KOCHI: At a time when the term ‘beauty parlor’ itself was unheard of in this part of the country, and when there were barely one or two brands of beauty creams in the market, Elizabeth Chacko introduced people to a new world of beauty culture.
How did you get into the business of beauty?
I started my first parlor at Connaught Circus, Delhi. Following which, I went to the US to do cosmetology. I got married soon after and moved to Chennai where I started a salon at Hotel Ambassador Pallava. I had access to the center of Chennai, I had lots of celebrities for clients; Rajinikanth, Sri Vidhya, Lakshmi and Manjula used to visit my parlour. And then, I opened my first salon in Kochi and ran the place for fifteen years.
Was it tough to start off at a time when beauty parlors were a rarity in the city?
The initial 6 years were tough. There were no trained beauticians. So I took in girls who needed employment and trained them. Later on, a few Nepali girls from Calcutta joined my salon, and we started to work more systematically from then on. My latest salon is at Marine Drive. I have another one at Aster Medcity as well.
Being in this field for forty years, how do you think the concept of beauty has changed over the years?
With my first salon in Kochi, I would say that I set many things right. Despite the stigma attached to the profession, I had many customers from Day 1. Today, there is no sense of guilt when one gets around to spoiling oneself. There is more spending power and independence. Now, people know that parlors are not about ‘make-up and all that jazz you see in the movies’, but it has also to do with developing confidence in their looks. To me, everyone is beautiful, and what I do is enhance their beauty.
There were many firsts in your career, you brought in a lot of new concepts
I got Chinese dressers to come to Kochi. They are considered the best when it comes to hairstyling. Kalpana is not just a parlor where you go for a manicure, pedicure, waxing or facials; we were the first to introduce electrolysis, advanced pimple treatment and cleanups.
Your biggest achievement?
I’ve provided employment to a lot of young girls. I have personally trained a lot of women in the beauty business. I feel immense pride when I get invited to the parlors opened by my girls in Cochin and even in the Gulf. I do this for my satisfaction, not for money.
What are your expansion plans for the salon?
Expansions will happen as long as I am in good health. We’re a brand to reckon with now, and I want some of our products, like Kalpana’s signature facial which is something out of this world, to find a place in salons worldwide.