Since Monday I have begun my work here at Raj Impex in Chennai. Four days in and I am finally understanding how things work around here in the office. I usually arrive here around 9:30 to try my many failed skype conversations home–today I took my computer to the IT man and now the internet works on my computer! whoo hoo! I usually begin my briefings, as Mr. Gorge calls them at 11. He has graciously given me a cubicle, computer and phone on the second floor where I can do whatever I need. At 11, or, I should say around 11, since it turns out south Indians run on Alex time as well :), I begin my briefings.
Considering there is a lot that I have learned in my four short days, I don’t know where I should begin de-briefing all my knowledge to you all. I will just start by going through my research so far day by day.
MONDAY: On Monday I meet with Mr. George in his office. I was offered my precursory amount of tea and water, and as he sat behind his desk, and me with my pen and paper, I didn’t know where to begin with my questions, so when confronted with the opportunity to ask him any and every question I could ever imagine, I was momentarily stunned by this opportunity. I quickly regained my composure and began my questions. I asked him first about what it means to be an ISO certified hair company. (according to the website Raj Hair International is the only ISO certified hair company in India — quite possibly the only one in the world, but I’ll have to double check on that.) He quickly began explaining why ISO is important. Basically when a company is ISO certified, it guarantees the quality of every batch of hair produced because it has been verified by an outside auditor. As well, they have a Quality Management System (QMS) that details how each faction of the company should run, and they conduct quarterly internal audits that help guarantee the company runs like a well oiled machine, in turn, that guarantees the quality of the product we buy and attach to our heads. Once my questions about the ISO certification were out of the way, I asked who were the companies top competitors and why. Since I have been sworn to secrecy about who they are, I will only detail why they are competitors. (I am quickly learning how cut throat the world of hair really is). These other top three companies are able to produce/ handle larger quantities of hair than Raj. This does not necessarily mean that they produce better quality, just a larger quantity.
However because they produce high volumes of hair products, some of the challenges that face them are in finding enough sources to supply the amount of hair needed. This problem is becoming even more present in regards to Remi Hair (basically the highest quality of hair available because the cuticle of the hair is all facing the same direction)because the largest temple, Tirupathi, has frozen all of the hair auctions for the past 10 months. There has been a dispute between the temple and the hair manufacturing companies regarding how much money the companies are willing to pay the Temple for the hair. Since Tirupathi has learned the value of this hair, they are now asking more than the manufactures are willing to pay. Even though this has made the availability of Remi Hair scarce (Tirupathi made up 40% of all the hair collected from the temples), there are still other temples that supply Remi hair to the companies- the other 60%, and Non-Remi hair, aka, comb waste hair is still plentiful. Approximately 60% of Raj Hair’s Non-Remi hair comes from comb waste hair, (the hair that stays in your comb or brush when you brush it).Besides not having enough hair to go around, larger companies face issues such as quality control, and having too many middle men involved in supplying the hair companies with hair. Since these companies require a large amount of hair, they have to find it from many sources. Since they are scouring for hair, many middle men are involved in getting the hair to them. Because of this some suppliers/ middle men blend animal hair with the human hair to sell to the large manufacturers, or give them “bad hair”. Bad hair could be anything from selling Non-Remi hair for Remi hair prices, or processing Non-Remi hair to make it look like Remi hair through a process called cuticle stripping. All of these factors affect large companies ability to produce good quality hair. After talking about the problems that Hair companies face, my time with Mr. George was up, and I then meet Mr. Dhamodharan to receive the ISO manuel to study up for my briefing with him Tuesday.
TUESDAY: I meet with Mr. Dhamodharan around 11 to go over the ISO manuel. Along with understanding who the outside auditors are, what the company does for their internal audits, and basically the nuts and bolts of how this certification has made the company function much more efficiently, I learned a lot of hair terminology and defintions.
- Single Drawn Hair: Bunch of Hair which is neatly trimmed on head side only. Remi hair only
- Double Drawn Hair: Bunch of hair which is neatly trimmed on both sides (head and tail ends of the hair). Non-Remi hair only.
- Thukku: Men’s tonsured hair from the Temples. Also known as barber waste hair.
- Mudichu: Women’s tonsured hair from the Temples.
- Sadai: dredlocked hair.
- Remi (Remy- both spellings are used): The head and tail of the hair is kept facing one single direction. (The hair cuticle all face the same direction)
- Non-Remi (Remy): The head and tail of the hair goes in mixed direction. (The cuticle of the hair does NOT face the same direction, making the hair more susceptible to tangling- Ever wonder why your weave hair seems to knot up into a rats nest… that’s right, you bought non-Remi hair)
- Pinju: A Non-Remi product. The name for the first stage of processing the non-remi hair goes through.
- Pinchu: Washed Remi hair
- Surulai: bundled hair that has been bundled using non-remi hair as thread.
- Wefting: The process wherein human hair head ends are neatly stitched and ready to be sewn in or used in other hair pieces. This process can be done by hand, or machine. The hand wefting cannot be cut at any portion because it will unravel, however, the machine wefted hair can be cut at any portion and not unravel.
- Hackling: Brushing the hair out.
Besides learning terminology, we went over the whole process Remi and Non-Remi hair goes through to become the finished product. Since I am sure you all are tired of how long this post is becoming, I’ll save that flow chart for another time 🙂
WEDNESDAY: I finally meet with Geeta, who is probably the sweetest and most helpful Indian woman you will have ever meet. As well, I think she has the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen in my life. It is super long, dark dark brown, and very curly. I just love it! If I could have hair like anybody, it would definitely be hers! Geeta is in charge of briefing me on the products offered by Raj Impex. there are 4 different types of hair offered. Curly, Sliky, Straight, and Wavy. Under curly there is Kinky Curly (I swear to you, this hair looks like black hair! I had to do a double take when I saw it hanging up with the other hair.) Super Curly, which also looks just like black hair, only the kink is a little looser, and then the Steam Boiled Curly. The Steam Boiled Curly is a new way that the company has come up with making Indian hair better mimic black hair texture. They take already wavy hair and roll it on metal rods, and then boil it in water, and I am sure something else, but they tell me it’s just water. Then when the boiling is finished, out comes the steam boiled curly hair, and man, this hair looks like it was always this curly! The steam boiling process began about 3 months ago because there is a high market demand for extremely curly hair, however because of the scarcity of Remi hair due to Tirupathi withholding hair, companies have had to become creative in the ways they give their clients what their asking for. I myself think the steam boiling process if quite ingenious, and it looks great. According to Geeta, it mimics naturally curly hair up to 90%. Also, when I asked Geeta about other types of hair available on the market like Brazilian hair and Malaysian hair, she confirmed what I had already believed, these types of hair do not exist. The only hair on the market is Indian hair and Chinese hair. I was amazed that these two types of hair are being marketed as different ethnicities hair, when in fact it is all the same kind of hair. Tomorrow, I have my next briefing with Geeta regarding Raj’s product line, and I am sure to have more questions for her. If you yourself have some questions, don’t hesitate to email me, and I will make sure to get some answers. Below I have added some pictures of the hair product lines,enjoy!