INNOVATION AND STYLE

Mobile barbershop takes Kenya by storm

Bakhtar Manji’s selling point is bringing the service to you, with Sonko among his clients

In Summary

• This is only the second mobile barbershop in Africa and is now three months old

• For Sh3,000, he offers luxury and convenience in his Mercedes Sprinter-based kinyozi 

Bakhtar Manji had to rethink his barbershop business in March last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country.

Interior of the mobile barber van
Interior of the mobile barber van
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

Bakhtar Manji had to rethink his barbershop business in March last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country.

He started door-to-door haircut services but the conditions of his clients’ homes were not befitting of his operations.

“Everyone wanted me to go to their house, so I just decided to let me do something that will be more comfortable,” Bakhtar told the Star during an interview at his physical branch in Lavington.

“I could go to someone’s house and they sit on a stool, and I found it uncomfortable for me as a barber.”

He started a mobile barbershop business three months ago, moving around in a Mercedes Sprinter.

Barkat Manji in his mobile barber van at his physical branch in Lavington on September 9
Barkat Manji in his mobile barber van at his physical branch in Lavington on September 9
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

This business is the second of its kind in Africa. The other mobile barbershop is located in South Africa.

His mobility has proved to be very convenient, especially for people who don’t like going to physical barbershops. One of his loyal clients is former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

Most of his clients, he says, are referrals from social media and his clients.

To get a haircut at Bar6er Mobile, one has to part with Sh3,000, inclusive of a head massage and facials.

“It’s not bad, to be honest. If you think about it, most barbershops charge low, like Sh1,000, but the client will spend time on the road and coming from very far. They will spend fuel, spend money for parking,” he said.

The Mercedes Sprinter has one leather seat that a client sits on, two others in the waiting area, and a fridge to store cold towels.

Manji's mobile barber van at his physical branch in Lavington on September 9
Manji's mobile barber van at his physical branch in Lavington on September 9
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

Bakhtar chose the Mercedes Sprinter because of its size and convenience for running his business.

“Most people who build houses in cars use the car specifically because it's strong enough. It can carry up to 2 tonnes and it’s very spacious. It fits all electronics. I chose this car because of that and because it’s a Mercedes, it’s a plus,” Bakhtar said.

The vehicle has solar panels, batteries and when the weather is not favourable, he plugs it into an electricity socket that powers everything.

After a full power boost, the vehicle can work for a whole day without having to recharge it, especially on a sunny day.

“When it's cloudy then it becomes a bit of a challenge. I have to charge it at home and that lasts for about five hours. And that would not be enough for me in a day,” he said.

However, the size of the vehicle limits his access to apartment parking lots, and that prompts him to pay for convenient and open parking spaces.

Bakhtar handles any technical challenges experienced in the Sprinter without having to pay for repair services.

“I was there when this vehicle was being made from scratch, when the solar panels were being installed and all that. So I always repair everything by myself,” he said.

Some of the tools he uses for shaving
Some of the tools he uses for shaving
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU
You are not paying for a haircut. You are paying for the convenience.  Wherever you are, I’ll come there
Bakhtar Manji

He moves around the borders of Nairobi county, that is, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Naivasha, where he attended the World Safari Rally.

When Mike Sonko posted a video of Bakhtar’s Mercedes. Most people on social media questioned how a barber could afford a Mercedes, but this didn’t bother him.

He said his business has no target audience and is available to anyone who can afford his rates.

“You are not paying for a haircut. You are paying for the convenience. You are not moving from where you are, may it be at the gym, restaurant, hotel, house... Wherever you are, I’ll come there,” he said.

The barbershop has only three staff: Bakhtar the barber, a beautician and the driver.

In five years, Bakhtar aims to launch more mobile business ideas across the country.

“After this, I have many ideas of mobile services that I can do. I hope to have a few barbershops in Nairobi and major counties in the country, to have a bunch of mobile services moving around,” he said.

Edited by T Jalio