JASON STATHAM AND VIN DIESEL aside, baldness isn’t a style statement most people can pull off with panache. Global figures indicate that currently 70% men lose their hair—both complete and partial baldness—compared with 30% to 35% in the ’70s to the ’90s. For females, that stat is at 35% to 40%, up from 6% to 7%. For India, the averages are similar to those globally.

“We are dealing with an area that is very sensitive, emotional, and debatable,” says Sanket Shah, the CEO of Advanced Hair Studio India, a hair restoration company with eight outlets and a turnover of about Rs 125 crore. “On the one hand, everyone wants to look their age or even five to 10 years younger, and on the other, the percentage of men and women in the young age bracket losing hair is increasing.”

Even as celebrities age, their endorsement choices change. Cricketers such as Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Jacques Kallis, and Shane Warne have found lending their balding pates for hair restoration commercials both lucrative and opportune. “This space, which was once viewed as a medical intervention, has become all about wellness,” adds Ankur Bisen, senior vice president, retail, at retail consultancy Technopak.

Laser technology is a key part of cosmetic hair restoration
Laser technology is a key part of cosmetic hair restoration

Little wonder that organised hair restoration here is a Rs 453 crore market, growing 25% annually. According to a December 2013 report by consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan, 2009-10 onwards, various national and international chains such as DHI, Berkowits, Richfeel Trichology Center, B Perfect, and ADHI have set up clinics in key Indian cities.
There are also standalone operations run by doctors and homoeopaths. The NCR and Mumbai have emerged as leading hubs for hair transplant with a huge inflow of patients from across the country.

“Hair restoration is still an urban phenomenon. Mumbai and Delhi combined contribute about Rs 200 crore, followed by Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune,” says Ankit Goyal, programme manager, health-care practice, Frost & Sullivan.

Here’s the science: A human is born with approximately 100,000 hair strands—50,000 on top of the scalp and the rest on the sides and back. In normal hair-loss, one loses hair only from the top of the scalp. And the minute one loses 15,000 strands or more, medical science doesn’t have an answer.

A single hair restoration session can plant no more than 4,000 to 5,000 strands. A client can sit for a maximum of four sessions, via clinical or cosmetic processes. Shah admits that it is still a service aimed at the classes. Costs can be as high as Rs 6 lakh, but the price points will need to be worked on when these companies start targeting smaller cities if the business is to make further headway.

Bisen says, “A sizeable men’s segment has emerged because people now are well travelled and consume media extensively. Looks matter a lot to them. That’s why some things, like balding, that were earlier non-issues are suddenly issues.” He points to a few trends like the growth of the deodorant market five or six years back, followed by whitening crèmes, with hair care the latest to be woven into the narrative.