Imroz battles the odds – Back at work after COVID-19

Mohammed Imroz prepares a customer for his hair cut at his barber shop in Samabula. Picture: IAN CHUTE

Mohammed Imroz has been a barber for more than a decade now and after working passionately for Supercuts, a popular chain of barbershops in Suva, he decided to open his own shop.

He was born in Lekutu, Bua, in 1987 and educated at Vuo Bhartiya School and All Saints Secondary School.

Growing up in the greater Labasa area, he and his friends often found themselves up to the usual mischief that teenage boys usually find themselves in, he even had a brush with someone who would one day be a household name in the country.

It was in Suva that Imroz began his training in the art of grooming.

“I learned how to cut hair at the original SuperCuts at the Supreme Fuel complex at Mead Rd, I was there for about three to four years, from there I moved to the second shop at Vanua House in town and then when they opened an outlet at Damodar City which I went on to later manage.

“I managed the Damodar City outlet six or seven years, we also opened a premium shop. It was all pretty much smooth sailing until 2020. When COVID-19 struck and everything went upside down.”

On April 2, 2020 Imroz and his wife were confirmed as Fiji’s sixth and seventh case of COVID-19 and were isolated at the Navua Hospital.

He contracted the virus from his father who had just returned from India.

Suva City went into lockdown after that announcement.

“I was feeling sick prior to going into isolation, I never had any problems breathing, sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath and my temperature never went above 37 degrees. They said I had tested positive because my father had tested positive.”

Today Imroz said he had his doubts about whether he and his father really had the COVID-19 virus as claimed because other people his father supposedly came in contact with didn’t contract the virus.

“I don’t blame them for putting me in isolation because they were trying to stop the spread of the virus but no one outside of my family got the virus,” he said.

Isolation proved to be a great time for reflection which led to a big decision when he was released.

“Supercuts wanted me back but I insisted to stay away for a month because of the stigma that customers would not want me now that my reputation was tarnished. During my time off I later decided not to return. I had a talk with my boss and he understood – ending our professional relationship on good terms.

“I decided to start my own called Premium Barbers,” he said.

The shop is located at Magson Plaza in Samabula where he says his landlord gave him a space and like his friends, was very supportive of him from the start.

“When I came out, a lot of my friends, especially my Sri Lankan friends and businesspeople who I had met in my years as a barber really stood by me. My landlord was really very supportive of me and my new business, he gave me a space and I eventually opened the shop. One may look at a barber shop and think all you need is a few mirrors, a high chair and some clippers, but the standard at which the shop has been designed would certainly cost a fair bit.

“To set up this shop cost more than $30,000, a barber’s chair alone costs about $1500, but business is going well so far.”

Imroz said he was well prepared by his time at Supercuts to own and run his own barber shop.

“There is a difference between managing someone else’s shop and your own. Because being your own boss will require you keep an eye on the whole operation – no hanky-panky business.”

Imroz says his business relies on good service and that’s exactly what he plans to deliver.

“We don’t just cut hair here, we do facials, my wife does threading and we also have a VIP room. We ensure service is up to par.” So despite the odds I’m slowly fighting my way back.

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