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Murali Sundar: Mane magician

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K A took over as Country Manager, in April 2008. The brand is now estimated to be available in 3,000 salons, with more than 200 products for the professional market. Schwarzkopf is a subsidiary of German FMCG company Henkel.
The brand caters to the professional haircare market which is pegged at about Rs 1.7 billion in 2008 (industry estimates) with an approximate Rs 10 billion for both products and services charged by salons. The market has grown an estimated 15 percent in 2008. Sundar, who was earlier Head of Sales and Marketing at the Cholayil group shares the outlook for Schwarzkopf Professional with Salon India.

How do you see 2009 evolving for your brand?

In 2009 we plan to continue bringing innovations to hairdressers across categories. This would be in terms of introducing newer shades of colors, shampoos and styling products and also by investing in maintaining our position.
Have the frequent changes in leadership at Schwarzkopf India affected the brand?
In fact, all the changes in the past years have strengthened our brand positioning in the market. When a brand offers quality which is unwavering in its excellence it is bound to pass the test of time.

How has Schwarzkopf Professional positioned itself on the Indian market in 2008?

Schwarzkopf Professional has always prided itself on being a world class premium brand. We provide innovative products, deliver personal service to salons and educate Indian hairdressers on global standards. We relaunched our Color Save shampoo and an exclusive haircare line for men in 2008. BC Men introduced new shades and coloring techniques.

How do you see the professional market developing?

We estimate that the professional market has been growing at around 20-25 percent year on year. But with the current recession, we realize that the industry might not experience the same growth spurt that it had experienced in the past. However, it is heartening to see the growing presence of upmarket and trendy salons. These salons are leading others to excel and improve their image. They are definitely more receptive to international brands. This is a promising trend.

How difficult is training and follow-up in such a vast country?

Training itself is a challenge more than the vastness of India. This is because we don’t have many established schools and institutes across the country that churn out salon professionals who can be readily absorbed. Stylists and hairdressers need extra practical training to hone their fledgling skills so they can be salon-ready. We are working on courses to address this need-gap in the industry.

How succesful are the Schwarzkopf academies?

We have centers in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore called ASK academies and have opened a new academy in collaboration with Naturals in Chennai. We would be willing to tie up with more like-minded salons across the country with training centers to help them address these training related issue. Our new courses are an add-on to cater to demand from the Indian market.

Do you think hair coloring will continue to be an area of focus in coming years?

We definitely believe that the color segment holds great promise and scope to grow very well in the coming year.

Which region do you see as the main growth driver?

We see a lot of potential in the West and North India.

Do hair competitions help? 

We definitely hope to have more competitions like the Mane Magician Contest held last year. We plan to amp this contest up several notches. We will also have our celebrated Essential Looks shows where we highlight the Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter hair fashion looks from across the globe.

Who are the main ambassadors for your brand in India?

We have our National Technical Head, Najeeb Ur Rehman who is one of India’s most popular and respected trainer and hairstylist. There is also Nitin Manchanda, ASK Manager, Schwarzkopf Professional who has carved a niche for himself in this trend-driven industry. Both have trained and worked with some of the biggest names in this trade and are sought after for their unique approach to crafting innovative design and ideas.