A True Trailblazer

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A True Trailblazer

--BY MANISHA BALAMI

As a prime example of the Chinese proverb “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”, Kamala Shrestha believes in utilising every second of time that she has. Shrestha, a pioneer in the beauty sector, is the proprietor of Siam Institute of Hair Design and Beauty Care. The first of its kind institute has been approved by the Council of Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT). 

A veteran of the sector, she is not only a beautician, Shrestha is also a trainer, an academic, counsellor, a media person, as well as a policymaker. 

She believes that strong will power and hard work can lead a person to success. Apart from that, she was also the first person to open a salon in Lalitpur. During her visit to Thailand, she did a beautician course for two years. Skilled in the field, she decided to start a beauty salon after returning to Nepal. Only her husband supported her decision. “Four decades ago, beautician as a profession was not accepted. Nobody supported me, but my husband was always there behind me to support me”, she recalls. She proudly says that her husband is the biggest admirer and supporter in her life. 

As visiting parlours or salons was not in fashion back then, she had to convince people to visit her salon. She says that people used to think that makeup and grooming were only for the Ranas and Royal families. Prejudice about what other people might say or think was also a challenge for Shrestha. “A client would agree after convincing and counselling them for hours and hours”, she says. Moreover, besides a few print media, there was no social media like today for promotion. 

Once Nepal Television started in 2042 BS, she was able to reach out and promote her business and the idea of beauty through a programme called Ghar Sansar, which she used to present. Gradually, after other television channels started operating, she ran programmes like Sringar, The Mood and New Look on different channels like Channel Nepal, Nepal 1, Terai, Kantipur, etc. Due to such programmes, people started recognising her work. “I am very thankful to the media as they gave me a platform to run programmes at a time when people were unaware and did not understand my work”, she says. 

She says she was able to spread awareness about personality development through her programmes. With growing awareness, people started showing interest in learning the skill. Then, she decided to open an institute where people could learn this skill. After operating a salon for 13 years, she established Siam Institute of Hair Design & Beauty Care. She only had four students at first. Since then there has been no turning back. Soon after, she began training male students as well. “This is also the first parlour for males”, she claims. She proudly says that today, thousands of male as well as female students have been trained and are working in Nepal and abroad.

Shrestha says she chose this sector out of her interest that grew during her visit to Thailand. She believes that along with having an interest in something, a person needs a platform to grow and develop. “I am fortunate that I got a platform to develop my interest and utilise it”, she shares. 

Shrestha is also the founding president of Beautician Professional Association of Nepal. Along with her beauty salon and institute, she successfully registered the association as an industry. As president, she worked for the upliftment of beauticians and their rights. With their support, she was able to remove the VAT that was imposed on beauticians. As this issue is related to health, with the approval of the Ministry of Education, she is planning to put the subject up as an optional course in class nine and ten from next year under the subject ‘Health, Beauty and Science’. 

She is the only woman to win the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) elections thrice consecutively. In 2007, she was motivated by her group of beauticians to become a central member of FNCCI. Satisfied with her work and encouraged by her determination, people supported her whereby she won the election with a majority. “12 years ago, I was motivated by my colleagues to fight for the FNCCI election. I thought that because I worked within the four walls of a salon, nobody would support me, but I was wrong. People knew me and appreciated my work. This encouraged me. As a result, I won the election with a majority”, she remembers. Today she is an executive committee member of FNCCI. 

She says that growing up with seven brothers has left its mark on her. Frivolous as a child, she describes herself as being audacious and bold. She admits that at first she felt overwhelmed, but she shares that she got enormous support, respect and appreciation from everyone, especially the male members of the organisation. She says that to get support, one needs to work. 

Affiliated with multiple organisations, Shrestha joined the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal (FWEAN) five years ago. Established in 2003, FWEAN is a focal point for interaction, not only with the government but also various national and international organisations and stakeholders. It also aims to redefine the perspective of women entrepreneurship– from economic growth and poverty alleviation to the participation of women at all levels in the socio-economic sectors. Regarding the situation of women entrepreneurs today, she says, “Support from family and the government are critical for women entrepreneurs to grow. It is a positive scenario that today, women are getting support from both. However, the only problem is that they are not aware of the policies and facilities they are provided”. She believes that if the government does better monitoring, and such women are educated and made aware, they could utilise the facility and grow better. 

As president of the Women Entrepreneurship Development Committee, she is also a guidance counsellor. “Regret, frustration and giving up are not the things I should be after, at this stage in life, rather, it is the time when I have to boost and motivate such young people through counselling. People like us should help them to get on the right track”, she explains.  

Holding numerous national as well as international awards, she is also a life member of Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI). Some of her other ‘firsts’ include being the first female karate player (2036) and the first female bike rider. 

Kamala, who is in her fifties now, says she wishes to keep working with the vigour of youth. She hopes to keep guiding young people who are deciding what to do. Shortly, she plans to upgrade her institute with new technology, methods and equipment. 

She thinks success cannot be achieved overnight; one has to struggle and keep trying with all their might. “While looking back, one should be able to feel proud in life with the work and service they have done”, she says.

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