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Concerns Faced by Hair & Beauty Academies

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Education and training is fast gaining momentum in the beauty and wellness industry. Since the focus on addressing the training and development needs of skilled manpower is immense, Salon India does a review of the challenges faced by academies in the country.

In beauty and wellness, one of the first to understand the issue of skilled manpower and education were players like Shahnaz Husain, VLCC, Alps, Nalini and Yasmin, and a few others. They set-up professional training institutes to impart in-depth education on beauty and hair and bring to the table international experience and expertise. When L’Oréal Professionnel, Schwarzkopf Professional and Wella Professsionals forayed into India, they went all out to offer training to partner salons and extend their certification to institutes and academies. But these didn’t come without the inherent challenges. So what are the challenges faced even today and how is it that academies are addressing them?


The beauty and wellness veteran Shahnaz Husain shares, “When I started my beauty training academy, only apprenticeship was available. Those working in beauty parlours mostly learnt the practical aspects on the job. They were trained in the parlours itself. Our main challenge was to have a comprehensive training course with both theory and practice, basic anatomy and physiology, detailed knowledge of the skin and hair. Since, I had started customised beauty care, I wanted my training course to include individual skin analysis, diagnosis and how to prescribe treatments. So, we had to design our courses.”

Location and infrastructure

Talking about logistical challenges faced while setting up of academies, Bharti Taneja, Founder Director, Alps Salons & Academies, shares, “At the moment, we have nine clinics and eight institutes in Delhi NCR. The foremost challenge is an accessible location for the students and the fact that it should also lend a brand visibility, otherwise we have to pay a colossal amount on advertising. An aesthetic ambience is also critical. Depending upon the number of courses offered, the square feet area of our academies varies between 3,000 to 4,000.”

Nalini Naegamvala, Owner, Nalini’s Academy says, “Though Nalini’s Academy has shrunk in size in the last few years, the quality and quantity of knowledge has increased. With growing competition where other salons and international brands have invested huge amounts of money, we have spent on training and learning new trends and techniques from international trainers.”

Unskilled labour
Parvathy Subbaiah, Trainer, Estée Clair Academy in Bangalore explains that the Estée Clair Academy has a 360° vision for beauty solutions. “In this niche area of beauty and spa industry, we have found a lot of unskilled labour. Earlier, often new hires were put into training, which took away their first two months which is a cost to any company. Our vision is to provide trained and skilled personnel who could start operations as soon as they joined.” According to her, the academy is focused on skills with 25 per cent stress on theory and 75 per cent on hands-on. Says Subbaiah, “Students understand the kind of skill they would need to demonstrate. Guided by the trainer, the students practice on live models, which either they bring in or we provide for them. They use mannequins for the hair, but once they are confident they go ahead with a live model.”

Talented faculty

Aashmeen Munjaal, Owner, Star Salon & Academy, says, “After practicing for around 16 years, I decided to lay a milestone in my career path in 2013 by opening an academy to share my knowledge with people who were willing to make a career in the same field. The most difficult was to find right set of faculty with an appropriate batch of students. I always look for an extremely talented faculty who can provide excellent knowledge to the students who enroll for the courses. Fortunately, I have found Angel, Neill and Neena who are talented and eager to share their knowledge with students.” Deepanshu Khurana, Head, VLCC Academy, shares, “The biggest challenge is the dearth of good trainers who have studied the subject, whether it’s hair or beauty. They also need to have experience in handling students and delivering the course well. The academy also needs to build the aspiration level of the students, as well as meet the demand and supply gap.”

Changing the mindset
Kohinoor Mandal, Master Franchisee, Jawed Habib Salons in West Bengal and Jharkhand, says, “Jawed Habib Academy was launched in Kolkata in 2005. It was the second such academy of Jawed Habib in the country after Delhi. The biggest challenge, at that time, was to convince the students that they have a great future, if they become good hair dressers. People were hardly convinced that hair dressing can be taught. For most people it was a profession of the barbers and unfortunately, not seen in good light.”

CK Kumaravel, Co-Founder, Naturals, feels that people are unwilling to pay for courses to enter this line. He also stresses that there are few talented trainers or faculty to impart this knowledge.

The hairdressing industry in India is considered as one of the fastest growing in the world and b:blunt Academy claims to be at the cutting edge. Over the past decade, the academy has raised the standard of Indian hairdressing – training both people with no prior knowledge of the industry and those hairdressers wanting to hit new heights in their career. Adhuna Bhabani-Akhtar, along with brother, Osh Bhabani, Avan Contractor and Brent Barber have combined their passion for hair dressing, cutting edge styles and business acumen to successfully open hair academies all across India. Says Adhuna Bhabani-Akhtar, Director, b:blunt Academy, “Education is the only way forward as when the learning stops, the growing does too.”

Overcoming the challenges
Says Husain, “Initially we had an affiliation with a UK training and examining body. This provided us with the standard to follow and maintain. We introduced books on beauty training for the beauty therapist. We also designed our courses, which included all aspects of beauty training and dealing with specific skin and hair problems.

Sharing the challenges faced by L’Oréal Professionnel, Keer, shares, “People normally come with an open mind for our educational seminars, however, there are challenges when we launch a new technology or technique which takes a while for people to adopt. We want to upgrade the industry beyond metros, therefore, there are practical challenges that we face in terms of the venue and infrastructure.”

Hidden opportunity
To ensure that the training imparted helps the students in a holistic way, the trainers at Enrich Salons & Academy spend time on the salon floor so they have a finger on the pulse of the market. Vikram Bhatt, Director, Enrich Salons & Academy reveals, “Our curriculum is refreshed bi-annually by senior members who themselves go for international trainings and seminars. Additionally, our academy boasts of having the largest database of live models because of which we can ensure that we provide the requisite number for each course. We have the maximum number of live model training per course, because we believe it is critical for perfecting the techniques that we teach.”

Says Mandal,”Today a vast section of the society recognises hair dressing as an acceptable profession. Young boys and girls wish to become hair dressers. The average income of hair dressers has increased manifold. Moreover, the glamour quotient attached has added a new dimension to this profession. All these are opportunities attract new talent to the academy.”

Brand perspective
Simi Keer, Head Education, L’Oréal Professionnel, says, “L’Oréal Professionnel has been a pioneer in developing the Indian salon industry through its products and the quality and breadth of the training that it offers. Education is the bedrock of our business and our team of about 150 trainers across India train close to 100,000 hair dressers in a year.”

Make-up and beauty
Samantha Kochhar, Managing Director, Blossom Kochhar Group, “Training an artist is imperative as it nurtures the talent present in them. Regular and daily training will not only teach them the correct use of make-up products and equipment, but also enhance their understanding of each product and equipment. Also training prepares them for work on the field, understanding skin tones and types and keeping at par with international make-up trends.”

The way forward
Says Aashmeen Munjaal of Star Salons & Academy, “An issue that is usually a matter of concern for the academy is growth of this industry. We are constantly upgrading ourselves with more and more manpower for the salon and the academy as it’s not only the need of the hour, but also a necessity for the expansion of Star Academy. As we have opened up new branches, we look out for reliable and skilled people to be part of the team, which is, indeed, quite a tough job. Above all, we stay alert about the equipments we use in order to teach our students their usability as technology is growing and we feel that we should be equipped with new and upcoming technology.”

Ojas Rajani, Celebrity Make-up Artist, feels that the make-up academies in India, do not have a variety in the courses that they are offering. “As the students usually come from middle-class families, we as experts in the line, need to be more proactive. There are hardly any beauty schools, like they have abroad that actually teach everythig under the sun, in make-up. While it’s better than before, we are still good five years behind the West. Ideally sponsors must be there, more buzz should be created about the offerings. The bridal market is so big, all we need to do is look. Top faculty members from abroad must be called in to teach us the latest different techniques.

Improvisation is so important.
Speaking from the point of view of someone who has a wealth of knowledge and experience, says Kohinoor Mandal, “First, one should understand that enrolling in an institution does not mean success. Hard work, dedication, commitment and the willingness to learn everyday even after passing out makes a good technician. So, do not make false promises. Second, hair dressing may be a vocational skill, but to succeed, one must have a sound educational background. Knowledge of mathematics and chemistry helps a technician to improve his skills as without scientific knowledge, a skill is like an uncut diamond – it is not appreciated. So, complete your education and then enroll in an academy.”

Says Husain, “Since we are in the beauty industry, we have a part to play in ensuring that quality is maintained in developing skills. The academy should have the required space, products and equipment. The academy also tries to help students in identifying further training areas and also in work placement. We also try to employ and find placements especially for our social causes, which involve free beauty training courses for the speech and hearing, as well as visually impaired students. Find out the legal and statutory requirements in running beauty academies and implement them. We have extended our schools by a franchise system, which also involves strict selection criteria for franchisees.

Expert view
Julie Eldrett, a customer care consultant with over 35 years experience in the hair and beauty industry, strongly feels that staff training is essential for a salon to be successful and, therefore, all aspects should be considered. Shares she, “If the owner feels that a person is not confident about colouring, he or she should rightaway conduct in-salon training before organising outside training. Also in-house resources should be properly utilised. The owner could have a team member who is excellent at hair colouring tutor the other one. In this manner, a salon can become really strong as the team is close and share techniques and methods with each other. The owner needs to carefully examine the career path of each team member so that they don’t end up leaving them for a few thousand rupees. Personalied handholding will make a happy team, a happy customer and a happy salon owner. ” Words of wisdom to remember.

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