Never wanted to be a hair stylist, says Jawed Habib

Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.

The Habib family has been hair stylists to heads of state since the pre-Independence era. Among the first hair stylist in the family tradition to conceive of a learning academy before setting up his own chain of salons, Jawed Habib from the third generation has set a precedent of sorts. In the largely unorganised beauty sector, Jawed Habib Hair & Beauty Ltd., has over the years set up 484 salon outlets and 41 salon academics. Fifty-two year-old Habib's USP is that he offers affordability with a brand name. And it is an illustrious family name, too. His grandfather was hair stylist to Lord Linlithgow at the Viceroy House (now the Rashtrapati Bhavan), while his father tended to the locks of Lord Mountbatten, British India’s last Vicerory, besides that of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and also former president, APJ Abdul Kalam among others. In a conversation with Firstpost, Habib talks about how he got into a profession that he preferred to stay away from in his growing up years and then successfully made it a brand name.

Excerpts from the conversation:

You come from a family that has had two generations in the hair cutting business. Is that what inspired you to get into it?

No. The truth is: I never wanted to be a hair stylist. I was passionate about playing cricket and played the game during my college days. The choice of a career in the beauty business happened when I was doing a degree course in French language at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. By the final year of the course I did not know why I was doing it! My father suggested I attend a hair stylist course at his alma mater -- London’s Morris School of Hair Design. It was there that I realised that hairdressing was about glamour. That attracted me and after that there was no looking back.

 Never wanted to be a hair stylist, says Jawed Habib

Jawed Habib, Chairman, Jawed Habib Hair & Beauty Ltd.

Did you seek your father’s help to start the business or were you confident of making it on your own?

No, I have sought no one’s help to start my business. When I returned from London, I worked initially at my father’s salon. I then realised that the clients who came there wanted to have their hair cut from my dad or my two younger brothers. As a result, I got few opportunities to work there. It was then that I thought of doing something different and decided to teach about hair styling and grooming. Teaching gave me an understanding about people’s needs and wants. I started conducting seminars to raise awareness about the industry which enabled me to create a niche with the masses. I think the idea of teaching -- the students whom I taught, and what they taught me during the process-- created this brand called ‘Jawed Habib’. I have done 800 seminars till date, not restricting myself to any particular region or country.

What motivated you to start your own chain of hair salons?

Today anything from T-shirts to pens is a brand. Then, why not a haircut? I want people to go to a branded salon for a haircut. Today’s generation has a busy schedule but is image conscious, too. They would like to be groomed in the shortest time, in the best possible way and at the most affordable price. This is where Jawed Habib comes in. We give our customers a premium haircut at an affordable price. My idea was to take hairdressing to the High Street.

How much capital did you have to start the business?

I did not have the capital and decided to start it as a joint venture. I built my business on other people’s money, but worked hard for its success. My passion and innovation made me achieve my dreams.

Which was the first salon you opened?

The very first Jawed Habib Hair salon was opened in Kochi, Kerala. I remember my dad calling me a fool for opening the salon there as it was far away from hometown Delhi. We now have 500 outlets across 92 cities in India (metros, Tier-1,2,3 cities). I have set up an ambitious goal of opening 5,000 more salons in the next five years. Jawed Habib Hair and Beauty Ltd is one the largest unisex salon chains in India and offer varied products and services including professional hair styling salons, hair academy, hair styling tools and beauty products.

What are the challenges you face in the business?

A large part of the grooming and wellness frenzy that we witness today was absent when I decided to change the way Indians look. The organised Indian beauty and cosmetic industry is growing at 15 to 20 percent annually. As a result of which people are becoming increasingly beauty conscious across the country. However, there was hardly awareness about hair styling or grooming in 1986 when I started doing my workshops. People would ask me to teach them a Sadhana hair cut or a Dimple hair cut! Educating them about things beyond this was very exciting. Hair styling to me is 10 percent art and 90 percent science.

What is your business model?

Our operation model for the Jawed Habib brand and Jawed Habib group is based on franchises. We have 500 salons which are in a joint venture format. The remaining is franchised. We take franchisee fees when people come on board. On a monthly basis, they have to give us 15 percent of their total revenues. Apart from this, we have something called territorial selling, where we sell territories to a master franchisee so that he can manage the territory. He acts as an agent for us in that territory. We think it is one of the fastest ways to expand network and increase brand awareness. The franchise format is emerging as a new business option for many first-timers to small scale entrepreneurs in India.

The capital expenditure to start a Jawed Habib salon ranges from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 45 lakh, space requirement between 200-1,200 carpet sq ft with a RoI (return on investment) of 20 months. This differs from brand to brand. Jawed Habib is a cash positive company, and does not need a huge capital investment. This is purely a people business that is run on franchisee format.

What are your expected revenues next fiscal? Your future plans?

Our revenues for 2015 were Rs 25 crore and we expect it to go up to Rs 30 crore in 2016. There are a lot of projects in the pipeline. We will be launching five categories of hair cosmetic products under our label. The Jawed Habib Hair Yoga products will be initially available in our salons and then in other local markets. We have given the licence to a retail company, Urban Life that will launch the products in the market by the end of this year.

Your father and grandfather offered their services to leading political heavyweights of the time.

I would love to be called as Hair Guru or a Hair Expert instead. My star clients are common people. I owe my profession and hard work to them. They are the ones who judge and accept me as a brand.

Do you have the time to indulge in a hobby? What about your degree in French language?

I love to write about what I notice on a daily basis. Whatever comes to my mind, I put it in words. This gives me motivation to keep on pressing forward in order to reach my goals on a daily basis. I also love to hear Rafi Sahab's devotional songs and have a huge catalogue of them. I hardly meet anyone in India with whom I can converse in French.

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Updated Date: Aug 10, 2015 10:33:55 IST