Forget spending thousands on haircuts. Next time you get rid of your locks, you may also be the one getting paid for it.
With the fad for hair extensions and wigs spawning a multi-billion dollar industry, a pixie or a bob cut can earn you a neat sum.
“We are currently clocking around four ads a month by Indians keen on selling their hair, up from negligible participation a year ago,” said Sandip Sekhon, CEO of buyandsellhair.com, an online portal that specialises in hair trade.
Shortening your hair by 12 inches can fetch you more than Rs. 12,000 — a handy sum if you’re looking to make a quick buck. Last November, Kajal Jetly, an out-of-job 26-year-old from Faridabad, chopped her long locks to help her family pay a month’s home loan instalment. She negotiated the deal through an online portal, visited a parlour where she instructed the hairdresser to keep her hair in a special packet, and finally handed it over to an agent that the buyer had sent.
“I received money within a week of posting (on the portal),” Jetly, who sold six inches of her hair for Rs. 6,500, said.
The average price per inch for untreated hair from India stands at around $20 or about Rs. 1,100. Hair is measured across length and circumference, packed in a ponytail or braid.
Sanjeev Katoch, who set up Indian Remi Hair Extensions in 2005, said nearly 80% of global hair demand is met from Indian supplies.
“The sheer amount of hair Indians sacrifice for religious reasons explains this demand,” Katoch said. He runs three factories in Delhi, Ludhiana and Chennai that process raw hair before shipping it across the globe. Katoch buys 'raw hair' from suppliers who buy from individuals such as Jetly or purchase it in bulk at hair auctions that temples across India carry out.
In 2011-12, the Lord Venkateshwara temple in Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, earned almost Rs. 200 crore out of its total revenue of Rs. 1,949 crore by auctioning devotees’ hair. Listings on eBay.com, the world’s largest online auction and shopping portal, show that about 50% of human hair wigs for sale are ‘Indian’. “Indian human hair wigs have over 35,000 live listings on eBay.com, where the average wig listing sells for $158 (Rs. 8,500)” said Deepa Thomas, spokesperson, eBay India.