Manufacturers and distributors of hair brushes and related tools face several challenges while launching products or strategising their growth. Salon India meets up with the major players to know how they address the concerns.
Samir Lakhani, franchise owner of Juice Salon in Mumbai shares, “Scissors and combs are usually a part of the personal kit that a stylist has with him along with brushes and other hair related equipments provided to them by the salon.” This aptly sets the context for the story to follow. The very fact that the hair expert has his own choice when it comes to the tools he uses, says a lot about the market potential for hair brushes and hair equipment. To shed some light on the availability of high end professional styling tools in India, a couple of distributors have taken on the mantle to launch quality styling tools in the country. The leading ones are Headstart International, PID Imports India, Ikonic, Beauty Essentials Marketing Pvt Ltd and WAHL India.
Highlighting the attributes of professional styling brushes and tools for hair and the
current dynamics as seen in the Indian market, Allen John from BeautyNewsIndia.com
reveals, “Professional hair brushes need to be lightweight with heat resistant static bristles. Electronic gadgets play an important role in hair styling, treatments and services and one has witnessed an increase in the same. Currently, there is a demand for ceramic, titanium and tourmaline-based hair irons, though there are diamond and gold finish ones, too along with curling rods and combo irons. Trimmers or clippers are now becoming popular with the boom in men’s grooming.”
Elaborating on the changing dynamics, Rohit Sood, Managing Director, Wahl India Grooming Products Pvt Ltd says, “The market for tools has matured over the years
and is a positive sign for manufacturers and suppliers like us. For the last four years,
salons haven’t invested in quality tools as the Chinese, with almost similar features and at a lesser price. This phenomenon continued till almost the end of Q1 2015.
The realization dawned when the salons found the Chinese options to be below. average as they had to keep replacing them every three to six months. Also there was no warranty. This was the turning point when salons decided to invest in quality branded tools and today salons are buying quality tools and paying extra for them.” Wahl offers a range of hair clippers, trimmers, hair dryers, curling tongs, straightening irons and hair brushes. The clippers and trimmers are manufactured inhouse at the Wahl factory by a Wahl engineer under a completely vertically integrated manufacturing process.
The brand has a pan India presence through its network of sales personnel and distributors. PID India has been behind the launch of some off the world’s most reputed hair brushes and equipment brands in India. Rohan Kasar, Head of Business Operations at PID Imports India, shares, “When we began our journey half a decade ago, we were clear about launching only high end tools. Today, we are proud to say that the clarity and hard work has payed off. Kent brushes, made from pure nylon bristles and real boar bristles, too, are a hit with the stylists across the country. Corioliss is making waves in the market with innovations like Argan Oil infused straighteners like K2, K3 and other tools that come with titanium plates. C1 has been the evergreen SKU from Corioliss.
They have introduced a cordless hair iron, which is a small, but powerful tool that frees the stylist from cords and power fluctuations. It offers a range of hair dryers that are preferred by salons. For clippers, Andis is an almost a century-old player and when they launched in India, stylists were only too happy to welcome it.”
The company has also launched UK’s most coveted hair detangling brush brand, Tangle Teezer. The tiny brush is fast catching up the fancy of stylists as well as consumers, alike. Kasar adds, “The blow-drying brush from Tangle Teezer is an innovation no stylist should miss. In fact, the brush has reduced the blowdrying time by almost half!” Vidushi Agarwal, Brand Head, Headstart International shares, “Salons and stylists are opting for brushes made of natural bristles or ceramic and tourmaline coated blow drying brushes to prevent damaging the hair.
However, even though they are aware of new technology and products, they still prefer economical options from China, which aren’t even value for money. Lack of training and education is responsible for this unawareness and we find that mostly stylist-owned salons invest in quality tools and equipment. The end consumer visiting a salon is only concerned with the result and not the brush that is being used. Therefore, the key to evolution lies solely in education and training on using the right product for different types of hair.”
The brands with Headstart include Acca Kappa, an Italian hair brush brand and it has a variety. From handmade wooden brushes, gold and silver plated brushes, to those designed especially for hair with extensions and scalp massage brushes, it’s all there. Roots Professional is also making inroads across the country. Shazad Qadir, CEO, Roots Professional shares, “Today styling in India is catching up with the international market. Naturally, Indian salons and stylists are demanding quality brushes and hair tools. Based on our international experiences and our relationships with over hundred thousand salons in India, we are constantly strengthening our portfolio.
At Roots, the key lies in detailing. For example, our PSB range of professional barrel brushes come with a silicon strip attached that helps seal the cuticles which lead to longer-lasting styles. They also have ceramic barrels for even heating that gives a lasting style with superior finish. We also have tourmaline and nano-silver nylon bristles that revive the hair and enhance shine.”
Qadir elaborates on the importance of keeping himself abreast with the changing
market demand. He shares, “Our Glamlock technology in combs has found immediate
acceptance. Besides, we also are the exclusive marketers of Tondeo scissors made
in Solinger Germany and Elchim hair dryers from Italy. We have also recently launched an innovative product Curlpro501.It’s a five-inone multi-tong curler, that addresses the most common concern of space. It comes with just one machine base and has five different attachments that vary in size to give you five different glamorous curls. It is a boon for professionals on the go since they don’t have to carry every machine individually.” The dynamics of this industry is paving the way for entrepreneurs and corporates to either launch a salon chain or partner with existing ones to streamline their processes and systems.
Evavo Wellness is taking charge of standardizing spa operations for a lot many spas across the country. eCommerce player – Purplle.com, too, has joined the bandwagon by launching Purplle Salon that is creating a network of Premium Economy Salons by choosing the right partner salons and standardizing them with technology, marketing and processes. Rahul Dash, COO and Co-founder of Purplle.co, shares, “We have around 50 salons in the current network of Purplle Salons.” Based on the experience since the launch, Dash shares, “B2B hair equipments right now is availability and reach driven, hence, it is fragmented. You have the older brands like BaByliss and Andis, who have managed to create a niche in the market.” Dash adds, “In the last few years we have seen the depth of the market increase with people using specific brushes for specific applications. In addition, we have seen standard features being amalgamated with solution requirements even in hair equipment to come up with specific products like a keratin based straightener and more. The adoption of the newer variant is still fairly low in the market.” Highlighting the trend witnessed for brushes in the B2C segment, Dash reveals, “People are looking for quality. We have seen consumers move to high grade products, like wood and bamboo brushes. You can also find specific application brushes from brands such as, Tangle Teezer being bought. the Indian audience is warming up to international grooming standards.”
Preference of stylists
Tasneem Kothari from Raih Salon at Walkeshwar in Mumbai has been a part of the
beauty and hair industry for almost a decade now. She shares, “Today big brands like Denman, Corioliss and Kent are available in India with a wide array of hair styling equipment. These brands offer a mix of quality and advanced technology transforming the styling industry as a whole.” Her pick for brushes includes the KS series from Kent brushes as she shares, “The nylon bristles of the Kent KS series hair brush are apt for professional use and the are heat resistant with anti-static properties. It’s a must-have for any stylist.” In his eight-year journey as hair dresser, Lakhani has seen the market of hair brushes and tools evolve from the time when international brands were not available in the country and hair dressers would either pick up their favourite brand when on a trip abroad or ask peers from the industry to buy it for them.
Michel Baltazar, Creative Technical Director, Jean Claude Biguine shares, “Earlier we had to either pick up tools from abroad or whatever was available in the local market, but now international brands are here in India and it is easier to pick, thanks to the wide variety.” Baltazar shares his preference, without taking any names. He says, “I would not like to name any specific brand, but all brands have their strengths and we choose the tools from different brands based on what suits our requirement. The best are hair brushes from France, irons from England, dryers from Italy, scissors from Japan and Germany.”
Majority of the salons give their stylists the liberty to have a say in the selection of brushes and equipment. There are some salons and salon chains that take this decision at the management level, but stylists are usually kept in confidence. At Raih, according to Kothari, “Apart from brushes and dryers, all the stylists have their own customized kits. When we are narrowing down on the brands, quality, features and competitive pricing is kept in mind.” Baltazar shares the trend at JCB, “All new hairstylists have a kit, which have three types of scissors, a dryer, combs and clips.”
Shares Agarwal, “Today stylists want to spend on quality equipment, however, the salons tend to economize and end up buying from the wholesale beauty stores or the Chinese ones.” Making a relevant point, she further adds, “However, salon chains should keep in mind that all the branches need to have the same quality tools. Hence, to strike a balance, a salon chain can limit the number of brands a senior stylist or a junior stylist may use personally. As an incentive, they may annually gift their stylists a certain set of products to encourage them to use better quality tools and equipment.” Elaborating on the preference and buying patterns of stylists and salons, Qadir shares, “It is more of a personal choice. There are professionals who believe in quality and are willing to spend, while beginners aren’t brand conscious and prefer a good bargain over a premium brand. Eventually they, too, make the switch after getting a hands-on experience and
product delivery vis-a-vis result.” Qadir shares that international chains have a well planned procurement norm with the team and decision makers being aligned with the philosophy of the brand and its vision. He adds, “Normally these discussions are held directly with the top management with presentations and data. But even here, in our country, in most of the salons, the comfort of the stylist, the practicality of the hair tool, the price points and the variety of options play critical roles.
About making it a norm to use a particular brand, it would be wise to take concerns and recommendation of the top stylists under consideration since they will be using it.” Sood strongly believes that standardization is the right approach as the salon chains should decide and enforce the same on their stylist. He shares, “In this manner, they are assured that the entire chain is using quality tools which will in effect give better end-results to their clients.”
John shares that while there are no regional preferences, a healthier demand is witnessed in metros. Says he, “While there is no regional variation or preference, metros have always been growing with new salon openings and services being offered. The price factor is important, but quality and warranty/guarantee with post-sales service is another essential requirement.” John reiterates that post-sales service, immediate replacement or complete repair solutions provided by any brand or company, is always the first preference for salons and stylists. On the regional differences, Sood reveals,
“Regional preferences do exist for electrical tools, but not for brushes. For instance, in Chennai, the hairdressers prefer corded clippers, whereas in Punjab or Kolkata, they
prefer cordless ones.
In Delhi, while salons want hair dryers of 2500 watts, in Hyderabad, they are happy with 2000 watts. I would say individual style scores above price when it comes to preference of a tool.” Agarwal highlights, “Price sensitive markets such as the South and East prefer our low end ranges, whereas evolved markets, such as North and West are open to trying new and innovative products with tourmaline or ceramic. The traditional markets prefer our older models, such as hot roller sets, hairstylers and others.”
Lakhani feels that distributors need to be more aggressive with their marketing. He shares, “I would be more than happy to have distributors send their representatives keeping us abreast on the launches and innovations by the brands they have under their portfolio.” The mediums before any brand, distributor or importer would be of advertising using traditional media, being active on social media and the time and tested method of door-to-door visits to salons.
Sood shares the modus operandi at Wahl, “We have a direct salon network team as well as distributors. When we have a product launch, we send out mailers to more than 12,000 salons across India.This is followed up with visits from our salon team and immediate placements take place on the wholesalers’ shelves. Thus, we capture our TA’s attention on new products through all the channels.” Sood adds, “We have dedicated salon workshops for a group not exceeding 15 people, where we provide intensive training on the use of clippers, trimmers and styling tools. We urge the salon to buy the tool first and only then conduct these dedicated workshops for their team of hairdressers.
Towards the end of the workshop, we have a session wherein the stylists use the tool on their own model under the supervision of our trainer.” Kasar has his sales team visiting salons to introduce the launches and dedicated distributors make it a point to let salons know about them. Talking about the system in place at Roots, Qadir reveals, “We have a well-trained direct salon networking team with professional Roots Technicians and a group of strong sales professionals. After every product launch, our trainers undergo a thorough training session followed by practice sessions to sharpen their skills.”
While importers and distributors have done well in introducing a bouquet of high end
international brands, keeping in mind the width and length of the nation, it is still a long journey ahead before all the salons are tapped. The catch also lies in educating the salon owners on the innovative products launched by premium brands, so that they may willingly replace cheap Chinese goods with a short lifespan and zilch value for money.