A beauty-full idea

The wedding season in Pakistan has become longer and more extravagant which has made all the industries related to it grow, become more expensive and profitable. High end beauty salons and makeup artists are becoming increasingly unaffordable for a the middle class which has allowed new smaller and cheaper salons to come into the market. Additional reporting by: Afreen Khan

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The maroon and gold themed reception; expensive chandeliers hung on the glittery paneled roof; lavish decoration; dramatic background music; velvet sofa arrangements; a wall covered with LED screens may sound like a scene from a wedding hall, but it’s not. Rather, call it a sneak peek of the “Bollywood-returned” artist, Kashif Aslam’s beauty salon famously known as Kashee’s Salon.

Kashee’s is counted among the high-end salons namely Allenora, Sabs, Depilex, Ather Shehzad, Natasha and Tariq Amin owned by the makeup artists themselves and known to be trend setters in the beauty industry of Pakistan.

In a country where wedding is the fifth season – in addition to four given by nature – beauty salons have emerged as a profitable business in recent years. According to a market research by Pakistan Today, Lahore is the most expensive to buy services of a salon or makeup artist. On average, high-end salons’ can charges start from Rs 75,000 that can double in case of makeup artists – for example, Lahore’s most sought-after artist Ather Shehzad charges Rs135,000 for a bridal makeup, which includes a few services other as well.

With such a passion for makeup artists and their salons, customers belonging to the upper-class spend hefty amounts on their special occasions and do not mind spending somewhere between Rs 1,500 to Rs 4,000 for a regular haircut or blowdry at a top-tier salon.

However, the demand for makeup services is not limited to the tier-one salons or top-notch makeup artists, more and more women from lower and middle-income families are increasingly consuming these services thus fueling the growth of small and medium size beauty parlors that are less pricey.

Beauty Salon

This growing demand for makeup, especially in the wedding season, has allowed many women to launch themselves as ‘beauticians’ who are aspiring to become ‘artists’ at some point in future.

One such aspiring beautician is Noreen; a single mother of two, running a small beauty parlor for the last 14 years in a populated neighborhood housing lower income families. Noreen, is an expert for all makeup and hairdo related services that has been a unique selling point for the parlor.

Her home-based parlor has provided her enough investment to open a new branch in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, a growing market for such businesses. “During the peak season, I earn up to Rs 200,000 to 300,000,” Noreen said of the profitable season which usually spans over three months after Eid-ul-Fitr.

Although, when it comes to the regular earnings, the monthly income does not exceed even 30 percent of what she earns during the season; the customers, however, remain the same throughout the year.

As opposed to opening a full-fledged salon like Noreen did, many aspiring beauticians are also taking another route to make a place in the beauty industry. These young beauticians undergo training at different beauty institutions, along with guidance of renowned makeup artists to set up home-based makeup studios.

Such is the case of Nida Jamal, a young makeup enthusiast who decided to convert her passion into profession by opening a small makeup studio in her home; since then she is offering affordable makeup services to her clients all over Karachi.

“I took a makeup course from Kanwal Batool, then a hairdo course from Femina Institute and another makeup course from Natasha Salon and Musarat Misbah at Depilex Salon,’’ said the 21-year-old makeup artist who aspires to make a career in the industry. “On an average I have Rs 6,000 to 7,000 daily earning during peak seasons,” said Jamal who is one of the most reasonably priced makeup artists currently.

This has so far proved to be a successful venture for most of the artists as the customers are lured by the fact that these artists – having training and knowledge of renowned salons – offer the services at rates much lower than that of high-end beauty salons.

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However, despite being one of the largest and growing industries in the country, the beauty salon business largely remains undocumented and is often accused of evading taxes.

In order to protect their interests, small salons, which are fearful of heavy taxation, remain unregistered. The major expense of a salon is rent and salaries of the staff.

Industry representatives find the current taxation system to be a major problem hindering the industry’s formalization. “We want government to make categories in salons. A+ salons should give 17 percent sales tax because they have that sort of money coming in, but a small beauty parlor hardly earns a profit after all the expenses and running costs, and should therefore be given a little relaxation,” said Haji Muhammad Shafiq, President All Pakistan Hairdressers and Beauticians Federation – a private association of beauticians in Lahore.

The federation, which has been working for the last 25 years in order to make the beauty industry easily accessible and reputable for its millions of employees, is of the view that the sector can be brought under the tax net if only 5 percent sales tax is levied on small salons.

Since this industry provides work opportunities to many women who wish to work with limited resources, Shafiq said their association aims to expand the industry. Currently, Shafiq’s association is in talks with Federal Board of Revenue and other government authorities to reduce the sales tax.

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If the representatives of salon businesses and the national exchequer are able to reach an understanding, this growing industry will not only expand further but also make a significant contribution to the economy, say observers.

If one needs to understand the industry’s impact on employment and the lives of those involved in the business, Noreen’s case is, perhaps, a good case study: the entrepreneur’s home-based venture helped her provide a living for her family, support her children’s education, and fund business expansion without depending on any relative.