It's boom time for hair-fixing centres which claim to offer a new 'face-lift' for those with bald pates.
Leading the way in the hair fixing market is 'Gulf Gate', which opened its first centre here about seven years back, after tasting success in the Gulf.
"Interestingly, even after several competitors entered the field,only one per cent of the total bald population of the country has been covered so far,thereby leaving open a great potential for foreign companies to capture the market', Mohammad Aslam, Gulf Gate's Marketing Chief (India) told PTI.
Says Dilip Mohan, Branch Head, Gulf Gate, Bangalore, - "We are pioneers in the field with at least 20 branches across the country. The response is quite encouraging, with people from all walks of life and age groups wanting to get their hair 'redressed', so as to look quite normal in society."
Though Gulf Gate initially charged anywhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000, they decreased it later by half owing to the growing demand in the industry, he said.
"What we do is hair patching and not weaving or bonding as done in countries like U.S.A.,where hair is either stitched or pasted to the scalp', Mohan says,adding that patching helps one remove hair, as and when the person wants.
He says that with film stars like Malayalam actor Mohan Lal going in for hair fixing, Gulf Gate is keen to open more centres to provide non-surgical services to needy customers.
The customers vary from bridegrooms, office executives to even college guys.... All of whom have their problems in donning a fresh look before taking up their assignments.
"It is like those earlier wearing a spectacle now preferring a contact lens to look pretty', says Mohan, whose Bangalore unit registers about 15-20 customers a month on an average.
In Kozhikode, `Boys Saloon', Happy Life' and `Blue Mountain' started imparting hair fixing recently, but have found it difficult to compete with Gulf Gate, who get about 40-50 customers a month.
Boys Saloon Proprietor V R Rajesh says it is difficult for them to maintain the regular saloon and hair fixing simultaneously. "Also, we find it hard to import the material from abroad, besides getting complaints from those whose face is not suited for hair fixing".
Charging around Rs 8000 to Rs 10000, the centre handpicks its customers only to strike a financial balance, he says.
Mohan says Gulf Gate uses sterilised hair patches imported from Canada that is locked with the original hair to look alike. No chemicals which give side-effects are used, `unlike others, who offer hair fixing at cheaper rates'.
"The hair extension lock goes blending with the original hair and the customer is also given training to remove it as and when he wants', he says.
However, Mohan says the customer will have to revisit the Centre for at least six months to realign the hair-style.
"The customers will have to go in for another cycle of hair fixing after 3-4 years as the transplantation is not guaranteed on a permanent basis', he adds.
Gulf Gate has centres in Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi, Gulf Gate has branches.In India the branches are in Kochi, Kollam, Aluva, Thiruvanthapuram, Thiruvalla, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Tirur, Kalpetta, Thalassery, Kannur and Kasaragod (all in Kerala) and Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mangalore and Chennai.
"Genetic male baldness is inherited in India as a degenerative disease', says Gulf Gate Chief Executive Officer Subash.
"Earlier baldness was a common factor in the age group of 40, but now it is quite prevalent even in 20-25 age groups',he says, adding that brings more number of younger people to his centres.
"In America and Europe, hair fixing is a booming business unlike in India. But given our population and growing Western trend, we are confident that the industry will thrive', he says.
Asked about Gulf Gate's prime competitors in India, Mohan says `Berkowicz has centres only in metros and it also charges a heavy sum'.
Finally, Gulf Gate's Marketing Chief Aslam says "in these days of splitting one's hair amid hectic work, we provide adequate solace to customers who are more than satisfied with our work." This is the reason why the company were leaders in the market, he said .