Meet Komala, who’s bringing beauty back into business
By Shivani Kochhar
Running her own beauty salon had been a dream of Komala’s since childhood, but lacking education and in her mid-30s, she was a housewife living on the brink of poverty instead.
The ugly truth
In India, one in five people are considered ‘poor’, living on less than $1.90 a day. This is partly due to the nature of employment: only 17 percent of jobs are salaried and one-third are irregular. Women looking for work have even more hurdles to overcome as there is large gender gap in the workforce. Just 27 percent of women participate in the labour force at all, compared to 79.1 percent of men. Clearly, the odds were against Komala – so she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Things changed for Komala when Hand in Hand arrived in her panchayat. Inspired by her Self-Help Group’s promise of beautician training, not to mention a loan to get her started, she soon finished her training and opened up shop. With four beauty salons nearby already, she established a competitive advantage based on comparatively low prices and superior customer service. She is especially busy during wedding season when everyone needs to be pampered to perfection.
“Some of my neighbours have been motivated to start up a business of their own,” she says.
A touch of sparkle
Even with business humming, Komala found she had downtime during the day. That’s when she established a side-business embellishing saris with sequins and embroidery that now accounts for 30 percent of her income. But she wasn’t done there. Sensing opportunity, Komala qualified to become a beauty trainer herself, and today teaches up to 20 students a month. She earns INR 1,000 (US $15) per student and gets the satisfaction of helping other women start their careers. “Even though I am training members of my community, they see me as a professional,” says Komala.
Together, her three streams of income bring in an average of INR 51,600 (US $770) a month. That’s enough to pay for life-changing appliances including a refrigerator and air conditioner. She can also afford some luxuries such as a TV. Next up: Komala is saving to buy a permanent home for her family and, when they grow up, pay for her two children’s university. “I hope that my son will become a doctor,” she says.
And her plans for her business? “I want to brand my salon with my own name, to make it stand out from others in the neighbourhood.” Sounds like a winning idea to us.
Earns INR 51,600 (US $770) a month
Able to give her children a university education
Helps the community by teaching her skills to budding beauticians
Next case study: Meet Gloria, the former refugee growing crops – and profits