Keeping up with Nalini & Natasha Naegamvala
‘Nalini of Nalini & Yasmin’ is more than just a salon business — it stands for a legacy of over 50 years that has pioneered the growth of Indian hairdressing industry. From opening their salon in Mumbai at a time when professional hairdressing was still unknown for most of the contemporary society, to standing their ground in the face of mounting competition from new brands and entrepreneurs largely focussed on business than service, there lies an incredible journey behind the success of this name that resonates expertise and experience.
Beauty Launchpad was honoured to have spent a few moments talking to the mother-daughter duo who continue to inspire our salon industry, merely by doing what they are best at. The conversation throws light on the many challenges that this rapidly advancing industry faces on a day-to-day basis — unethical practices, educational improvements, standardization and more.
The lack of proper awareness and limited resources were the biggest challenge to establishing professional hairdressing in India. Today, awareness is at an all-time high, and all the major players in the global beauty & salon industry have set up shop in the country. And so, the challenges have moved on to higher levels as well.
“50 years ago, India did not have professional hairdressing. When our salon was launched, we had to try and figure out what would work for the clients here. We had to teach our staff and clients on how to use hair products. Even shampoos and conditioners weren’t popular nor were there any of the big global brands; and salesmen would come to our doors with international products. We had to make do with limited resources in those days. But today, the options are limitless. Back then, we barely managed colour with 30 tubes — today, we have more than 200! However, it also taught us to be creative and work out the best with whatever products were available,” says Nalini Naegamvala, Founder-Nalini of Nalini & Yasmin Salon.
Ethics are Important
Staff poaching is a rising concern for many salon owners in India. With new entrepreneurs — many with no prior experience in the industry, entering the salon space, unethical practices are at an all-time high. Nalini had recently spoken out about her adverse experience with poaching and how it damages the balance of a thriving industry.
She says, “We are trying very hard to form an association of the top hairdressers in Mumbai, who are tired in making an effort of training their staff and then losing them to outsiders with deeper pockets. It’s so much harder to run a business with that kind of challenge and it’s simply not right to buy trained staff like that, just because you have a lot of money. It has to stop and we are in the process of spreading awareness about this. We can always assist these new brands and salons — we can give you trainers and many people are waiting for a job opportunity — train them well and retain them, and stop taking shortcuts like poaching.”
“What happened to us last year was very hard and it was a difficult situation to come out of. It was a such a huge attrition rate — one new salon just came along and poached more than half of my team — from management to stock to helpers and even the cashier. The problem is, you can’t completely prevent this; it simply has to have a more standardised control. For example, I have heard that in industries abroad, there’s a rule that if you want to leave your current place of work, you cannot transfer to another establishment within a certain radius of your current workplace. We need to consider that people will naturally move from one establishment to another simply for a better paycheck — that’s okay, but not in mass numbers. Poaching an entire salon is essentially cutting off their business,” adds Natasha Naegamvala, Director – Nalini of Nalini & Yasmin Salon.
Elaborating on the need for establishing a salon owners association in Mumbai, Natasha says, “The agenda is to discuss ethical practices. But the point of the matter is that ‘Ethics’ becomes a blurred subject. It is a bit preachy to say ‘my form of ethics vs your form of ethics.’ So, the goal of the meetings is to find ways to make the industry better and an important part of it is ethical conduct. A strong group of salon owners and hairdressers can deliver better results, so down the line, we aim to work in tandem and hope to stand together while trying to reach out to others in the industry as well.”
My journey in hairdressing began 50 years ago, while my husband who worked for Air India was posted in London. At that time, in England, 20-something-old girls were the hairdressing stars. They would complete their professional courses, become successful hairdressers, and eventually, turned into trainers as well. And watching their success, I wished we could have such salons in India too – with well-trained hairdressing staff as well as trainers. Even though I had a young child at that time, luckily I also had some help at home with a lady who took care of my child so well that I could take up the opportunity to pursue a course in hairdressing. With minimal knowledge of hairdressing as a career, I began attending the course and just loved it from day 1.
When we returned to India, I met my ex-business partner Yasmin and we launched our first hairdressing salon in Mumbai. Yasmin and I were two different personalities but together we gave our best to ensure great services for our clients and thus, making my wish come true to have a professional hair salon in India which was at par with the ones in England. We gave it our all – there were days when we worked from 7am to 10pm. With young children to take care of, we were blessed to have had the support from our families during those times.
We were the first to bring professional hairdressing to India; there were no big brands or even trained professionals to employ at that time. We simply got hold of youngsters who were interested in hairdressing, trained them and employed them at the salon. Ever since then, we have run a small hairdressing academy and hire staff who we have trained.
A career in hairdressing just happened to me! My mom did the same with my older sister Monisha and aunty Yasmin with her daughter, Dilshad. When we were at school and junior college, our moms were quite particular that we should not waste any of our vacation time and had us helping out at the salon — much to my disagreement. Luckily, there were aspects to it that appealed to me as a young girl. I have always been a people’s person and loved interacting with the clients. It made me feel good. Then, there was also the creativity and fun of it.
After a few years, I started working for an airline — but that didn’t last as I realised I did not like flying! I missed the direct human interactions that came with a salon job. Yes, I could have travelled the world but that did not make me happy. I came back with my tail tucked between my legs and mom put me back into training. I had to start all over again as there was a five-year gap — hairdressing was changing relatively faster back then, so it was necessary to start at the bottom. This time, I got really serious about it and I am glad I had found my calling. I am doing what I am meant to do!
Read the full story in Beauty Launchpad October issue.
Photo: Viral Bhayani