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Indian Hair Grows in Popularity

By Murali Kamma Email By Murali Kamma
August 2011
Indian Hair Grows in Popularity Indian hair can be long and luxuriant. That also makes it big business.

Worth $200 million annually, the hair industry in India has seen a sharp increase in exports to the West, where Indian hair costs around $250 per kilo—although the price can sometimes rise to a staggering $800 per kilo. Remy hair commands the highest premium, because the roots are intact and the cuticles run in one direction. Indian women’s hair—highly desired in Europe and the U.S. for extensions and wigs—is more valuable than similar hair from elsewhere, often because it’s naturally attractive and free of artificial treatments.

And there is a steady supply. Not a surprise, since Indian temples account for a large share of the hair that comes here. One writer, in fact, referred to the Tirumala temple in India as “the world’s largest barbershop.” While devotees may not appreciate that characterization, it is true that 500 tons of hair is collected annually at this temple, where 600 barbers shave over 20,000 heads every day, as Erin Biel pointed out in The Yale Globalist. Given that the shorn hair is essentially donated by pilgrims, the enormous profit made by temples has raised thorny questions. But there are defenders. The Tirumala temple, for instance, uses the money to fund educational and charitable projects.

A film called Hair India follows the trail of hair from South Indian temples to the salons of the West.

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