Times are trying and most of us are struggling with our lives. If you are in the same boat and need some inspiration pills, this article is just the right one for you.
Meet Abhinav Saraf, the owner of the famous ‘PonyUp’ Salon, Kolkata. Originally from Bihar, Saraf moved to Kolkata in 2008 to pursue Chartered Accountancy. Around 2013, his hairstylist and friend, Shahid quit his job and was in trouble. While sorting out his crisis a random idea occurred to Saraf – What if he started his own salon! And that was it. Within a very short span, in August 2013, the duo launched PonyUp Salon.
The trend of hi-fi specialized salons was just catching up in Kolkata when PonyUp Salon came up. At that time there were few high-end salons in the city which included Jawed Habib, A.N. John and Head Turners. Once in trade, Saraf was soon to learn that launching a new business and that too without much experience, is never easy.
“A lot of research has to be done and strategies put in place if you want to master the art of something you have never done before, and that requires deep-seated passion and motivation. Coming from a family that was into a totally different profession, my start up idea did not come off as a good one initially. I had no financial support from my family and had to arrange funds from my savings. I was lucky though to have some friends who invested into my business. But the graver challenge came from my lack of knowledge in salon business. I had to travel to Bombay and Delhi to gather ideas on operating salons and to identify and understand the culture of salons so that while creating one I would be sure that it is going to work well. Being techies, we made full use of technology and software in our booking and billing and for customer engagement processes. This was not popular back then and made a real difference!” Saraf enthuses.
Battling business blues
Like all of us this was an unprecedented time for Saraf and he too was skeptical about how to get things back to normal. However, indomitable that he is, Saraf got into the action of preparing for the new and changed reality in post COVID19 world. “We trained our staff to use utmost precautionary and safety measures while providing services to our clients. We are using disposable cloth, cutting sheets, sanitizer sprays and gloves while working. Another unique thing about us is that we have a machine for sanitizing our clients while they step in which is most unlikely to be found in any other salon. Also before we reopened, we shared an animation video on our social media sites explaining how we would be functioning at our salon. This gave our clients a clear idea about our safety guidelines and that worked pretty well” says young-preneur proudly.
Salon on Wheels
Talking about PonyUp Salon’s latest initiative – ‘Salon on Wheels’, Saraf says – “the idea was generated two years back when he visited Europe. In Europe, UK, USA people staying in the countryside and suburbs do not have time to visit luxury spas and Salons every time. To make the salon experience real and hassle free they have a salon on wheels, which can travel anywhere to provide a unique experience to their clients. This is a concept I wanted to imbibe and execute in Kolkata. Due to the pandemic, people are wondering whether to go out or not. So to make their experience better and real, we have started our salon on wheels so that clients can get the exact salon experience at home without having the fear of stepping out and visiting us. This gives a win-win for customers as it gives them the luxury of salon experience right at their home while being safe.”
Saraf and team made strong social media promotions of the services and clients have already started booking for the door-step services by Salon on Wheels. “We work only on prior appointments because we extra cost is involved while we are on the road. Also, Salon on Wheels offers a fixed amount of services. Currently, we are visiting big complexes as they have parking spaces and also because unlike standalone houses, we can reach out to a larger audience within a small span of time in the complexes,” notifies Saraf.
Word of advice
Pony Up Salon started with just one outlet in Lake Town, as Saraf wanted to taste the waters before expanding. But within a short time he got the tricks of the trade right and spread across multiple locations.
Before signing off the seasoned entrepreneur shares a valuable piece of advice for the wannabe-preneurs- “Have ample amount of technology back up while setting up businesses. Be up to date about latest apps and software tools which will help you to take your business forward. Also, be persistent and be committed towards what you want to achieve, be confident and never give up unless you reach your goal.”