x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Negin Fattahi-Dasmal's UAE grooming empire

We talk plans, trends and kids with Negin Fattahi-Dasmal, the founder and chief executive of The Grooming Company.

Negin Fattahi-Dasmal, the founder and chief executive of The Grooming Company. Mike Young / The National
Negin Fattahi-Dasmal, the founder and chief executive of The Grooming Company. Mike Young / The National

Nail bars may be two a penny in the UAE these days, but when Negin Fattahi-Dasmal returned to Dubai in the late 1990s after a spell in Los Angeles, she discovered a glaring gap in the market. "There were either very low-end salons that did everything, but nothing really well, or you were forced to have a very high-end hotel or spa-like experience. There was a huge gap in between," she recalls.

So she decided to launch her own take on the nail bars that she had so loved in LA. Her aim was to offer the speed and efficiency of the traditional quick-stop salons but with a level of service that went beyond the norm. She opened the first N.Bar in Jumeirah's Palm Strip Mall in March 2001 and within five months it had doubled in size. Within nine months, she had opened a second location in Emirates Towers.

Fattahi-Dasmal set out to build a brand, with a clear set of principles. "My philosophy was to never allow a client to feel like they were compromising on any single aspect of their experience. Hygiene was a major factor and we offered fully trained, skilled staff, efficiency and speed, in a glamorous environment - all at an affordable price."

This remains the philosophy of The Grooming Company, which is N.Bar's parent company and now also encompasses the 1847 male grooming lounges and the Jet Set wash and blow dry hair-care concept. And while ill health has forced Fattahi-Dasmal to take a step back from the business over the past four years, she has recently returned and is all set to take "her first baby" to the next level - all while bringing up four young children. We talk to her about her plans for the future.

Your male grooming lounge concept, 1847, was launched in 2004, when male grooming was only just emerging as a trend around the world. How did clients in the UAE respond?

With N.Bar, we were doing an old concept in a reinvented way - nail bars already existed. But the male grooming industry was really non-existent, all around the world, so it was a real risk and really a case of me following my instincts. Having said that, Middle Eastern men are some of the most well-groomed men I've ever come across.

We launched 1847 in Emirates Towers in 2004. On its opening day, it served more clients than N.Bar did.

You've just returned to the business after time away. How has the industry changed in that time?

Dubai has changed and grown and the size of the grooming industry has grown, too. There's a lot of demand and a lot of people who can cater to that. The size has definitely grown but I don't know about the standards.

We all know that Dubai has grown and shifted and been divided into these different communities. Accessibility is playing a much larger role today when people are choosing where to go for their nails or their grooming needs. Convenience is often the main factor in people's choices.

So, what does the future hold?

We have a lot of plans. We are starting to franchise 1847, N.Bar and Jet Set. We currently have 15 branches across the brands. We are opening new ones in very exciting locations and we are moving into Abu Dhabi. 1847 will be the first brand to go into Abu Dhabi. There will be two in 2013 and a third in 2014.

We're also launching a dedicated braid bar at Jet Set. Braiding is such a trend right now. It's so much fun and I think it'll be very successful. We have to stay ahead and we have to stay on top so we are always looking at new things.

We now have investors - a small group of very established businessmen who believe in and are very passionate about the company - but we are still the majority stakeholders.

How do you juggle a career with four children under the age of 10?

Time management is really key. With families who have multiple children, no matter what you do, you are going to struggle to give them your undivided attention. One of the secrets I've learnt over the years is to spend individual time with each of them because for children, if they were able to tell us, I think their expectation of parents is quality time over quantity. A frazzled mother, all the time, is not what they need. I'm very lucky that I have my family here and my parents are an amazing source of support.