VKing BT (right) and food truck vendors operate at Tanjong Batu
IT’S not every day a barbershop comes to you when you need a hair cut or at least meet you halfway to do your regular crop — in a picnic setting at that.
Sarawak’s first mobile barbershop – VKing Barber Truck — offers such convenient service and more, including free cuts for the disabled and voluntary payment or just a prayer for senior citizens above 70.
The tonsorium on wheels is a novel idea that has caught on in Bintulu to become one of the latest attractions at Tanjung Batu Beach, a popular recreational and picnic spot, where it operates.
It opened for business on June 17, after getting the nod from the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) to join food truck operators at the beachfront.
According to founder and managing director Roslan Omar, the idea came from his travelling experiences in Peninsular Malaysia.
He saw many friends doing extreme modifications and customisations to turn their heavy goods vehicles into salon trucks, spa trucks, and barber trucks.
“From there, I thought of getting my barber truck and bringing it back for my son to start his business in Bintulu,” the 44-year-old told thesundaypost.
He said the initial target was to have 30 or more haircuts per day with an average daily taking of RM300 and a projected monthly income of RM9,000.
But due to the Covid-19 Movement Control Order (MCO) and standard operating procedures (SOPs), the truck has yet to achieve the target, he said.
Roslan said, for now, they only managed to get about 20 daily customers, using only two out of three chairs to comply with the SOPs.
He added when everything is back to normal, they would try to hit a monthly income of RM10,000 – and he is optimistic this is within reach with the positive public response.
The mobile barber truck was designed, modified, and installed in Selangor.
It was a second-hand truck costing about RM93,000 plus another RM7,000 for shipping costs and other expenses.
Roslan, who is also a food truck operator, said his new mobile barbershop venture would give the people in Bintulu more options, especially those going to Tanjung Batu Beach.
He noted that every new thing introduced at the beach usually attracted a lot of visitors and hopefully, the business could bring in more people.
“We’ve been experiencing an increase in sales, not just me but also the other food truck vendors. The number of visitors seems to be increasing.”
Roslan said setting up his team for the brand would be part of his plan to expand the mobile haircut service to other towns in Sarawak.
“Maybe I can expand to nearby locations, starting first with Miri, then Mukah, Sibu, and Kuching.”
He added that instead of paying RM3,000 monthly rental for a permanent premises, the money he spent one-off buying the barber truck was well worth it in the long term.
He thanked BDA for providing the beautiful and strategic location of Tanjung Batu Beach, equipped with basic amenities for the food truck vendors.
Roslan’s 20-year-old son, Muhd Adlan Hamiz, is the manager and main barber.
Muhd Adlan said it is the first-ever mobile barbershop in the state and Bintulu is the first place to offer such a unique service.
He added that the concept is similar to food truck operation, the only difference being that the mobile barbershop offers haircuts instead of food or beverages.
He has two years of hairdressing experience and obtained his professional certificate at Giat Mara Baram.
In pursuing his career, he is assisted by his friends, who are gifted with haircutting skills.
Muhd Adlan said he is happy that public response to their services — haircuts and shaves — is still very encouraging despite an extremely challenging time brought on by Covid-19.
He assured VKing BT is complying strictly with government SOPs – like registering all customers, taking their temperatures, names, and contact numbers.
Each customer will be required to wear a disposable barber cape and use hand sanitiser provided.
According to him, the barbers are required to wear face masks and aprons while the truck is sanitised twice a week.
Similar to other service-related businesses, bad weather poses a big challenge to the business as there will be fewer customers. The operating hours can change but are usually 3pm to 9pm on Monday to Thursday, and 3pm to 9pm from Friday to Sunday.
Muhd Adlan said unlike ordinary barbershops or salons, Vking BT is offering haircuts and shaves for men only, adding that each customer would take up 30 minutes max, depending on haircut style.
“I have met many types of customers. I’ll never forget the time I got a phone call, requesting for a haircut in the middle of the night during a festive month. I guess it comes with the territory,” he conceded.
Muhd Adlan said if everything goes as planned, they would try to get another barber truck.
“We can give young talented hairdressers the opportunity to work with us full-time or part-time.”
Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Integrity and Ombudsman) Jepak assemblyman Datuk Talib Zulpilip officiated at the opening of VKing BT and had the first haircut in the mobile barbershop.