Nitin Kalwani opened the first Juice Salon in Mumbai in 1998. Today, there are five Juice salons in the city (the two in Bandra are minutes away from each other) and one each in Kolkata and Hyderabad. The multiplying numbers are giving rise to a growing tribe of young, urban hairstylists and beauticians who take the business of beauty very seriously.
Kalwani says the beauty industry is the only one that grew as hugely as 200 per cent last year. Market reports say the beauty industry (excluding colour cosmetics) is estimated at around Rs 6000 crore.
"Global exposure via internet, travel, television has bought enormous awareness in Indian consumers towards personal care, grooming and beauty. Higher disposable incomes, too, have fuelled the market space with opportunities," said Dharmendra Manwani, CEO of Jean Claude Biguine Salons. Looking to capitalise on this beauty boom, Retail giants Reliance, Pantaloons and Bharti-Wal-Mart are all set to venture into the beauty business with private label products and concept salons.
The Indian hair market is estimated at around US $325 million (Rs 1,312 crore) said a 2008 report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM). With a 35-45 per cent growth predicted by industry experts every year, Kalwani believes that hairstyling is booming. "The fact that there is a salon opening every day clearly indicates that people are growing increasingly aware of their looks and want to experiment with their hair more than before," he said.
Mumbai seems to have the cutting-edge over other Indian cities when it comes to beauty and hairstyling. "Because of Bollywood, Mumbai is the hub of trendsetters where everyone wants to look good and feel great these days," Kalwani said. "Which is why every brand opens first in Mumbai then the rest of the country." Take, for instance, the well-known international salons Toni and Guy and Biguine House of Beauty: both started their flagship Indian salons in Mumbai.
Jean Claude Biguine, the world-renowned French hairstylist who has 350 salons in 17 countries, believes that Mumbai, being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India, is the perfect testing ground for his flagship salon. However, he acknowledged that Indian hairstylists are yet to make an international impact. "The fragmented industry needs to develop more," he said. "India needs to produce more international ambassadors of hairstyling."
Which is a likely prospect in the near future considering the hordes of 18-year-olds joining the several hair academies in the city to snip their way to success. As Natasha Naegamvala, celebrity stylist and director of education at Nalini Hair Academy, put: "Hairstyling is the new 'rock n roll' career for youngsters. It offers a world of opportunities from preparing supermodels for the catwalk to joining the team of a magazine for a fashion shoot or tending to the locks of the rich and famous."
Case in point: 25-year-old Karishma Dalal, a hairstylist at Kroma Kay in Juhu, has already worked magic in the manes of Bollywood biggies like Abhishek Bachchan, Arjun Rampal and Kunal Kapoor.
"Hair dressing is a career which allows you to showcase your creativity, to have fun, meet new people everyday, to earn name, fame and good money," said Naegamvala who has been in the biz since nearly 13 years. At 35, this Bandra resident is today a celebrated stylist, thanks to her genes - she happens to be the daughter of Mumbai's First Lady of Hair, Nalini Naegamvala of Nalini and Yasmin fame. And good money it certainly is. "The salary ranges up to six figures in two years' time," said Kalwani. Reason enough to let your hair down.