Africa’s Thirst For Human Hair Is A Billion-Dollar Business & Indian Companies Are Weaving In The Dough

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Indian beauty firms, specifically human hair sellers, are racking up the big bucks in Africa.  Because Indian hair is popular for its strength and texture, it’s highly sought-after commodity in Africa, where it is used for wigs or extensions. In fact, demand is so high that there is a push by many Indian companies to not only export hair, but to invest in hair care businesses in the continent itself.

Just last week, a company called Godrej Consumer Products India said it will buy South Africa-based hair extension company Friska hair for an undisclosed amount, reports Quartz.

“This acquisition reflects our continued commitment to providing African consumers with a wide range of superior quality products at affordable prices,” Godrej’s managing director Vivek Gambhir said in a statement. “We remain very excited by the tremendous potential of the African market.”

Godrej is just the latest Indian company to make such a move. There have been others before, including Marico, Dabur and VLCC that all have hair care businesses in African countries such as South Africa, Morocco, and Nigeria.

No wonder these companies are expanding. The Indian hair export market is estimated to be worth about $393.5 million annually, with a yearly growth rate between 10 percent and 30 percent. Indian hair companies tend to export two types of hair: Remy and non-Remy. Remy hair is usually collected from temples and is of the highest grade. Non-Remy hair is processed. Because Non-Remy hair has cuticles that do not face the same direction, it is treated with hydrochloric acid to remove the cuticles. This reduces the quality of hair.

To get natural, chemically undamaged hair Indian companies go to great lengths, such as holding online auctions. The Tirupathi Temple in Andhra Pradesh (one of the 29 states of India), which holds online auctions annually, has earned $97 million through the sale of hair via e-auctions since 2011.

Africa is a prime market for Indian hair. Its dry hair market (the market for weaves, wigs, and extensions) is currently estimated to be worth $6 billion a year and booming. The market is so big that global giants such as Unilever and L’Oreal are investing heavily in African hair care products.

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