Ian Watson has turned personal tragedy into business triumph with a string of unique hair loss clinics, His Hair, that just keeps growing
The hair loss market is a multi-billion pound industry. And local entrepreneur Ian Watson is looking to take as big a slice of it as he can. While the likes of Wayne Rooney, Shane Warne and other celebrities look to restore their locks with transplants, weaves, potions, lotions or even toupees, Ian is making a global impact with a unique treatment that has seen his business go from small beginnings in the Jewellery Quarter to 17 clinics worldwide. What’s all the more amazing about Ian’s success story is that it was born out of huge personal tragedy – the loss of his brother to cancer. The impact of such a traumatic event led to the sudden loss of Ian’s own hair. And so began the search for a remedy to his alopecia, which would eventually end with HIS Hair Clinic, the business he founded with his sister-in-law Ranbir Rai-Watson.
“Losing my hair was massive,” says Ian. “I didn’t feel the same person. It affected my self-confidence and who I was. I had to do something about it but after researching all the options available to me, none was suitable. So, I set about finding my own solution.” Ian switched careers from the Midlands automotive industry to become a purchasing officer for the NHS. In his spare time in the evenings and at weekends he and schoolteacher Ranbir developed their plan for the new business. “I went to Australia to learn about cosmetic tattooing techniques,” says Ian. “When I returned to the UK we developed and refined the process, merging medical and cosmetic tattooing, and came up with our own unique, non-surgical treatment.”
Called Scalp Micro Pigmentation (SMP), it’s a unique technique which provides instant, safe, pain-free results. “SMP leaves you with the look of micro hairs,” says Ian. “These replicate real hair and create a natural looking, modern close cropped hair style.” Price is also very relevant – a hair transplant can cost up to £30,000 for a Wayne Rooney-style ‘finish’, while the maintenance of weaves and wigs also run into many thousands. “A course of our treatment will cost between £2,000-£3,000, and it’s for life,” says Ian. There are plenty of men – and women – booking in for the HIS Hair treatment. The international HQ and training academy is in a very smart building on Hagley Road, Birmingham. There are also HIS Hair clinics in Harley Street, London and in Manchester with a fourth opening this month in Glasgow. There are seven locations in the US, including Los Angeles, Miami and New York, while European centres include Paris, Barcelona, Madrid and Gothenburg. There are also clinics in Dubai and Hong Kong. Ian and Ranbir’s skill sets match perfectly to the business. “My background is in commerce,” says Ian. “So I look after that side of things. While Ranbir’s career has been in education – so she takes care of all the training and development requirements. All our technicians from around the world come to our academy in Birmingham for their training.” The partners started the business in small premises in the Jewellery Quarter, and Ian admits that as they grew they could have been tempted to make Harley Street their main base. But as Brummies through and through – both were born within a year of each other at Birmingham City Hospital and went to the same West Bromwich school – they decided their home city was the place to be.
“It was tough in the early days,” says Ian, a father of three. “We got no help from the banks, so we saved like crazy, used credit cards and borrowing from our families. We did everything – answered the phones and emails, did the consultations and the treatments. Now we’ve grown to the point that we have 50 staff and no debt in the business.” The business has a wide range of customers. “Currently our youngest is 13 and our oldest is 67,” says Ian. He’s careful about who he can name due to confidentiality, but says famous clients he’s treated include the footballers’ celebrity hairdresser Daniel Johnson and David Beckham’s hairdresser and fellow Brummie, Adee Phelan. Ian’s also travelled to Beverley Hills to treat the Princess of Saudia Arabia no less! “People come to us because they know there’s no bullshit. What we do works.”