Ramesh Babu is the Bangalore-based coiffeur/barber who gives business the haircut for the medium Rs 100 though owns the Rolls Royce Ghost value Rs 3 crore, as well as 67 alternative cars. “Somehow, things have clicked for me,” says Babu, whose clients embody politicians, military officers as well as movie stars such as Salman Khan, Aamir Khan as well as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
The 41-year-old bought the Rolls a few months back with his own hard-earned money, supplemented by a huge bank loan with a monthly pay-back instalment of Rs 7 lakh. His earnings from the saloon are quite modest, but Ramesh, who networks well with the rich clientele of the elite Bowring Institute, has built a lucrative luxury car rental business. But mainly, the man has a collector’s passion for fancy cars. And if there is some social prestige attached to it, then he’s not complaining.
Ramesh enjoy the comfort of a Rolls Royce which was restricted to rajas and maharajas in the past. Next year, Ramesh is planning to buy a stretch limousine worth around Rs 8 to 9 crore.
Currently, he has a fleet that includes Mercedes Benz (E,S and Viano series) and BMW (5 & 7 series). He hires out these cars to corporates through a travel agency. The Rolls, however, he rents out sparingly. He charges Rs 75,000 for a day for the Rolls when it is let out and his usual clients are corporate bigwigs and visiting Bollywood and Tollywood stars. The last High Net Worth Individual who hired his Rolls was Hero Honda’s chairman who was in town during the World Cup India-England clash.
With a film on his life — expected to be released in three languages — in the pipeline, his Bollywood contacts may come in handy.
When his father died in 1979, Ramesh, a nine year-old boy, was literally on the streets. The barber shop his father ran on Brigade Road’s St Patrick’s Complex was rented out for Rs 5 per day. Ramesh’s family survived on that money.
After completing SSLC, he quit studying and like his father became a full-time barber. He became a hair stylist subsequently. His fortunes changed in 1994, when taking a leaf from his uncle who rented out cars, be bought a a Maruti Omni van and started renting it out. From there began Ramesh’s tryst with cars. Even now, he has the Omni with him. In 1996, he started a saloon at Bowring Institute and has not looked back since.
The career choice paid off better than he could have imagined.
In 1991, he started his own salon, Inner Space, which gained popularity among the city’s trendy bunch. But the turnaround happened in 1994, when Babu purchased a humble Maruti Omni van and started renting it out.
Seventeen years later, his car collection is anything but humble. Apart from the Rolls Royce, his fleet includes four Mercedes, an equal number of BMWs and 50 Toyota Innovas — which he rents out. Renting the Rolls Royce for a day will set you back by Rs 50,000.
Ramesh also owns a Suzuki Intruder high-end bike costing Rs 16 lakh. He rides this bike during weekends and it’s purely for his private use though occasionally he lets some of his close friends enjoy a ride. Meanwhile, his two-year-old son already seems to share his father’s passion. He effortlessly identifies each and every car in Ramesh’s fancy fleet.
Inside the saloon, as he dons his black overalls, Ramesh seamlessly makes the switch from Rolls Royce owner to barber.
“Even today, being such a rich man he did not forget his roots. He cuts the hair of his regular customers for just Rs 65. He can easily hike his rates or can stop saloon business but he doesn’t. He says that it’s the family trade. And if he doesn’t cut someone’s hair on a particular day, he won’t be able to sleep”. No matter that gleaming Rolls parked outside, his head surely is in the right place.