Submitted by admin on Mon, 03/27/2017 - 15:09

Since its India entry 20 years back, L’Oréal Professionnel has been doing its bit to transform the salon industry, in terms of R&D, innovation and educating salon professionals. Sussan Verghese, GM, L’Oréal Professionnel India talks about the way forward


By Samarpita Banerjee


Q] L’Oréal Professionnel’s hair trend of the year is French Browns. Tell us about the inspiration behind this.

Every year, we come out with a hair trend which is a colour trend and a technique. We study what’s happening at red carpets, on the runways and then curate something that makes a trend. French Browns are actually inspired from what’s happening internationally and we bring that trend to India. With that, we come up with a collection because at the end of the day, we have to train more than 1,00,000 hair dressers every year to upgrade their skills and we give them a collection that they can work on. This year, the colours are inspired by the city of Paris, which has so much more than Eiffel Tower and the romance of Paris. We came up with three different cuts in three shades of browns that are inspired by Moulin Rouge, the Louvre and the city by night. Many Indian women who are known for their typical dark, long and thick hair are resistant to change, in terms of colours and haircuts. Our aim is to take these looks to every woman in the country and encourage them to go for it.


Q] This is the first time that you chose a brand ambassador in India? How does Twinkle Khanna fit in with the brand’s message?

Worldwide, L'Oréal Professionnel as a brand connects to a lot of glamorous women who are celebrities in their own right. They can be ‘it’ girls, they can be Hollywood actresses, but what’s unique about them is that all of them are multi-faceted and have very strong personalities. They know and speak their mind. When we started thinking about the right person to partner with, we wanted it to be somebody who mirrored our outlook and passion and reflected the same amount of elegance, glamour and strong personality. Twinkle was the first name that popped up because in her own right, she is under the spotlight all the time. She is a part of Bollywood royalty. And now with her books and blogs, she has revealed a whole different, fabulous side of her to the Indian consumer. We are proud to have someone like her associated with the brand, which is not only about beauty but also what goes beyond that beauty.


Q] How has the brand’s presence in India evolved over the years?
We have been in India for over 20 years now. When we came here in 1997, we were not the first salon brand, but today we are No. 1. However, it’s not just about being a market leader, it’s more about how have you transformed the industry. And that is something that we take 100% credit for. Our biggest commitment has been towards educating salon professionals. The Indian market has not really matured yet and there is a clear need for education and upgradation. Until 15 years back, there were only a few options available in terms of haircuts. Today, salons, especially in metros, are world class in terms of ambience, hairdresser quotient, techniques, the colours they use, haircuts and styling. That is what we have worked very hard on. We have trained hairdressers rigorously for the last 20 years. And it will continue to be a commitment because the job is not yet done.


Q] How is L'Oréal Professionnel different from all other hair-care products present in the market?

For us, the most important thing is our commitment to educate. We are here to do business, but at the end of the day, the quantum of education that we commit to and deliver is substantial. A solid amount of our revenue and contribution goes into educating hairdressers. We cover around 150 towns, so we are not only a metro-specific brand. We also create different platforms like the ‘Indian Hairdressing Awards’ to give opportunity to hairdressers from the tiniest salons in the tiniest city or town to come up and be recognized. In India, for the longest time, hairdressers belonged to a particular caste and we wanted to break the stigma around the profession too. We have been able to make some changes, but India is a combination of many Indias, and we still have a long way to go.


Q] Who is your primary target audience?

The salon is where we transform, upgrade and create the right services. And ultimately our business model is B2B2C, so in the end, the consumer is also a very big part of us. What we do with our collections, our ambassadors and our communication is to attract that end consumer to walk into our salon because you can be your unique self only in the hairdresser’s hands.


Q] India is a price-sensitive market. Does being on the higher side of the price spectrum limit the brand’s reach?

We are a salon-specific brand that is present in around 150 towns. We still have a long way to go and we will go slowly, but we don’t want to compromise. We are trying to do give the best price, but for that we need the best product as well. What you get in a professional brand in terms of the quality of product, the active ingredients and the result vis-a-vis a sachet of shampoo is very different. For getting high quality professional products, consumers will need to pay a little bit more. We are not a luxury brand, we are premium and therefore with a reach of 150 towns and 16,000 salons, I think we are getting there.


Q] What are your broad marketing strategies for the Indian market?

In India you can’t have a one size fits all approach. Our overall strategy is to create world class salons in the top metros, but to also have a very collaborative, supportive approach for the next rung of salons in the next tier of cities, where people’s needs are very different. We will continue our focus on education. There are so many new techniques like hair contouring which we would like to teach our professionals. But it’s a step by step approach.


Q] When it comes to Tier II and Tier III cities, people have a notion that brands like L'Oréal Professionnel are expensive. What are you doing to reach out to consumers?

We have products that are very accessible. India is a big hair care market, and we have a lot of people who use shampoos and conditioners. So, we have the top brands like Pro Fiber which is priced at around Rs1200 for a shampoo, but we also have a brand called Hair Spa which was launched two years back and is priced at around Rs 400. But then, you cannot compare us to a consumer product shampoo because that’s far lower in pricing.


Q] How important is innovation for your brand?

It’s the most critical thing for us. When the company was established, hair colour was the first product. As a professional brand, it’s very important to stay ahead of the curve. As a company, we have the largest contribution from our bottomline back into innovation and R&D as compared to any other cosmetic company in the world, and the same goes for India. We have a lot of R&D into innovation and we are normally the first ones to break through with unique technology – be4 it Inoa’s ODS system, the Smartbond technology, or Pro Fiber - they first came from L’Oreal Professional.


Q] What is your media mix?

We don’t largely go on TV but we invest quite a bit on Digital because as a platform, it gives you the opportunity to reach out to a lot more people and we have a fabulous set of platforms with many followers who are completely engaged with us.


@ FEEDBACK samarpita.banerjee@exchange4media.com

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