Name: Shingari Beauty Centre
Type: Ladies beauty salon
Owners: Latha Anand Nair; Ruby Bency Matthew
Location: Old Salata, Doha
Latha Anand, a 41 year old mother and wife, is the co-owner of an upcoming beauty parlour. What makes this place so special is her claim that she is not responsible for the success of her parlour, but her close-knit group of friends are, besides her dedicated staff.
bq: Tell us about your journey…
Latha: I started my career in media. I was working with the Indian national channel (Doordarshan) as a program coordinator. During my tenure there, I was handed over a big job of interviewing beauticians all over Kerala (India). It was a beauty convention of sorts where I had to interview all the leading beauticians and that’s when my interest in this field developed. I come from a small family and we didn’t know anything about parlours. So, during the interviews, I took a crash course to understand my job better. Then I started working there part time. A friend of mine in Doha recommended I come here to work and that’s when I came to Doha for the first time in 2002. I worked for a year and a half with Doha Beauty Centre.
Due to some personal problems, I had to quit and leave. I came back again with my husband and I continued my practice from home. I made a small parlour in one of the rooms in my house and even used to personally visit some of the clients at their residences. One day I decided – I want a good parlour with good facilities. Asians especially don’t have such good facilities here so this was my target – to provide the best facilities for the most competitive prices to my community. And that’s how Shingari was born.
bq: How much did you invest to get this place up and running?
Latha: I invested around QR 600,000 in total – including interiors, beauty products and everything else.
bq: How long have you been running this parlour and how is the business faring?
Latha: It’s been running for three years now and we have just achieved break-even. We have a lot of expenses like rent, staff accommodation rent, sponsor fees, electricity and water, salaries and other things. We manage to cover everything, sometimes one month it’s more and the next month it’s less.
bq: What is the rent you pay and how big is this parlour?
Latha: We are currently paying QR 16,000 for a massive 6BHK villa with outside space as well. This location is honestly god-given. It has lots of space, and is in a great location with lots of parking.
bq: What kind of products do you use?
Latha: We use costly and leading products like Shehnaz Hussain and Sara Whitening. I always recommend my customers to use branded and expensive products since it is their skin and their bodies. A lot of medical problems and illnesses like cancer etc are on the rise, so I always feel that parlours should use the best products while treating their customers. That’s why I may not have a lot of customers, but the ones I do have, are loyal and permanent. I always tell my customers who are in a hurry to get things done “Only come when you have the time.” I don’t like to rush them through treatments, as parlours are more about relaxation and pampering yourself. If they need a facial, they should have two hours to spend comfortably. And on our part, we always go the extra mile. If they come in for a facial, we give them a hand, leg and back massage as well. This is a luxury business, so we have to strive to satisfy the customers.
bq: Where do you source your products from?
Latha: Kerala (India). For facials, we only use Indian products.
bq: How do you bring them here?
Latha: I regularly travel to India, make all my purchases there and personally bring it here.
bq: How do you ensure hygiene standards are met?
Latha: We wash and iron all materials and clothes used for the parlour and clients every day with disinfectants, before anything is given to any customer. Everything is hygienic and if we wouldn’t maintain these standards, customers wouldn’t come back again.
bq: Where do you think you stand in this industry?
Latha: This industry is good, and has been booming in the last five years. If you offer better facilities, customers will come to you. My staff and my team are absolutely great. In this business, you have to be the best and word of mouth plays a big role. This job and industry is great for women. Since its ladies only, and men are not allowed inside the business premises. The law is very strict though, but if you follow it, there’s nothing to worry about. They come here and check everything like creams, cleaners, brushes, sterilisers and others. If you go in the right direction, there is absolutely no problem. Even the Baladiya ladies who come here are so kind, helpful and supportive. As soon as they come here they retort “Mashallah! Your parlour is really good.”
bq: What is the competition like?
Latha: We always support our competition. If another customer comes and complains to us about another parlour, we always tell them that they shouldn’t blame the parlour. They can instead request for a change of staff when they visit the next time. We are humans and not machines after all, so mistakes can happen. We don’t encourage customers when they come complaining to us. We want to keep things fair and healthy. If you play a fair game, your competitors will do the same.
bq: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Latha: We are planning one more outlet. As long as my staff is with me, I can successfully manage this.
bq: Did you face any problems while starting this venture?
Latha: You always face problems when starting a business, that goes for any line of business. Not just while starting, but for the following six months at least, right from funding the business to getting customers. But these are common to all ventures, and we have to work them out. Our biggest problem was finding experienced staff. The good thing was I know everything, so even without staff, I can manage. I have a lot of friends here from my community and they have supported me a lot, so we found our way through it.
bq: How do these friends help you? Financially?
Latha: If required, yes financially too. My friends are my strength here. We are very close knit. We even celebrate all festivals together. Last Onam (a traditional Keralite festival), we invited around 200 ladies and had a grand celebration in the presence of some Indian media as well. All this was made possible only because of my supportive friends.
bq: How difficult is it to find staff? And how do you decide if they are experienced or not as a mere paper doesn’t suffice in this industry?
Latha: It’s one of the most difficult factors in opening a parlour. I take utmost care when recruiting them. I test them for three months and only if I feel they are dedicated and working with passion, I keep them. They have to follow the parlour discipline and respect the customers and their demands.
bq: Do you face any problems running this business?
Latha: Not many, but there was a time when I had some problems with the renewal of my licenses during the Villaggio fire. So I had to get smoke detectors and other things installed, and this delayed the paperwork a lot. I do face small problems on and off, but nothing major. Nothing affects the running of business in any way. Thank god, we are doing fine and not facing any problems. This saloon is successful thanks to two things – my dedicated staff and my supportive friends. So I can say that it is not my saloon, it is our saloon.
bq: Did you imagine you’d end up here?
Latha: (Laughs) No. All my friends were shocked back home. I was there for almost seven years in the media industry. My ex-boss still calls and asks me to join again or freelance, but I really don’t have the time. I sometimes can’t believe myself, that I’m a beautician. I still don’t know how all this happened!
bq: How easy is it to access financing? How do you manage your fund requirements?
Latha: My partner and I share everything. If required, we take loans from India, and not here. We take a loan, and I purchase the products there and bring them here. Here, I don’t approach any banks or anyone for any loans. Till now we haven’t faced such a situation. And if there is, I always have my friends to back me up.
bq: Any incident that holds a special place in your heart that you’d like to share?
Latha: Yes, one memorable incident. At a wedding once, one of my friend’s daughter had seen a friend of the family getting makeup done by me. This was a really long time ago, and that day she told her mother “when I want to get married, I want my make up to be done by Latha aunty.” And she recently came to me, and told me that she feels that I was the reason her sister got married, and I didn’t even know about this. Seven years back I put makeup on someone in my house, and I wouldn’t have imagined that it would have such an impact on a young girl, who watched that lady transform. I’m not saying that I’m the best. But it makes me feel so proud that I made such a big difference to someone’s life – that she wanted to get her wedding make up from me alone. Professionally, this makes me very happy that someone recognises me in such a manner.