Read this piece to understand the aspirations of a beauty worker who defies the notions of “small business” and considers the job of a beautician as dignified as that of a government employee
3 minutes read
Vaishnavi was super happy when I asked her if we could chat for some time. She was immediately reminded of her interview in college for a job and was as excited as she was back then to give an “interview”. Vaishnavi completed her graduation in commerce and was selected for a position of sales executive in a bank in her final year. She could not join the job since it was in Raipur, far away from her town. It has been two years since then. Currently, Vaishnavi works in the beauty industry while continuing her masters in commerce.
Vaishnavi stays in Walgaon, a small town in the district of Amravati, Maharashtra. She decided to join parlour classes in the second year of her graduation on her mother’s insistence. She was never interested in applying makeup or doing anything “fancy” with her face but she thought this could be a good way to earn since she had decided to not take money from parents after high school. Vaishnavi’s mother started inviting her friends over and Vaishnavi used to shape their eyebrows and do their makeover for free. Gradually, they started liking her work and Vaishnavi finally started to get money for her work. She provides all kinds of beauty services like threading, facials, hair cut, hair colour, waxing, manicure and pedicure. It isn’t possible for her family to invest in the parlour right now, and she doesn’t have enough savings either. She might also get married in a year’s time. That’s why Vaishnavi’s modus operandi continues to be home service.
Vaishnavi earns and saves enough to manage her own expenses. It has been two years since she asked her parents for money but they gave her some on Diwali and during the summer to buy new clothes. Her parents do not expect her to spend on family expenses; they are happy with the fact that she’s earning, spending and saving for herself. Along with her job as a beautician, Vaishnavi also takes care of household chores. Her parents work on a farm and she doesn’t want her mother to work at home after getting back from the fields, so she ensures she does everything at home, from cleaning to cooking meals. Asking upon what her day looks like, she said after waking up, she goes for a walk, does all the household chores and goes for work and if there aren’t any orders on a particular day, she utilises that time for studies. There isn’t any burden per se, either of work or of the chores, she says. “I choose to do it and I am happy and satisfied with it.”
Although there was a reluctance to join the beauty industry initially, Vaishnavi says she likes it now. For everything that she has achieved till now is because of the work she does, so there are no regrets! Vaishnavi is happy with the work she does and the money she earns, although sometimes it gets difficult to negotiate when customers deny to pay the amount. There are times when customers decide the rates on their own and pay it directly but she says there’s very little scope to negotiate; she does try, but cannot afford to lose the customers. “But not all customers are like this”, she says. “Some happily pay the amount and give me some extra money for travelling”.
Vaishnavi shares a cordial relationship with all her customers. They give her the respect and dignity she deserves as a beautician. Vaishnavi also thinks customers’ behaviour depends a lot on how she behaves, “I’ve never given anyone a chance to complain”. “I always reach on time”, “I tell them before if I will be able to come or not”, “I never get involved too in their lives, and this helps me share a good relationship with all my customers”. She thinks good communication skills, negotiation skills, hard work, punctuality are a must for a beautician, along with good behaviour with your customers. “And if you fall short on any of these, there are chances of losing customers, which will affect your income and therefore it’s necessary to maintain good relations with customers”.
The pandemic has already affected her income. There was no work from March till September 2020 which led to her saving dwindle. She had cut down on all her expenses and navigated through the situation somehow but she is extremely happy that it is getting better. Her parents have resumed their work and Vaishnavi too has started receiving her orders back, “this will definitely help us now, because managing the expenses in festive season would have been very difficult without a stable income”. “We celebrate all the festivals, I enthusiastically take part in everything. Plus having one’s own money makes a lot of difference. You don’t have to think twice before taking any decision, a personal one at least”. “My work has given me the power to make decisions for my own, has given me an identity and a voice. I wouldn’t be able to speak in family matters had I not been earning. Whatever little I earn, it has made me independent”.
Vaishnavi wants to study for competitive exams while continuing her work as a beautician alongside. If she doesn’t get through, she will start working as a full-time beautician. She wants to have her own salon with some girls to help her out but doesn’t want to go to metro cities for advanced courses like her friends. Vaishnavi thinks her parents might allow her but doesn’t know if her in-laws will but she hopes they allow her to study for exams and open a salon of her own in upcoming years.
Vaishnavi thinks her hard work, sincerity, punctuality and constant support from her parents has helped her achieve so much at a young age. Although she wished to do the job in the bank, she is happy with what she’s currently doing and with her future plans. She’s glad that her parents never forced her to do anything–earn money, contribute to the family income, to not step out of the house, etc. She wants to keep working in either of the two sectors– government or beauty industry and live independently by earning and spending on her own as well as on her loved ones.
“One does not necessarily need to step out of the house to be independent. It’s the small things that you do to inch steadily towards being fully independent. Plus being from a small town, you don’t have a lot of opportunities but you should grab the ones that come your way and make the most out of it, I believe. I have the determination to work hard and one day I’ll get customers from big cities, you see”.
Handing her business card to me, a hopeful Vaishnavi tells me, “Recommend my services to your friends in Mumbai, I’ll give home services in Mumbai someday”