Many people were reported to have lost their jobs when the pandemic first struck the world. Some might consider it vicious and cruel, as their bread and butter were taken away from them.
Accepting reality is one thing, but doing something about it is something else entirely. Rather than surrendering to their fates, Muhilan and Arvind Doresamay, brothers who worked as an engineer and a pilot respectively, decided to start a barber service.
But not just any typical barber service. They preferred to operate out of a bus, hence the name, The Barber Bus.
A way to reduce risks
“The Barber Bus was established during the pandemic a year ago,” he said. “We had to start something since we lost our jobs.”
The unexpected downsizing of the airline industry impacted Arvind. For Muhilan, he wanted to set up a Malaysian office following his return from the United States as an engineer. “However, due to the pandemic, things didn’t go as planned,” he mentioned.
Knowing that there were higher risks involved with starting a business during a pandemic, which was considered to be a time of great uncertainty, Muhilan and Arvind wanted to significantly reduce the risks.
“The bus was our answer to mitigate the risks,” Muhilan added. “If it fails, we know the renovation cost will not be wasted on a building.”
The pair was able to acquire a plot of land that was under the management of Arvind’s condo. “It was a dead space, so I proposed my business model to the management and they approved it,” Arvind clarified.
The challenges that come with it
As foot traffic began to increase, the brothers realised that operating a barber service in a bus presented the most obvious challenge: limited space.
The Barber Bus can only cater to two customers at a time, but it’s not something they necessarily regret.
“The reason being is because we wanted something small and niche,” said Arvind. “We focus on quality rather than quantity. It’s easier to maintain quality with two chairs compared to having five or six chairs.”
Prior to launching their company, Arvind and Muhilan had no experience in the barber industry or in any business in general. Even so, this didn’t stop them from starting a business they were very interested in and passionate about.
Upon launching, the partners hired two barbers to service their clients. According to the founders, only senior-level barbers would meet their stringent hiring requirements.
“We go through three rounds of the selection process, which includes balloon shavings, three trial haircuts, and a few other tasks prior to selections,” they stated.
The Barber Bus caters primarily to the locals of Mont Kiara, from children to men of all ages.
Prices range from RM43 for children to RM100 for the Presidential Service, which includes a more thorough customisation of the customer’s preferred haircut style.
“We are known for our exclusive presidential service,” the brothers claimed. “Which includes hot and cold towel shaves, a facial with a steamer, and a black mask that comes with a complimentary beverage from our presidential drinks menu.”
A bright road ahead
While operating from a small space presents challenges, it also creates a cosy atmosphere for customers.
There appears to be a sense of cosiness and connectedness in its surroundings. The lighting is ambient, and the wooden floors give the bus a homey feel. Interestingly, the brothers shared that the majority of the decorations are DIY to fit the American theme.
With consistent customer growth, the founders will expand their business to a new location with the same concept, barbering on a bus, in order to distinguish themselves from other similar service providers.
“[We will most probably] open up two more franchises,” they said. “As for now, we want to concentrate on perfecting our trade with just one outlet.”
The duo told Vulcan Post that their proudest moments have always been about receiving positive feedback from their valued customers, as customer satisfaction has been placed above any other.
“It’s safe to say that The Barber Bus has been the go-to place for many folks in our locality,” said Muhilan. “We also have regular customers from as far as Seremban that visit us every biweekly.”
With perseverance and discipline, these small accomplishments could become stepping stones to something much greater.
- Learn more about The Barber Bus here.
- Read more articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: The Barber Bus