Into the heart of beauty

Sayeda Akter

Kaniz Almas Khan

Unlike many of her contemporaries, Kaniz Almas Khan showed the courage to venture into the beauty business in the late 1990s. She was resolute to be the best in the field.

“When I planned to start my career, I thought of something different and big. That's how I came to the beauty industry,” she said.

Kaniz opened beauty salon Glamour in a 2,000 square feet room at her residence in Kalabagan in 1990, with nine workers and an initial investment of Tk 2 lakh, she borrowed from Micro Industries Development Assistance and Services (MIDAS).

It did not take long for the salon to teem with clients.“From the first day, we tried to provide the clients with the best quality skin and hair care services, and also bridal makeover. Soon the number of clients went up as there were only a handful of quality salons in the city at that time,” she said.

On a humid afternoon, Kaniz told The Daily Star about her rocky but beautiful journey while readying a model for a photo shoot at the Dhanmondi branch of Persona.

The major breakthrough in her career came in 1991 when world-famous brand Unilever made her the 'brand ambassador' for Sunsilk.

This brought her countrywide recognition as an expert in hair care and inspired many small entrepreneurs to get involved in this business.

“In 1998, Glamour was turned into Persona Hair and Beauty Ltd, a 3,400 square feet salon on Road 27 in Dhanmondi, with 200 workers. Its area was further expanded to 11,000 square feet in 2002,” said Kaniz, narrating the story behind Persona.

Over a span of 19 years, she has established a brand in the beauty industry, running two separate companies -- Persona Hair and Beauty Ltd and Persona Beauty Care Ltd.

And the brand, Persona, has now grown into one of the most profitable beauty service providing ventures in Bangladesh with an annual turnover of Tk 14.64 crore and average daily sales of Tk 5.25 lakh.

The company employs 1,400 people, of whom 1,200 are service providers and 200 are corporate executives. And of the total workforce, 99 percent are women.

Later, Kaniz initiated several ventures, including spas, gyms, a studio and a lifestyle magazine.

Persona has four salons: one each in Dhanmondi and Mirpur and two in Gulshan. Kaniz plans to open another in Uttara by June.

The company introduced Persona Health, Spring Spa, Adams' for men, and Persona Institute of Beauty and Lifestyle. The beautician said the industry suffers from a lack of training institutes on beauty services.

“The people, who are eager to work in the industry, lack training and skills. We opened an institute in Dhaka. One or two other institutes were launched recently, but their number is still very small, compared to the demand,” she said.

Persona Hair and Beauty Ltd also runs an independent studio and monthly publication 'Canvas'.

Business is not always easy for Kaniz, as frequent power cuts often hamper services.

Kaniz feels the absence of an association to protect the industry's interests.

In 2004, she introduced the 'Best Worker Award' at all her salons, where a meritorious and hard-working employee is awarded every month.

Simultaneously, she is involved in social work like providing training and financial support to female victims of domestic violence and acid attacks. She often employs them.

In 2005, she started training 25 acid victims from the Acid Survivors Foundation and 23 of them now work for Persona.

In 2008, the company joined hands with Development Assistance for Background Society, a non-profitable organisation, and provided scholarships to 10 students from Dhaka University.

She also extends her efforts to other social responsibilities, such as creating awareness on cancer and regular tax payments.

Kaniz is the spokesperson for the “Cervical Cancer Campaign” initiated by GlaxoSmithKline and the National Board of Revenue.

“I work hard to ensure high quality service for my clients. It helped me pursue my dream to be the best in this industry,” she said.

“Success comes when you are true to your dream. That's why Persona is successful today,” said Kaniz, with a smile.