Halal Industry

Halal women-only salon in Singapore planning regional franchise program on back of rapid local growth

| 18 August, 2016
 ZUZANITA ZAKARIA
Halal women-only salon in Singapore planning regional franchise program on back of rapid local growth
Photo credit: Karva Salon for Ladies, Singapore

A halal and ladies-only salon in Singapore popular with hijab-wearing Muslim women is trailing its rapid growth with a fourth outlet by the end of this year and is also planning to launch a regional franchise program, its co-founder Jai Wahab told Salaam Gateway.

Wahab founded Karva Salon For Ladies with his wife Rozza Ramli in May last year. They believe their salon’s success in Singapore is rooted in the underserved market of hair and nail services for Muslim women who are increasingly hungry for sophisticated services.

“I think Muslimah salons are not a trend but have become a necessity,” said Wahab. 

Karva’s first outlet, a 230-square foot space of four chairs and a shampoo bed opened with a capital investment of $60,000. Since then, two more outlets have sprouted quickly across the country within a year. They were set up with $112,000 and $134,000 respectively, and they employ 17 full-time personnel.

In land-scarce Singapore where real estate is steep, the founders had to be strategic in maximizing what they pay for. Their shops are located outside the central retail districts and rental of the three outlets range from $13 to $18 per square foot.

“Basically, we maximized every square foot for retail, services and storage, without forsaking experience. We had four salon chairs and one shampoo bed, but it was profitable enough for us to pursue the second outlet within six months,” said Wahab.

“The demand was very strong and it was crucial to react immediately while the iron was still hot.”

“The growth is due to the rising number of Muslim consumers who have become more discerning and confident of our customized services. In the past years, services such as ours were rare and not made commercially viable,” he added.

Photo: Co-founders of Karva Salon for Ladies, Jai Wahab and Rozza Ramli / Courtesy Karva Salon for Ladies

Before setting up Karva, Wahab had an established career in marketing and operations with IBM and Kidzania Singapore. He discovered that corporate and marketing finesse was not sufficient without a deep understanding of Karva’s customers’ profiles.

“Understanding the culture and practices of Muslimahs is essential for a Muslimah salon. Sometimes the services duration is very long, over three hours,” he explained.

Karva’s guests are treated in privacy within a chandeliered space, along with complimentary Italian-styled coffee and other beverages. Prayer areas and a play corner for young children are also provided for guests who are busy moms.

LOYAL FOLLOWING

The emphasis on details has paid off. The Karva salons quickly gained a loyal following from ages ranging from 12 to 55 years, its target market.

Its social media followers ballooned to more than 12,000 and they are constantly engaged. Many of its customers rebook appointments with more female friends and family in tow, according to Wahab.

This cascading effect contributed to its success as 75 percent of its revenue has come from services, with a remaining 20 percent from products and 5 percent from hosting special events such as bridal showers and birthdays.

In Singapore, Muslims make up 14.9 percent of its 5.6 million population. There are more than 18,000 businesses in the beauty and wellness industry, according to the 2011 Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s audit report. However, only a handful of these cater specifically to the halal-conscious and Muslim markets.

HALAL PRODUCTS

Wahab shared that customers often ask about the type of products used at the salon. To address their concerns about haram ingredients, the salon ensures it uses only halal or botanical-based products, which it currently sources from third party vendors.

“One constant query has been on halal products. Our responsibility is to make halal products readily available.” 

The company is currently developing its own brand of salon and home care products, but it is a long process. “As the investment to support this plan is substantially high, careful planning and budgeting is essential,” Wahab explained.

His team has to ensure that all raw materials, processing aid ingredients, sanitation chemicals, and packaging are free of impermissible ingredients. “We have started research on the ingredients to ensure that no pork or beef by-products are used in the hair care products. We will not consider a natural or artificial flavor as halal if ethyl alcohol is used as a solvent or carrier and if the supporting ingredients are not from a halal source.”

GOING REGIONAL

From tiny Singapore, Wahab and Ramli are dreaming big and said the plan is to make Karva a global household name in hair and nail care. The company will start with the Asia-Pacific.

“We are planning a franchise program for regional expansion to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and the UK where the demand from Muslim consumers is rather strong,” said Wahab without revealing a timeline.

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