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Looking ahead

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is Director, Professional Products Division, L’Oréal India. He has been in India since 2006, leading the brand towards . He has brought in his exper-ience of working in Indonesia and Europe and has spent a considerable time learning about the Indian market.

How do you see the evolution of the Indian market over the last decade?

You have to see the growth in context of the fact that the modern hairdressing industry in India is only 11 to12 years old. The hair industry started in barber shops and beauty parlors. Over the past decade there has been a great evolution in hairdressing but it is still in a stage of early development. There is still a need to further evolve Indian hair- dressing towards becoming a fashion industry.

What do you see as the key changes in this time?
The key changes can be seen in the transition of salon services which were essentially basic hygiene services but are now moving towards fashion cuts and color. A strong base of artistic salons exists in but in the next five to ten years we must, as an industry, create a much broader base of salons offering fashion hair services.

What else will spur the industry to growth?

The industry will only grow if we have a strong education platform. L’Oréal Professional’s number one priority is edu- cation. This means that we cater to a huge base of clients and freshers for core education, more than 45,000 hairdresser contacts per year and also bring advanced artistic as well as salon business education to more experienced clients. The needs are dramatically different for these two groups and must be add- ressed in very specific ways.

How do L’Oréal’s three professional brands segment the market?

We estimate that there are more than 56,000 salons in the top 100 cities in India. Today, we reach approximately 10,000 of these with our three brands: L’Oréal Professionnel, Matrix and Kérastase. We are still only servicing a relatively small part of the market so each of our brands plays a pivotal role in developing the market. Kérastase, which was launched four years ago, is now in 20 elite salons. It is highly successful and has proven that the luxury market for professional haircare already exists in India. L’Oréal Professionnel is the market leader in India. It’s role is to support the development of the A and B class salons. It is available in just over 4,000 salons at this time. Our aim is to reach 5-6,000 salons in the next three years. Even in the existing salons there is a huge potential to grow. ­ The role of Matrix is very dif- ferent. The price points for Matrix are 40 to 50 percent lower than L’Oréal Professionnel and with this it has the capacity to reach a wider base of salons. We expect to reach 20,000 salons in the next two to three years.

How much does L’Oréal invest in education?

Ten years ago we realized that the industry was evolving and that education was the best way to empower hairdressers. Across our three brands we have 26 education centers including one hairdressing academy and more than 50 technicians. Within the academy itself we teach core hairdressing skills through a six month program. In other countries L’Oréal does not teach cut and styling but concentrates on developing the technical competencies of our clients in learning how to use our products. The quantity as well as quality of education will also be pivotal to the development of the industry in the coming 10 years.

What ensures success? What hampers growth in India?

You need to combine a concerted effort with an unshakeable belief in the industry. The only way to succeed is through education. Your expectations have to be realistic. We envision a five year period to support a strong change in the dyna- mics of how the salon industry functions. If you’re impatient, don’t work in India!

Are you a patient person?

It depends. I’m demanding, but patient, especially with clients; but they are with us too. That’s how it should be. When I arrived in India I thought we could change the market overnight. I soon realized that wasn’t going to happen. India is so vast and complex, it is essential to have a clear, long term vision. We are all impatient to grow but it takes time. What’s important is that we’re headed in the right direction.

What is a key strategy that has worked for you? What we need first and foremost are professional hairdressers. What does L’Oréal do to support this?

Again it comes down to education and our key long term strategy is to invest in this. We have, as I mentioned, an academy developing fresh talent and creating modern hairdressers. We also have 13 to 15 top international stylists visiting India to teach cut and color each year. We have hairdressing events and shows to promote Indian talent, and most notably we have a world-class Colour Trophy which started in 2005. We also support hair associations such as Hair India People (HIP), All India Beauticians and Hairdressers Association (AIBHA) and Sri Lankan Association of Hairdressers and Beautician (SLAHAB). In short, the strategy is to invest in education. We plan to be involved at every level and in every way possible.

How much freedom do you have to make policies in India?

The values of L’Oréal as an organization are very profound and in some ways paradoxical. The values are like invisible train tracks. We are aware of them yet there is still tremendous freedom to adapt and create for the specificities that exist in the local market. You have complete freedom yet at the same time you have no freedom. The L’Oréal Academy is a good example of creating something to fulfill a need of the local market. It is the only one of its kind in the world.

Creating celebrity hairstylists is part of this process?

Ofcourse, L’Oréal wants to be strongly connected and associated with the top ind- ustry talent and help to promote them to the widest possible audience. They are the glamour factor that will nourish the image of hairdressing and encourage youngsters to enter the industry. The job of salons is to recruit and develop young talent and our job is to support them reach their full potential.

How can L’Oréal beat the lacunae in the Indian distribution system?

Good logistical systems are essential to succeed in any industry. This is a very high priority for L’Oréal. We are making major investments in this critical part of our operations. Part of the logistics process is managed by the company itself, but part is managed by distributors. We have invested in SAP and in third party logistic specialists to manage part of the distribution for us, but coordinating distribution throughout the enormous Indian will always remain a major challenge for all companies in India. We have a clear vision and plan on how to increase our service quality to our clients.

How you view the competition in the professional hair market?

The Indian professional hair market has very few players. In some countries you will find 15 professional brands. India essentially only has three major manufacturers. Many professional brands are yet to understand the complexity of the Indian market and the huge amount of expertise and patience that is required to succeed. India is a marathon not a sprint! Those with a powerful long term strategy are the ones who will ultimately succeed.

What do you advise hairstylists aspiring for success?

In my opinion hairdressing is one of the great professions and as the previous CEO of L’Oréal said: “Hairdressing is a profession of the future. There will always be a need for a hairdresser.” If you’re a hairdresser in London, New York or Tokyo there is a stature associated with the profession. It is a very aspirational industry that should attract talented young people. I would encourage every Indian hairdresser to study and get inspired by iconic hairdressers and the industry in the global context. We need our idols to fuel our ambitions and dreams. That alone will take people away from just cutting and coloring hair for a living to creating great careers for themselves. Hairdressers need to develop a raw energy and passion for what they do in order to set benchmarks at the highest possible level for the country. We all need to be motivated to succeed. That makes the key difference.