It was in her early 40s that Mallika Sreekumar, a housewife till then thought of entering a business. That too a tough, rather queer, one - manufacturing hair extensions. Nearly six years down the lane, Mallika , a mother of two children, has outshone her own expectations. Today, Waves Hair, her firm in Kakkanad, Kochi, exports products to almost every part of the world.
A sibling of two well-known names in the film industry - Mallika is the younger sister of actress Ambika and elder one of Radha.
She says that she realised early enough that she was not cut out for the glamour world. Family life and motherhood kept her busy and content.
Gradually she started finding time for herself, what with her children having grown up and husband busy with his business. Nwaturally, she didn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Brazil, where her younger brother Arjun was into the business of hair exports. That trip changed things for her completely.
“Brazil is one place which has a huge market for human hair. The hair bought from countries like India is processed and sold as Brazilian hair. It is the Africans who buy human hair the most,” Mallika says.
She was surprised to see women buying hair in large quantities for hair extensions. Hair extension, as many would know, is the method of adding commercial hair to natural hair. She surfed the net to find out more about it. “Arjun had come back home to India and I was alone in Brazil. With the help of a Malayali friend, I visited the unit where hair was processed and stitched. I was taken fascinated to see how the whole thing was done. The ladies there knew only Portuguese and I interacted with them using Google Translator. I wanted to learn the stitching and they agreed to teach me during their lunch break. The only condition was that I shouldn’t start a unit there!” The next four-five months saw Mallika immersed in learning all about hair stitching. “These people are so crazy about hair extension. There are women who spent a good share of their meagre income on hair extension products alone,” she adds.
Once back home, she registered with alibaba.com, an international trade site and sent across the samples she made. Once the products got clearance, she soon finished with all the procedures.
“Today, I export the products to all parts of the globe, except Asian countries. Asians have enough hair. I do send items to the Middle East, where, interestingly, the clients are mostly Africans,” says Mallika.
It is mainly from Tirupathi that she buys hair which is processed at her unit in Kochi. Only natural, high quality Indian remy hair is used for processing. (Remy is a term used when all of the hair is human and all the strands are arranged in such a way that the roots are at one end and the tips at the other.) Waves Hair make three kinds of products - glue tip extensions, machine weft extension and clip-in extension. Weft extensions have more demand abroad, she says. Having learnt colouring from Germany and Italy, she even does coloured hair extensions for the foreign market. “There are some 14 to 18 colours which we normally do. And now I even try giving some funny colours, like violet, baby pink, green and others. Sometimes, there are orders specifically for such funny colours for a few strands.”
She has a steadily rising clientele in the State. “They fall into the 40 plus age group. And I don’t have any celebrities among them. It is mostly housewives who turn up.” The rate starts from Rs 10,000, that too for the minimum quantity and minimum length, she says. The glue extensions can be used for three to six months and if you take really good care, you can use it upto eight months.
When a client approaches Mallika, she first examines the texture and colour of her hair. The texture can be curly (tight or loose), wavy or straight. The common colours of human hair can be jet black, off black/natural black or brownish black. “We can do extensions for all these categories,”she says.
The work is not very easy, especially the processing part. “The work is manually done. The hair needs to be washed at least 12 to 16 times before it is ready to be processed into the finished product,” says Mallika. She has nearly 17 women working at her unit.
However, not all who suffer from hair loss can go for hair extension. “Your hair needs to be in good and healthy condition. I don’t do the extension for those who have dandruff and those who are allergic to foreign bodies.”
Presently, she is also trying making hair pieces for bald men.
For details, log on to www.waveshair.trustpass.alibaba.com