She has set up a salon and intends to establish similar operations around the State and even beyond. Ajit John spoke to Ashma Kamat about her plans for Black Palette
For a young person to start a business can mean surmounting several hurdles. It can mean looking for investors or more importantly convincing people around you of the validity of your determination. Setting up a business is hard work and can be a stressful experience. Possessing knowledge is important but also having the gumption to do it is very important. Ashma Kamat had a similar experience when she set out to establish her business.
Coming from a family with a father established in business, she had to first convince her father. She had gained considerable experience in Mumbai having trained with Tony and Guy London which had a franchisee arrangement in Mumbai. It was a seven-month course following which she interned for three to four months. She was learning the fundamentals that would add finesse to her interest in hair. The work she did in Mumbai toughened her, exposed her to new trends and essentially world class techniques.
She returned to Goa in 2016 and started freelancing. She did work at weddings as well as for other clients. This experience gave her an insight into what would work in Goa and what would not. Her freelance experience taught her the importance of working and getting her payment. The importance of collecting fifty percent in advance and then ensuring the rest of the money came in once the job was completed.
The Tony and Guy franchisee wanted to set up operations in the State and approached her. Kamat however did not want to be restricted. She said “I wanted certain things to be customised and there were certain things that I wanted to be done in a certain way.”
She decided to focus on hair, colour, treatment, except hair weaving. While she mulled over all this, she had still not informed her parents of her plan. Academically very studious, it was expected she would study to be a CA or something similar. When she informed her father, he expressed his misgivings. After the graduation, she decided to join her father and worked with the BNI. He witnessed her diligence and recognised her determination. A location was identified and she applied for a loan under the CMRY scheme with the EDC in 2017. On March 28, 2017 the Black Palette opened for operations.
Hiring the right staff was a challenge. Her time freelancing had brought her in contact with several professionals in the field. Excluding her, she had a team of four people. The staff came from Manipur and they are she asserts are very focussed on the job and also very creative. The Black Palette is unisex and she had at the time of the launch male staff who no longer work with her. The hairdressers now who are all women also handle male customers.
The general trend amongst salons in the State was to use Loreal products whereas she used Wella professional an American brand. Her comfort with the product made it a little more difficult for her in such a market. As she put it “One cannot really explain the benefits of the brand but once the customer has experienced it, then it would easier and they would be happy then.”
It is now 2019 and time has certainly moved. For the men coming to the salon, the bill can be anywhere between Rs 700-2000 if one went for a facial. For women it can be anywhere between Rs 800 or 3500. There are treatments that can cost anywhere between Rs 11,000 to Rs 12,000. Asked about her customers she said the average Goan woman on a scale of one to ten would be 4 or 5 with regards to brand awareness. However, with a younger woman it would rise to seven on ten. Women she said came sometimes on a weekly basis where as guys came in once a month.
Business has been good this season and she has plans to expand by appointing franchisees around the State. She also intends to establish an academy sometime this year for a course that would last between four to six months. By training ten students at a time, she will be able to get trained staff for the franchisee outlets thus guaranteeing a certain standard of work. She eventually also intends to set up franchisees outside Goa. This of course will take a couple of years before she makes this move.
Her drive is unmistakable and growth assured with her vision. Time will tell us if another Goan brand will move out of the State and make a mark on the national platform.