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Hello Maha, We Are Open! Salons get ready to cut, trim and colour from 28th June

by Arun Shirishkar

Its recent meeting with Hon’ble Minister Aaditya Thackeray proved to be the much-needed silver lining for the salon industry in Maharashtra as the state government gives a green signal for salons to re-open from 28th June onward. Kanishka Ramchandani presents a detailed report

The video meeting between Hon’ble Minister Aaditya Thackeray and 230 representatives of Maharashtra’s salon industry on 19th June, 2020, has resulted in the government’s directive to allow salons to re-open from 28th June 2020 onward, under strict hygiene and safety guidelines. With slow yet sure steps, the Government of Maharashtra is striding forth with #MissionBeginAgain. This decision comes as a sigh of relief for all the stakeholders of the industry as the beauty and wellness industry employs close to 15 lakh professionals, majority of which are women.

Discussing status quo
During the above-mentioned video meeting, the industry leaders had put forth their dilemma with regards to maintaining their salons and staff under lockdown. While rents and salaries were underway, there was absolutely no revenue coming in, resulting in piling of debts and in some cases, even shutting down of businesses. Since the salon industry also has a rather long supply-chain, the continued lockdown of salons was affecting product manufacturers, distributors and transporters, too. As per a press release issued by Enrich Salon and Academy, the industry players expressed gratitude to Hon’ble CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and Minister Aaditya Thackeray for listening to their concerns and supporting the industry.

During his interaction, Hon’ble Minister Aaditya Thackeray had listened patiently and attentively to the concerns raised and had assured them that he would consider the decision after due assessment. Within a week of this meeting, the Government of Maharashtra arrived at the decision to start gradual re-opening of salons in the state, beginning with hair services. Currently, the directive does not allow for skin services. He had mentioned that slow opening-up is only to ensure that once open, there is no case to again enforce a lockdown. 

Following protocol stringently
To provide a 360-degree perspective about the industry to the government, different representatives of the industry from salon and spa owners, barber shops, training academies, product and equipment suppliers, salon and spa chains, and office bearers of almost all the associations in the industry were a part of this meeting. These representatives gave an assurance to Minister Aaditya Thackeray that salon operations will start without compromising on the health and safety of customers. There will be strict adherence to the Hygiene & Safety Protocol issued by Beauty & Wellness Sector Skill Council (BWSSC), with inputs from the medical teams at AIIMS & Ministry of Skill Development. More pointers have been added to the Protocol based on the experiences from states where the salons have re-opened. So far none of the other states have attributed spread of the novel coronavirus due to salon visits.

Industry speak
With the salons set to re-open in Maharashtra from 28th June onward, we got in touch with some of the leading names in the industry to take in their reactions:

“We are ecstatic to be able to open our doors and welcome our patrons to a more contactless service experience. Our teams are looking forward to getting back to work. Consumer safety is now directly linked to business continuity. We are making a quarter-to-quarter plan on sustainability as despite lower revenues, the salons will have to make relevant investments in the elevated hygiene and safety standards,” said Spoorthy Shetty, CEO, BBlunt Salon and Academy.

Dharmesh (Dodo) Hingorani, Co-Founder, Zido Salon, said, “This is the best news that I have got in the last three months! We are super excited to open up and start working. The only Catch-22 situation that I’m concerned about is that we have received the order from the Government of Maharashtra; we are still waiting for district-wise guidelines to come in as other parts of the state are not as badly affected as cities such as Mumbai, Thane and Pune. While skin services are not allowed, there’s a bit of confusion if threading falls under that category or not. But for hair services almost everything is allowed – cut and colour, too – so that’s a good thing. I personally can’t comment on how this will affect salons that offer both hair and skin services, but the bright side is that we will start seeing some amount of revenue. We might not start on the 28th itself as working on the guidelines and getting the staff ready will take some more time. We will practice the hygiene protocol in the salon first. We don’t want to take any chances. Our entire staff will wear masks, face shields, gloves and disposable aprons. The clients will also get masks, disposable capes and gloves. There will be a sanitisation station and temperature checks outside. Disinfecting the place and surfaces after every treatment and after every hour or so will be strictly followed. Clients will be taken only on prior appointments. Add-ons and refreshments will not be allowed. We are concerned about our staff as trains are still not working and for them commuting might be a problem.”  

Natasha Naegamvala, Director, Nalini of Nalini n Yasmin Salon, said, “This makes me both spectacularly excited and nervous. I can’t wait to open our doors, to see all our clients again, to get back to cutting hair. But with it comes the trepidation – will there be enough work? Are we going to get past this next hump without too much foreseeable damage for the future? I guess all of this is yet to be seen. At this given point, I am just happy that some sense of normalcy is returning or what everybody is now calling the ‘new normal’ is setting in finally.”

Asha Hariharan, Owner, Beyond the Fringe Salons and Asha Hariharan Academy said, “The announcement is just too sudden. How will it give salon owners time to prepare as a lot of things need to be prepared before opening? Then there is staff training, too. Limited services alone cannot support the salon. It will only create huge debts. The sudden allowing of salons to open without prep time and consequence possibilities looks like an act of desperation. While there is excitement from salon owners, there is still a very big grey area of uncertainty and hesitation.”

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