliance Retail, a unit of Indian oil-to-chemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries , plans to enter the salon business and is in final stages to buy a roughly 49% stake in Naturals Salon & Spa, the Economic Times newspaper reported on Friday.

However, Naturals' Chief Executive CK Kumaravel said "the talks are at a nascent stage," according to the report, which cited executives aware of the development.

The existing promoters of Groom India Salons & Spa, which runs over 700 Naturals salons across the country, could continue running its operations and Reliance's funding would help extend its network, the ET report said.

No potential deal value was mentioned. Naturals and Reliance did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

Chennai-based Naturals, founded in the early 2000s, aims to run 3,000 salons by 2025, according to its website.

Reliance's deal for Naturals would come just weeks after it launched its first in-house premium fashion and lifestyle store, while media reports have said Reliance is advanced talks for the India rights to LVMH-owned beauty chain Sephora.

Salons were among the hardest hit businesses at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturals' CEO Kumaravel even sought the government's help in May 2020, to keep the chain afloat.

However, the salon business is bouncing back as people are venturing out to social events and offices more.

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