GEORGE TOWN: “Shear” hard work has its rewards, as S Singgara Vello can attest to – on Dec 3, the 50-year-old was recognised as Outstanding Barber at the Asia Awards held in Trichy in Tamil Nadu, India.
His shop, Verlarz Classic Barber on Lebuh Ah Quee here, was also awarded Asia’s Most Sustainable Saloon – a noteworthy follow-up to the Outstanding Saloon prize it received two years ago.
Singgara attributed these achievements to the challenges he had to overcome after dropping out of school in Standard Five because of his family’s financial constraints.
Speaking to Bernama, Singgara said he began working at age 15 and had been a lorry driver before he became a barber in 2003.
“My late father-in-law was a part-time barber, which is how I became interested in being one. With his encouragement, I went on to learn the trade and attended related courses.
“I managed to open my first barber shop, Mas Mithra Hair Studio, in March 2003 and opened Verlarz Classic Barber in 2015.”
Motivated by his personal experiences and wanting others to succeed in life as well, Singgara, who hails from Bukit Mertajam, set out to help the less fortunate, especially those who have been unable to finish school.
He has trained nearly 25 teenagers in the trade since 2017, some of whom now work in his barbershop.
Singgara is now aiming to open a hairdressing academy so young people with personal difficulties, or who have dropped out of school or come from poor families, have career opportunities.
“All training is provided free of charge. I aim to open the academy next year and am in the process of finding funds to set it up, as well as finding a suitable location,” he said.
Despite his busy schedule, Singgara is also the founder of Hana, an NGO that does charity work throughout Malaysia, in addition to being the secretary of the Penang Maruthuvar Sangam (barbers association).
And here’s a fun fact: he is an avid bodybuilder who was even crowned “Mr Penang” in 2014!
“I hope my life story will inspire and motivate youths out there,” he said. “If you fail once, it does not mean you will always fail.
“If you want to achieve something, learn all about it because knowledge and effort are important,” Singgara concluded.