An Indian expat based in Dubai sets up a chain of salons in the United Arab Emirates. here’s how


Dubai-based Indian expat Sandhya Narayan invested around Dh500,000 to open her first salon in Al Warqa in 2007 after spotting a gap in the community for a women’s salon. A decade later, she reinvested the company’s profits to open a second branch in Al Barsha.
Image Credit: Provided

Strong points

Dubai-based Indian expat Sandhya Narayan invested around Dh500,000 to open her first salon in Al Warqa in 2007 after spotting a gap in the community for a women’s salon. A decade later, she reinvested the company’s profits to open a second branch in Al Barsha. Here’s how she managed the business financially.

Dubai: Dubai-based Indian expat Sandhya Narayan who lived in Al Warqa around 15 years ago had to travel almost 20 minutes from her home to get to the nearest salon.

After having a child, that meant having to choose a day when her spouse was there to care for the baby, coupled with the expense of fuel and time spent traveling. This is what prompted her to capitalize on a gap in her community and enabled her to start a women’s salon in 2007.

“A predominantly Emirati community, there were only a few residential buildings and one commercial building in Al Warqa at that time. The others were all houses that belonged to the Emiratis. While the commercial building housed some basic amenities, including a barber shop, dry cleaning service, and a pharmacy, there was no women’s salon in the entire area. I saw this as an opportunity to start a small business with Sandhya Beauty Salon.

Financing the company

Sandhya relied on personal savings built up over the years, end-of-service money from a ten-year job, and a small personal loan (a quarter of the total investment) to start her salon business. She had to make an investment of around 500,000 Dh to get things going. This included the purchase of the only store available for sale in Al Warqa’s only commercial building and the rebranding which added Dh 100,000 to the original budget. Then came the setting up of the salon, interior design, licensing, annual rent, hiring of staff and more.

Cutting-edge salon

Image used for illustration purposes.

“As a new entrepreneur, my learning curve has been steep. Bringing together the initial investment, including the personal loan, was just the start. We had hired an interior design agency which was very expensive. Closer to the launch date, we ran out of money completely and had to put more money in. But once we opened the show, business picked up almost immediately, helping us slowly achieve profitability. Even today, when there are 16-18 women’s salons in this region, we have managed to retain our loyal customers. We definitely had the first-come-first advantage and our repeat attendance has always been high. “

The experience of launching the first salon made opening the second branch in Al Barsha a bit easier, Sandhya explained. “When the second branch opened in 2017, we negotiated a better deal for the space of an existing business, making a quarter of the investment compared to the first at Al Warqa. We selected contractors who were cheaper but good at their job, which helped us keep our rebranding and interior design expenses at around Dh75,000. Above all, we could fully fund the opening of the second show with the profits generated by the first. Within 6-8 months of opening, the second salon broke even and began to generate profits within 12-16 months. This allowed us to buy the adjoining store, to expand the salon in the year following its opening, that too without interrupting operations.

Accounting for current expenditure

Operating two salons in Dubai, Sandhya stressed the importance of keeping a close eye on running expenses. In his case, this includes rent, licenses, salaries, product purchasing, and marketing for both shows.


Image Credit: Provided

Staff salaries and accommodation are two other big expense items for Sandhya. Besides running expenses, she spent around Dh8,000 to install customer management system software to integrate data from both salons in one place, seamlessly offering price details and promotions online. . “This was a one-time investment that helped us streamline processes while bringing together critical customer data in one place. In terms of marketing, we spend around 10,000-12,000 Dh per year on Google, Facebook and other forms of advertising. We prefer to pass the benefits on to customers through discounts and happy hours, thereby gaining repeat traffic, rather than spending a lot on advertising.

There are also some other one-time expenses, she added. “After 14 years, in June 2021, we completely renovated the Al Warqa salon, spending a total of 100,000 Dh, which also came from the profits generated by the salons. However, such expenses should be carefully considered when planning for the possibility of making installment payments to contractors as well as the possibility of making installment payments by credit card instead of coughing up a large amount all at once.

Support the business financially thanks to COVID-19

“It was exceptionally difficult to financially support the company since the start of the pandemic,” admitted Sandhya. “While we received three months rent relief for our Al Barsha lounge and a fee reduction from the Dubai Municipality, two months (April-May 2020) when the lounges were closed was very difficult. Income was zero for those two months, although we still have running expenses. “

Additionally, due to COVID-19 protocols, both lounges are still operating at reduced capacity, impacting revenue per square foot. But daily operating costs have increased by 20-30% as salons now spend a significant amount on PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, disposable masks, gloves, face shields, towels, sheets and disinfectants.

Eden Flower Show

Image used for illustration purposes.

“In fact, when we reopened after the lockdown in 2020, we had to spend a minimum of 4000 Dh each time we passed the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, coupled with 2000 Dh for a service unique in-depth disinfection for both salons by an approved body. It is important to note that the salons have survived and are doing well now thanks to the hard work of our staff. And I intend to repay the portion of their wages that was reduced for two months when the salons were closed in arrears.

You have to know when to stop

As a message to other solopreneurs, Sandhya said, “I quit a high paying job to start my salon, and today, even after many challenges, if I had to make the decision again, I wouldn’t do it any differently. . If you have an entrepreneurial dream, it is important to pursue it no matter what. But it is crucial that you do in-depth research and background work. It’s okay to take risks, but only after weighing the pros and cons.

“Knowing when to stop is also important. For example, in addition to the two fairs in Dubai, I had created two others in India, New Delhi (2011) and Mumbai (2015). Even though the business outlook was bright, I had to close the New Delhi show within four years due to operational and logistical issues. The Mumbai lounge has been a victim led by COVID. I had to take tough calls to keep the business going, ”she concluded.

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