Determination, hard work and some help turned a hairstylist into an entrepreneur

He could well be the richest barber in the country. But G Ramesh Babu
charges only Rs.75 for a haircut. He has his salon at the famous Bowring
Institute on St. Mark’s Road in Bangalore, one of the oldest clubs in
the city.

The 42-year-old hairstylist attends to around eight customers a day,
working in two shifts of 2-3 hours each, morning and evening. But what
he does in between the two shifts is the stuff fairy tales are made of.

Ramesh Babu owns a fleet of 68 luxury cars

The man who wields the scissors at Bowring sits at a different office
during rest of the day as CEO of a large car rental company that owns a
fleet of luxury cars, including a dazzling Rs.3.3 crore Rolls Royce, and
a range of Mercs, BMWs, Volkswagens, and Innovas.

His company, Ramesh Tours and Travels Private Limited, owns a total of
127 cars and has on its rolls around 120 employees. Most of them are
drivers who draw a monthly pay of not less than Rs.14000, with
additional overtime incentives.

“We are one of the top companies in the country in this field,” says
Ramesh, who lost his father when he was just 7 years old, and later
braved poverty and hunger to reach this position.

His rise to success is marked by hard work, a burning desire to
succeed, and the favour shown by a few good-hearted men and women.

He says, “We had a hair salon at Brigadier Road. The shop was called
‘Modern Hair Dressers’ and it was started in 1928 by my grandfather. My
father was running the shop till his death. I was 7 then and I had two
other younger siblings.

“The responsibility of bringing us up fell on my mother, who started
working as a housemaid to support the family. For many years, we
survived on one meal a day. I became so used to it that even today I
don’t have my breakfast.”

In spite of the situation at home, Ramesh studied well and was among
the top three rankers in class. He was a sportsman too. He played
football in school and represented Karnataka in the junior nationals in
1500 metres athletic event.

At 13, he took up a part-time job as a newspaper delivery boy and
earned Rs.60 per month. His mother took up small tailoring jobs and made
some extra money. But that hardly changed the situation for the family.

He recalls an incident that happened when he was in class five. At that
time, the family’s hair salon was being run by his uncle – father’s
brother – who used to pay them about Rs.5 daily as their share of the
income.

Bollywood actors and top industrialists travel in his cars when they are in Bangalore

“I was in class 5 and we were instructed to use fountain pens for the
first time at school. Until then we were using pencils for writing. I
went to our shop and told the person working there – an employee who had
been appointed by my father – that I needed a pen.

He gave Rs.3.50 and I bought a Pilot pen with the money. In the
evening, when I went to the shop my uncle was furious. He snatched the
pen from me and said I don’t need such expensive pens and gave me a
cheaper pen instead. That incident fuelled my ambition to succeed in
life,” says Ramesh, who has the fortune of putting his own children in
top schools.

He has two daughters and a son. The eldest daughter is studying in
class ten at a well-known residential school in Kothagiri and he spends
around Rs.1.5 lakh on her education per annum.

An important decision he took early in life was to learn the barbering
skills of his father. He took charge of the family’s hair salon in 1990
and renamed it ‘Inner Space’. He became a hit with youngsters who
started making a beeline to his shop and there were days when he had
worked up to 3 am to cater to waiting customers.

Though he was not able to complete his PUC (Pre University Course), he managed to obtain a diploma in electronics later.

For couple of years, he worked as a marketing executive for a private
company. But the turning point in his life came after he purchased a
Maruti Omni in 1995 on a  loan. Based on the advice of a well-wisher, he
decided to rent out his car.

His first client was Intel, which had a small office in Bangalore then. His business grew as Intel expanded its operations.

“Intel had just four employees when we started working with them. But
they grew fast. We looked after their transport needs till 2000 by which
time they had around 250 employees and 25 of our cars were on duty for
them,” he recalls.

Ramesh always looks back on the path he has travelled

Meanwhile, Ramesh’s client list continued to grow. He entered the
luxury car segment in 2004 when he bought his first Mercedes Benz. He
now owns a fleet of 68 luxury cars. Bollywood actors, celebrities, and
top industrialists travel in his cars when they are in Bangalore.

In 1997, he had opened a hair salon at Bowring Institute. Though he has
closed the other shop due to lack of parking space and other issues
that cropped up with Bangalore’s exponential growth in the last couple
of decades, Ramesh has no such plans for the one at Bowring.

Ask him why he needs to continue cutting hair, and he shoots back, “Why
not? How can I forget the job that has made me what I am?”

Nor has he forgotten those who helped him in his hard days. He makes
special mention of two people: Ms. Nandini Ashok and Mr. Philip Louise.

Take a bow, Nandini and Philip. You have helped a worthy man!