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Manipur’s Once Thriving Beauty Parlour Businesses are Among the Worst Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic

Beauty parlours and salons have been finally allowed to open but on condition they strictly maintain safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, after several months of closure on account of the COVID pandemic which is devastating the entire world. However, even though the government has allowed them to open, beauty parlours and salons are still they facing myriad problems in running their businesses. This problem is accentuated by the fact that beauty industry works in close contact with customers. They now have to go the extra mile to give confidence to customers and to not break government Standard Operating Procedures, SOP, parlours are taking measures to ensure distance and sanitization. They are also ensuring that clients with the symptoms of slightest cold or flu are not entertained. Customers, on the other hand, are opting out of parlour services unless absolutely necessary and even then, they are relying on sanitizers to maintain hygiene while availing parlour service.

Maibam Triveni is a senior staff of the firm Hats Professional of Keishampat Konjeng Hajari Leikai, Imphal West. According to her, their parlour reopened around the last week of September after remaining closed for nearly five months. As precautionary measures against Coronavirus, they have been using face shields, masks, gloves, caps etc., while providing services to their customers. While doing threading they now use two masks as it directly come in contact with the client. After their services they wash or sanitize the cutting sheets, towels and other clothes used in the execution of the job.

Hats Professional has two rooms so they allowed only two clients at one time and they sanitize the rooms and articles thoroughly after dealing with each client. Triveni further said that before the pandemic on the average around 50 clients visited their parlour on a day and therefore income was good. But because of the present prevailing situation only very few clients visit their parlour for services, mainly hair cutting, hair straightening and hair dying etc. Even the clients come to the parlour with special care as a precautionary measure. She also asserted that the pandemic has affected the business of the parlour with fewer clients and less income. Even the price of all services have risen consequent upon the rise of cost of cosmetics. They also now buy cosmetics and others items online as there is scarcity of them in the local market. All the staffs of Hats Professional are on duty all the days except Sunday from 10am to 5pm. They provide service both to male and female.

If a client expresses satisfaction with their service, they feel doubly rewarded, she added. She also said income from running a parlour was good before this pandemic, and with the earning all staff could comfortably run their families. But this is not the same anymore. As for instance, during festival season when their earnings should have peaked, this year client visits have trickled down to deplete their purses.

Another beautician, K. Karnilata Devi of L.K Beauty Salon of Palace Compound near Postal Colony, Imphal East, expressed that because of the pandemic situation and her locality being declared containment zone repeatedly, she is unable to open her parlour. There is little or no income flow for her since the closure of her parlour. Today she does home visits for some of her known clients for hair straightening, facial and make-up, etc., but incomes from these are hardly substantial, she said. The pandemic has paralyzed her business, she lamented.

She said she is willing to open her parlour without any fear once the Coronavirus has totally disappeared from the world or once a vaccine becomes available readily. Before the pandemic, she provided her clients the services of threading, hair cutting, facial, hair straightening, hair colouring, spa, party and casual make- up etc. As she hardly has an income now, she is struggling to pay for the marup (form of saving) which has now resumed.

Shanatombi Wangkheimayum from MG Avenue who used to visit parlour regularly expressed that during the pandemic, she never visited the parlour because of fear of the coronavirus even though the parlour maintained all precautionary measures.  She has visited parlour two times a month for threading and once in three to four months for hair cutting. She said she has not done threading for quite a long time and her hair are quite long which makes her feel unwieldy. She also asserted that because of the pandemic situation, she is unable to properly maintain her personal appearance. She will not visit the parlour until and unless the state is free from coronavirus, she said.

Another lady, Thangjam Sunila of Wangkhei Thangjam Leikai, Imphal East said that she has not visited a parlour since the pandemic. She even cuts her hair herself looking at the mirror. She is afraid of visiting any parlour. She has not even done threading for quite a long time. Before the pandemic she was used to visiting parlours whenever required.

Eliza Ngangom, beautician of Transform Your Look of Paona Bazar who has been working for the last 20 years said that its only one month that since her parlour opened. The parlour remained closed because of the prevailing situation however even while the parlour was shut, Eliza provided home services of hair straightening, bridal make-up and potloi (bridal costume) too. But these were few and in between she said. This was despite the fact she takes all precautionary measures.  She also takes a health history of the client before giving service. She puts finds out about travel history or having cold or cold or whether they are from containment zones and puts other related questions to the client before providing services. She gives service to her known clients only. She does not entertain new clients during the pandemic.

Eliza also said that it is hard to earn money during this pandemic. She now finds it difficult to pay rent, though the landlord takes only 50 percent of the amount for some few months without. Even her other staffs are suffering due to the closure. They use masks, gloves, face shields and sanitizers.  Her income has now dwindled to as little 40 percent of what she was earning. She has had to hike service charges a little during the pandemic to meet the overheads of the parlour. They have now bought a washing machine for washing the clothes after every single use in their service.

During the festival time last year, the parlour once earned good profit, but this year they have had only few clients so income also shrunk. She provides hair cutting and straightening, facial and make-up etc., but she does not accept threading now as it involves direct contact with the clients.

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