Jawed Habib has transformed his family tradition of hairdressing into a huge business within the past 25 years. Habib’s wide enterprise now includes some 570 salon outlets across India. In a conversation with Guardian 20, Jawed Habib spoke about his work, his love for his profession, and about why education plays such an important part in the career of a hairstylist.
Q. Your family has set a trend when it comes to hairdressing. How do you feel about it?
A. It’s just work. My grandfather started it. My father took over. I am only converting it into a business. It has been growing. Even today I am opening 20 salons a month. I want to convert this figure to 25 or 30 in number. India is such a big country and this business can be flourished. I just love my profession.
Q. You have said that education is really important for this industry, too. Why is that so?
A. Without education you will only be known as a hair-dresser, but when you are educated, you become a spokesperson for this profession. The “Jawed Habib” brand is popular because I can talk about it. If people have any questions on hair, I can answer it. I have scientific answers for it. But many people are not able to respond in this vein, since they are not educated.
Q. What kind of changes do you see in popular hairstyles in recent years?
A. A huge change can be seen. Earlier hairstyling was just a need but now it is part of the industry.
Q. Any haircut that you find has gained a lot of popularity in India?
A. It is the step-cut. Nobody wants their hair to get shorten. They want long hair, so one cut that is possible in it would be step-cut. Jitne chhote baal, utni young look, Jitne lambe baal, utni mature look. [The shorter your hair, the younger you look. The longer it is, the more mature you look.] It is easy to cut long hair than short hair.
“I have only one motive that if Indian doctors are so famous internationally, why not an Indian hairdressers. I believe that I am providing skills to people.I want to make this brand international and sell the Indian way of cutting hair.”
Q. Which is the most style-conscious city according to you?
A. It is Delhi. Earlier, it was Mumbai because of its huge bollywood presence. But now, in the last 15 years, Delhi has taken over Mumbai in terms of fashion. People spend more money here. Delhi has a show-off culture, too. People spend here just to show off.
Q. Your salon is accessible to all sections of the society, when it comes to the price. Tell us more about it.
A. I am a “masses” man. Your success lies in the hands of the masses of the country. This level of trust has come to us in 25 years and that’s because of education.
Q. You have 570 salons. What about your further plans? Going international anytime soon?
A. My plans are huge. My minimum number would be 5000 in the coming three years. But when I say it would be 5,000, it sounds very vague but I plan to go to every taluqdar, every district and that’s going to change the industry. I have only one motive that if Indian doctors are so famous internationally, why not an Indian hair-dressers. I believe that I am providing skills to people. You can sell cosmetics easily but it’s very hard to skill people. And, I believe I have done it in India which has such a huge population then why not in other countries. It is possible. I want to take this brand internationally to sell Indian way of cutting hair.
Q. Any plans for getting to your brand to Bollywood?
A. Bollywood actors and actresses are like us only. I don’t think they are carrying very fashionable. It is only because whatever you see on the screen, it is a madeup look. They spend hours to get this look. I plan for India. Bollywood is just a part of it. I am not made for Bollywood, though. I did a pageant. I am a businessman and when you are a part of Bollywood, you are a servant there. You do not get respect there. They treat you like their personal chef, driver and hairdresser.
Q. Do you find men are less stylish?
A. Men are very fussy. Their hair length is generally shorter and scanty, and yet they want to look their best. So, they are the fussiest people on earth.
Q. Do you find this profession underrated?
A. It is changed now. I know when I started it, it was considered as “nai ka kaam” and it was very low-profile work. Earlier it was only female-oriented but it is now also caters to men. The ratio is the same now. I remember, I did a press conference in Bihar 20 years ago, and I was talking exactly the same way. I told them it’s all about science and suddenly a person from the press said that it is not about science: “it’s just the work of a barber”. But when I went to Bihar 10 years ago, that same journalist was waiting for me. Perception changes. It changes with time. Maybe I have become a spokesperson for this industry.
Q. You were talking about recycling hair. What is that about?
A. I am working on it. I will take it as a big project. No one has thought of that. I see it as a business. I have two lakh people coming every month to me. So, I have so much surplus hair. Why can’t I use it as a business!