The usual banter revolving around politics and Big Boss was missing at Friends hair cutting salon at Balkampet in Hyderabad on Thursday. ”I am only allowing one customer in at a time,” says Srinivas, the barber and owner who has placed a hand wash for customers before they enter his salon. The barber says he is fearful to open the shop but has bills piling up. However, there are fewer customers than normal which is also a cause for worry. “It will take a few days for a business to resume,” he hopes.
Srinivas and his business partner Raju both had their masks on while their customers were seated getting their long-overdue haircut and shave without masks. “If a customer coughs or sneezes it makes me nervous,” says Raju. On average, a hairdresser spends 20 minutes with their customer often touching the faces of their customers. “Enough time to catch the disease,” says Raju. ”We have stopped doing facial and face packs even though they are more lucrative than cutting and shaving that costs together Rs 170, ” he adds.
As part of relaxing lockdown restrictions, the Telangana government had allowed the functioning of hair cutting salons from May 19. Salons and beauty parlours were closed as part of lockdown measures as they are classified as a non-essential service. In April, a 36-year-old hairdresser tested positive for the coronavirus in Chennai. Since the lockdown forced non-essentials to shut shop, he had been making house visits and had kept his salon open for haircut and massage. Health officials had to scramble to trace over 32 persons and tested them for coming in contact with the hairdresser.
Srinivas is well aware of the risks involved. “The work has become difficult. As much as we fear if the customer is sick, they are also worried about catching the disease when stepping out for a haircut,” he points out.
When TNM walked into Choice haircutting salon at Saifabad on Wednesday, Rajesh the owner was working alone servicing his first customer in over 50 days. He had no co-workers. “They have all gone back to their villages and I don’t think they will come back anytime soon. It's a loss running the shop I feel, I have to pay the electricity bill and the rent,” says Rajesh who says the odd-even system of opening shops will gravely impact his ability to pay rent, which has been deferred for three months by the Telangana government.
Several other hair salons expressed their inability to pay rent, “We may have to raise the cost for haircutting and shaving,” opines Srinivas.
Sumitha Kar the owner of Verve Hair and Beauty Salon for women on Manjeera Road says she has not had a single customer so far. “Most of my customers are from a gated community nearby which is presently strict about letting people in or out. I reached out to all my customers, they are yet to show up.” This entrepreneur also follows a no-mask-no-service policy. “I instructed my staff not to allow more than two customers at a time. To reduce contact we are not using thread for threading eyebrows but using pluckers instead,” she adds.
Vikar Bhardwaj the owner of Hair Kreations, a unisex salon at Banjara Hills ordered gloves for his staff two days before reopening his salon, “But there are no customers,” says this haircutting professional. “I have reached out to them over WhatsApp informing them that we are now open for service,”
At Nice Haircutting salon located at Sanath Nagar, the owner Sunil is hopeful that his customers will return. “Ours is the only hair cutting shop in this locality and we have a steady set of regular customers, my hope is on them. The building owner has given me some extension, I have been running this shop for 12 years now so there is an understanding between us,” says Sunil. However, the salon owner has little faith in the safety precautions of hand washing and using sanitizers.” I wear a mask while at work but I can still fall sick through other ways. I have supplied water and hand wash as I don’t want to pay a Rs 1000 fine. All this keeping sanitizer and water for washing is an eyewash,” he scoffs.