Hair salons across the country do business of around Rs 1.40 billion a month. There are around 35,000 salons across the country and they do business of around Rs 35,000 a month on an average which adds up to around Rs 1.40 billion, according to the Nepal Barber Association.
The Madheshi community dominates the industry with the other communities not attracted toward it. They are earning good income by opening salons not just in tarai but even in the hilly and mountainous regions, according to the association affiliated to Nepali Congress (NC). President of the association Rajaram Thakur states that there can be around 20,000 other barbers who are not affiliated with the party. “Those doing good business even earn Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 a month,” he says. A total of 150,000 human resources are employed in these salons, according to him. Big cities like Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Nepalgunj have the highest number of such salons with around 4,500 in Kathmandu Valley alone.
Shiva Chandra Thakur, who has been running a salon at Buddhanagar, Kathmandu for the past five years, says he earns around Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 a month. He sends around Rs 15,000 a month to his home after paying for rent, ration and other expenditures. “I send up to Rs 25,000 a month when the business is good. I also save some amount,” he adds.
One has to cut hair and get a shave from a Thakur at the time of birth, marriage and death, according to the religious tradition in tarai. Not doing so is considered impure. Many people from the Thakur community still cut hair and do shaving for food grains received annually from a household. The community also dominates the salon industry.
These barbers are divided among NC, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist), Madheshi Janadhikar Forum and other parties on the basis of political allegiance. Their oldest organization—the NC-affiliated association—was established in 1990. President Thakur reminisces how there were just 336 salons in the Valley at that time. There were around 90 percent of Indian nationals in the business back then, according to him. “The Madheshi community has started to dominate now after generation of good income from salons. The majority of barbers are from Thakur, Muslim, Sah, Tharu and even Newar communities,” he claims.
President of the UCPN (Maoist) affiliated All Nepal Barber Association Bablu Thakur claims that other communities apart from Thakurs constitute just 10 percent to the business. He says 60 percent of those currently in business are Nepali and the rest 40 percent Indians.
Men also starting to go to beauty parlors
Even men have started to visit beauty parlors to get a shave or haircut and this has affected business, according to Rajaram Thakur. Men have started to visit parlors as the women have also started to cut men’s hair. “The people of hill origin dominate these parlors,” he states. Men cut their hair up to twice a month and get a shave twice a week. The barbers currently charge Rs 70 for a haircut and Rs 50 for a shave. They charge Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 for straightening the hair.