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Shilpa Sinha, Chief Marketing Officer, Lakmé Lever leads the marketing strategy for Lakmé Salons and Ayush Therapy Centers. She is dynamic, visionary and full of plans for this growing segment. With Lakmé Lever becoming a subsidiary of Hindustan Unilever in January, the new growth plans for the brand and its salon concept are particularly relevant. She shares some insights with Salon India as the first Lakmé Studio is opened in New Delhi.

The new Lakmé Studio is a more premium salon format. What are the key new concepts?

The entire salon has been redone to have a new look and feel. We have more premium chairs and equipment imported from Italy, with special massaging pedicure stations and ofcourse the pricing is comparable to other A grade salons. Our design inspiration to create a new dynamic representation of the global Indian woman was rooted in the ‘mandala’ concept which represents wholeness and self-expression. New uniforms have been created exclusively for Lakmé Studio by designer Hemant Sagar. We have also tied up with Nail Spa, that uses the latest nail technology from USA to bring a bouquet of exciting services like nail extensions and nail art.

How many such studios are to be launched this year?

Plans are to open six more by the year end based on our learnings of this process.

What is the biggest challenge of the Lakmé salon concept?

At this time there are 125 Lakmé Salons across 34 cities. It is a huge management challenge. The key point is that it is a people’s business – finding the right people, training them, continuously upgrading their skills – these are all big challenges. We dont see ourselves just as a beauty salon but rather as an iconic brand with a philosophy and a history of customer service which we plan to maintain. There has been a lot of poaching in the last few years as the salon space has got more cluttered. Our beauty professionals tend to stay for many years – it is part of the pride of being a member of the Lakmé family.

How does the franchise model work for Lakmé?

We have a hybrid model. At the moment only seven salons are owned by the company. We believe there are great benefits of the hybrid model and plan to keep it for the future. We have learnt a lot from our franchise partners and in turn we provide a lot of training support. We have a head trainer who checks on maintaining quality.

How are in-salon treatments changing with time?

We are going for more advanced services in cities. We find that the basic services have become more a part of hygiene. What we’ve seen opening up are advanced facial services, hair spas, hair care regimen and more luxury treatments. Highlighting and rebonding for hair became a major part of salon services three to four years back. We also plan to introduce more innovations on the higher end. For instance advanced bridal services helps to experiment with more bridal looks and hairstyles for brides.

How has becoming a subsidiary changed the way Lakme salons function this year?

Lakmé Lever became a subsidiary in January 2009. Internally, HUL really believes in the potential of the business. Lakmé Lever has a dedicated and focused team with its own skills, services and attitude – it is both a beauty and retail platform which cannot optimally function within a classical FMCG set up. This is a change so that the potential can really be harnessed.”

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