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Why do people choose to get a haircut from a fancy, branded salon rather than from Supercuts, or from their neighbor? A fancy salon effectively communicates a luxury image, and many consumers believe they have “earned” the luxury. Yet consumers in the United States appreciate both the $300 cut and the $12 cut. Does this idea apply internationally as well?

In India, a chain of hair salons suggests it does. Jawed Habib brought branded hair salons to a country where millions of people still get their hair cut at home or by street barbers for a few rupees. Habib determined that the large and growing middle class was ready to be convinced they should move up to designer haircuts.

Indeed, the modern Indian middle class is spending money on personal products and services that were once regarded as frivolous and totally out of reach. Far from the most expensive offering in the market, the Jawed Habib chain has expanded to 155 hair salon and 42 training academies across Asia. The target market has, for the first time, the disposable income to obtain products and services beyond basic survival needs. In addition, Habib chooses to open new branches in India’s smaller cities and towns, which have been heavily influenced by satellite television and Bollywood movies. Many customers pursue salon services voluntarily, asking to look like a particular movie star.

Thus it appears that hair salons spread from the West into India; now Habib and his fellow Indian entrepreneurs hope to turn the tide the other direction. In February 2010, Habib launched a direct order hair care line, available through television orders, which he can market to customers across Asia, as well as in Canada and the United States. His optimism rests on a simple but perhaps questionable parallel: “If Indian doctors and IT experts are so popular throughout the world, why not Indian hairdressers? It’s our turn to capture the glow.”

Discussion Questions

1. Is there a market for Indian hair care products in the United States and Canada? How could you, as a market researcher, answer this question? 

2. In what other ways could this hair salon chain expand, other than internationally?

Carla Power, “In India, A Cut Above the Rest,” Time, February 22, 2010