By Hiranmayi G. K. and Nandu G.
Bhaskar, a hairstylist at an up-and-coming hair and beauty salon for men and women, went without work for months since the coronavirus struck the country. This meant no pay and no tips from happy clients. Given the situation, he doesn't even have clients let alone the happy ones. During the lockdown, his employer paid him a small part of his monthly salary just to retain his services.
As barber shops in India are infamous for being tiny cramped places, both men and women have let their locks grow to new lengths in the past few months. With salons shut during the many months of the lockdown, this trend didn't seem out of place.
With the lockdown completely lifted in Bengaluru, salons are regaining their clients by a hair's breadth every day. "Our clients were initially scared to come to our outlet. They were worried about their health. We faced days where we didn't have even a single walk-in," said Sarla, the HR Manager of Body Craft, Lavelle Road. She believes that the parlour industry was one of the worst affected because it involves direct physical contact with clients. Asked how many of her clients have returned, she said, "Since the time the pandemic started in February to this day, the footfall hasn't been the same. Till June, we had zero clients. July onwards only about 40 to 50% of customers have turned up. This is the case in most salons although we follow all the WHO guidelines, protocols, and SOPs."
Talking of the discontinuation of some of the services, she said: "Threading and massages were halted till August. We eventually found ways to go about them safely without touching the clients. Even waxing and massages have begun with safety measures in place. The same spatula isn't used for the next client; disposable ones are in place."
The manager of an upscale hair salon in Sadashivnagar said that his branch achieved the monthly target of customer turnout in October. While explaining the precautionary measures being taken, he said: "We don't take walk-ins. As soon as clients enter, they're fumigated and asked to scan a QR code to fill a form with queries regarding COVID-19 symptoms. We do not produce paper bills; all receipts are sent through SMS. The apron worn by the clients while getting their hair cut has to be discarded by themselves." Many salon chains came up with promotional offers for services to attract more clients along with information about the precautionary measures being taken. Disposable aprons, complimentary masks, mandatory Arogya Setu app, face shields, and zero-contact payments are termed as usual.