We live in a generation where every moment is calculated as a potential Facebook profile picture and first impressions are about how good one looks and what clothes one wears. Superficial as it may seem, it’s an attitude that is as natural as the need to breathe. Capitalising on this tendency in a field that is just beginning to open up is image and style consultant Yatan Ahluwalia. In the city for an audit with The Park hotel, City Express caught up with the expert.
A fashionista from as early as he can remember, Yatan plunged into the world of grooming and etiquette at a tender age of 14 when he began writing on fashion for newspapers, something that soon translated into a regular column by the time he turned 16. Ask him if age was ever a factor and Yatan’s reaction perhaps best describes his attitude to the industry. “It never occurred to me I was too young. I had an instinct and I went with it. I’d always been advising my mother and her friends about the colours they should try or pair-up, much to my mother’s chagrin. And writing about it to the paper was where it all started.”
An easy-going chap but with a hawk’s eye for detail, Yatan’s company Y&E Style Media Pvt Ltd deals with image consultancy and grooming. “This is a field that isn’t very widely recognised but is very much there. Y&E which stands for Yatan and Edward, who’s my business partner, consults with businesses and helps them create a look. We help create an ‘image’ that makes the whole process nicer to work with. This includes the attire, make-up, diet, lifestyle, et al.”
The company which works with hotels, banks, corporates, celebrities, weddings, politicians even, recently tied up with the hospital sector through Apollo hospitals. While the other sectors like hotels and corporates are into customer service and looking good and conducting oneself well adds to the customer’s ‘experience’, the medical sector is a complete turn-around for the company. Especially considering that the medical staff are people who work on 36 to 72-hour shifts, who in most cases, are only thinking about when they can sleep or eat next.
“For doctors, nurses and the supporting medical staff, they deal with blood, pain and suffering on a regular basis and looking good is the last thing on their mind. But that is the challenge for us and what more can I ask for. The point is to add a certain positivity to the atmosphere. When you look good, it doesn’t just stop there, you feel good and it instills confidence. That automatically makes one a happier person.”
Yatan’s grooming is an extensive programme that requires his clients to fill out a questionnaire and sit-in for a one-on-one with their groomer. Tedious as it might seem, it is a necessary process as grooming isn’t really just about the make-up. “There are many things that we touch upon, like personal hygiene, habits, body odour and so on. Many people aren’t very comfortable about discussing such things with other people around. So we conduct personal sessions. It’s necessary to be a people’s person to get people talking to you and more importantly, to get them to listen to you.”
Being a consultancy firm, Y&E deals with a wide age group. Some of them are young and used to change and some of them are successful and set in their ways. “Quite interestingly, I’ve seen people have been very receptive to change. There have been people who have been working with the hotels for 30 years and have weathered with their establishment. And suddenly there’s us telling them to change something. Eventually, it’s been taken well.”
Pointing out that patience and being practical are the key to being a good groomer, he shares, “It really depends on how willing the person is. The trick is to give them an incentive. Tell them that their personal life will improve and so on. But, more importantly it also depends on practicality. Many people have various commitments, so spending on products might not be probable. We need to find a way around these things.”
Commenting on the way Indians conduct themselves, he says, “We’ve always paid attention to women and how they dress, and men have been left alone. The concept of men grooming themselves is almost alien. Many men do not even think of using a deodorant. So there’s a huge gap in the awareness in society as to what’s good and bad. That’s where our focus is.” Also talking about our culture as such, he adds, “You don’t really find women dress up and get out, simply because it attracts too much of unwanted attention. Places like Delhi are very unsafe for women. That’s a mindset that needs to change.”
Despite being a high profile consultant, Yatan insists that his real joy comes from helping normal people with a regular job. “Grooming does make a difference to one’s life and I’ve seen that happen. It’s the real people for who it really makes a difference and that’s what I honestly look forward to.”
To that affect, Yatan tries to keep himself as accessible as possible through his Facebook page and his company website, despite his office being based out of a farmhouse somewhere in between Dalhousie and Dharamsala. “It’s a quite space with a little organic farm that I retreat to when I want to escape the commotion of Delhi,” he signs off.