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Ace hair artist Bina Punjani talks about growth spurt in Indian Hairdressing

by Arun Shirishkar

‘The shift from judgement based hairdressing to structured hairdressing,’ says Bina Punjani, Art Director, Bina Punjani Salons, Academy & Bridals.

After completing an MA in Economics from Mumbai University, Bina started her journey in hairdressing in 2002 and spent the first 6 years training and working with Toni&Guy in London. She was the Style Director and Staff Trainer for St Paul’s Salon in central London and was a part of the Toni&Guy Breakthrough team. This was followed by a 3-year stint as Creative & Technical Head of LOOKS in New Delhi, after which she moved to Goa in 2011 and started her own brand. Based in Goa, the brand currently has 4 salons with an academy and an exclusive Bridal Hair & Makeup vertical.

How did you start?

Back in 2002, I did my beginners course with Toni&Guy at their academy in London. I then continued to work with Toni&Guy salons, mainly in London until 2008, when I moved to India. I then spent 3 years as Creative and Technical Head of LOOKS Salon. What I fundamentally realised is that, apart from a quality difference, there is a difference in approach between hairdressing in India and the UK. Hairdressing in India is considered ‘artistic’, with each hairdresser using a variety of tricks and techniques they have picked up from different sources to create or replicate looks. In the UK, on the other hand, the approach is more structured and scientific, and hairdressers are supposed to master a comprehensive set of skills to deliver precise results.

My rigorous grounding in British hairdressing made it a bit frustrating for me in India, as my attempts to reorient practicing Indian hairdressers into a structured system was alien to them and they kept going back to cutting by ‘judgement’ rather than process. It pretty much became clear to me that to do my kind of hairdressing, I would have to setup my own brand. Especially, if I wanted my team to work in the same philosophy and system that I believed in,

Having come back from the UK, I admit I found it a bit difficult to live in the big cities, and Pralay (my husband) and I decided we would move to Goa and setup something here.

What were the initial challenges?

The main challenge was being in Goa, to be honest. The precise things that attracted us – low population density – was also the biggest challenge. Panjim, the capital city, where we started, still has less than 1 lac people, and the market was typical used to getting basic services done at lower prices. Coming in with a premium international offering in such a place was a huge challenge. Not only were there very few people, but the market itself needed to be educated in the kind of hairdressing we offered.

How will you define the hair industry? How it has evolved in terms of products, techniques, etc.?

The hairdressing industry in India is still quite a bit behind the international hair industry – it’s only in the last 10 years or so that substantial number of customers have started wanting more than basic trims, layers or root touch ups or single colour. There is definitely much more variety both in cut and colour, but technically there is still a lot of catching up to do before we can be world class.

What is your go-to product and why?
Dusting powder – it makes an immediate difference to the way hair looks.

Any pro advice to the aspiring hair artists?

The shift from judgement based hairdressing to structured hairdressing is happening as we speak. You see many more hairdressers work in a structured way, with proper sectioning and partings. My advice to aspiring hairdressers is simple – learn the right kind of hairdressing that will help you as the market evolves. Do a proper course that teaches you international techniques and methods.

What are your plans ahead?

We have grown from one salon to 3 salons, and relocated out first one all within the last two years. Unlike most brands that have different hairdressers working with different techniques within the same salon, we ensure that all our hairdressers work in exactly the same system. This requires a lot of training and hand-holding, and we need to ensure that the same level of quality and consistency is available across all our locations. So, the plan over the next year or two, is to consolidate and strengthen our existing footprint, and then evaluate what we want to do next.

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