Good hair days

Mallika Sreekumar Nair has thick, glossy, lustrous hair. She makes it even better by wearing hair extensions made by her company Waveshair that uses “only temple hair” to make wigs, extensions, specialised wigs for cancer patients and now “toupees” to address male baldness. Another of her products, treated hair — dyed into different shades — has found a steady market in Europe. But what’s making Mallika truly happy these days is her newest clients, women from Kerala.

So forget bad hair days.

Mallika’s foray into human hair business began after she visited her brother’s enterprise, Hindustan Hair, in Sao Paulo in Brazil. In the six months that she spent there she, out of curiosity and determination, found out the possibilities with human hair. A group of women who bought hair regularly from her brother’s office aroused her curiosity.

With the help of a Malayali staff who spoke fluent Portuguese Mallika reached their place of work and found the group of six women stitching “machine weft hair” from a single machine. She asked if she could learn the process. Using Google translator and with her word that she would not begin a similar unit in Brazil, they taught her to thread hair and sew it. “That’s where I saw keratin extensions,” she says. Another of her brother’s clients, a woman called Rosa, advertised for a class that would teach making and fixing hair extensions manually. Rosa’s class too was in Portuguese and Mallika did the lessons using Google translator.

On her return she bought hair from her brother’s company and began her venture. “At that time I was selling only black, stitched hair”. She then registered her company on trading site and began receiving enquiries for coloured hair. Her first customers were from Germany. Through the Internet she befriended a Norwegian who arranged for Mallika to learn the art of hair colouring in Italy. A two-week course in de-pigmentation and dyeing armed her with the new know how. She introduced coloured hair and began supplying blonde, brunette, honey blonde, red and such colour hair to European markets.

“Necessity is the mother of invention. I believe that a thorough learning gives one great confidence,” she says and practising that she continued to augment her knowledge about the new innovations in this field and market. She bought pliers for hair extensions and then got a local ironsmith to mould them to her requirements.

Mallika buys hair through agents from the temples in South India where people commonly shave off hair as fulfilment of a vow. Hair from Tirupati temple can now be accessed through a global tender, she says. Hair is sold in three categories depending on length and is valued per kilo.

“In the current scenario Indian hair is facing stiff competition from hair from Vietnam and China. Oriental hair texture is straight and thick and they are selling it at nearly 40 per cent less than Indian rates. They are even making their hair wavy like ours. European and Indian textures are soft,” she says.

At her work place in Chempumukku a staff of eight women untangles or hack hair, dye and stitch them. For specialised hand stitching a Tamil worker, an expert, comes once a month.

Her newest market is Kerala and this pleases Mallika immensely. In the city she has found new clientele from Nigerian men and women who work here. The two new products that Mallika has introduced are wigs mainly used by cancer patients and toupees to address male baldness but it is the clip extensions that have the most buyers. A single clip extension costs Rs. 125 and above, most other products are in the range of Rs. 6000 upwards.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 5:01:38 AM |

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