You had a relatively early start to your career at the age of 17. How did your growing up years in the UK influence your decision to pursue hair styling?
My mother has always been very particular about her hair, I would go to the salon with her to watch her when she was getting her hair done. That was my introduction to this curious and creative world of salon and hair dressing. Once I got the flavour of it, I actually found that I had the affinity for it and started to work in salons on weekends and school holidays. From here, there was no looking back- from being an assistant who would shampoo to building my own clientele, to eventually having my own salon. the journey has been a remarkable one. I quit Rainford High School when I was 16 years old and pursued an apprenticeship at Worthington Salon in North-West England. I got my first break at 17, when I bagged the junior champion award for hair dressing at a national competition. During this tenure, I was exposed to fashion, style, trends, and the work ethic of this industry. I met some crazy people in my journey at various academies and via internships who taught me the technical aspects and the core concepts of hair dressing.
What inspired the move to Mumbai and how did you deal with the initial challenges of setting up a business here?
After gaining hands-on experience and exposure in the field, I decided to move impulsively to India. Back then, the market was not flooded and there were very few people practicing hair dressing here. Fortunately, I got to meet people who were equally passionate and driven towards hair dressing. My brother, Osh Bhabani and I started our first salon in Worli in 1998 and eventually in 2004, BBLUNT came into existence.
The journey really is not as simple as it sounds. There were initial stumbling blocks and a lot of planning in setting up BBLUNT and turning it into a trustworthy brand. BBlunt’s biggest and most challenging dream, and I speak for all partners involved, was to create a line of products especially for Indian hair; as Indian hair is very different; and keeping in mind our Indian climate too. But our partnership with Godrej made that dream a possibility. We may have been industry experts when it came to hair and styling, but creating a line of products called for a lot more. Godrej as a brand embodied trust, and consistently lived up to its brand promise to its consumers. We are team players and bring the best to the table with our strengths. There is a whole team at Godrej that works with us and Avan and I have been involved with all aspects, from what goes inside each bottle, to the design and packaging of the product. At the end of the day, it’s a collaborative venture and not a one-man show. It’s a real balancing act because there’s always the reality and then, there is always my imagination and In between, there has to be a meeting point. We have five pillars to work on including salons, franchise, education, academics and product lines and you have to look at all the aspects and balance it out.
Having radically changed the way India and Bollywood, in particular, approach hair styling, what has been your most important learning in the process?
It’s been a long journey. We started out with Dil Chahta Hai in 2001. Since then, there has been no looking back. In Bollywood, every project is challenging and I enjoy a challenge. Avan Contractor, my partner and director at BBLUNT heads up the Shoot Crew, who specialise in shoot work, whether it is for a film, a fashion show or an editorial. When it comes to films, it is interesting for us to create a character. It is a collaborative effort and the work is quite exhaustive. If you work with an actor who is involved in just one project at a time, it becomes easier to create a look. We don’t have to create multiple hair styles for different shoots. While working on film we have learned that our Celebrity clients have similar needs and likes and dislikes to those of everydasy people. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from because the service is the same for every person who walks through the doors of BBLUNT.
Otherwise, learning to handle curly hair is probably one of the most important hair lessons I’ve had. Curly hair requires more moisture than straight hair and it needs to be treated a little differently when being cut- a combination of these two elements ensure that every curl is stunning.
Despite a frenetic professional life, you’ve managed to successfully pursue other passions, even undertaking a trek to the Everest base camp last year. Tell us a little more about how that came about.
As I was turning 50, I wanted to do something that would marl the occasion and Machu Pichu was at the top of my bucket list. However, about two months before, my girlfriend asked me if I felt like joining her on a trip to the Everest base camp. Being someone who enjoys a challenge, I thought Why not! It was as simple as that. This trip was extremely fun. It was something I have never ever done before and the one thing that I really took away from this trip was that the mountains really sort of show you yourself.
What keeps you up at night and what helps you wake up every morning?
My youngest daughter, as I often end up falling asleep while trying to get her to sleep. She’s a night owl!
For me my mornings are the best part of my day. I am an early riser; I love to do my workout which is the only time I get to really have some ME-Time.