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Lakmé Lever: Adding the Glam Factor To Business Amongst its latest innovations are AI-backed digital tools for analyzing consumers hair, skin or other grooming needs, coupled with machine interventions which forms an integral part of its product formulations

By Shrabona Ghosh

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Company handout

Today, the Make In India initiative is finding consonance with the growing corporate world. However, the seed was sown long back. One of the leading cosmetic brands, Lakmé, in the 1950s exemplified the importance of home-grown products–what started as an idea to navigate through the economic troubles of a budding economy–soon transformed into a leading business. In 1952, Lakme started operations as a 100 per cent subsidiary of Tata Oil Mills and eventually it was sold to Hindustan Unilever (HUL) in 1996.

Lakmé Lever, a 100 per cent subsidiary of HUL, operates a chain of Lakmé salons that offer expert services in the beauty industry. With nearly 40 years of experience and a footprint of over 450-plus salons across 160 cities, there is a continuous need for innovation.

Expansion plans

Expansion is one of the key focus areas for the company and it plans to expand at the rate of two salons per week. "This business has a net promoter score of 90 per cent plus and service standards need to go higher from there. So, we are careful about the selection of franchisee partners that we operate in. Our purpose is to beautify the future and the professional beauty industry is a very lucrative sector for business," said Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever.

The company has extensive mapping procedure and the proposition exists pan India, including Tier III and Tier IV towns. "Over the last five years, the professional beauty market in India has really gone up and there is great potential in Tier III and Tier IV towns. These places acknowledge trends, innovations, expertise and the consumers here are willing to pay a premium amount." As much as 60 per cent of its revenue comes from the metros (top eight cities) and the remaining 40 per cent comes from other regions.

Tapping into the male grooming industry has proved to be a profitable bet as the segment is growing much faster than the rest of the industry. "With access to information, experience through social media, men are a lot more aware about newer possibilities. There is a strong desire to keep up with trends."

In the last three years, Lakme salons have converted about 50 per cent of its network to unisex and the men's grooming business in the salons is growing three times as compared with its other business verticals.

Timely innovations

Amongst its latest innovations are experiential dimension, AI-backed digital tools for analyzing consumers hair, skin or other grooming needs, coupled with machine interventions which forms an integral part of its product formulations.The beauty industry was one amongst the worst hit sectors during the pandemic, so is it ready for any emergency? "The standards of safety which we enforced during the pandemic, still continue and now we have higher qualities of SOPs embedded across all touch points. Consumers are hard pressed on time, so quick services are picking up. Apart from tapping on the trends and understanding market dynamics; it is imperative to understand consumer needs and that's what leads to innovation." Talking about growth, is the business back to its pre-pandemic levels? " Yes."

Sustainability measures

As companies transition into more sustainable beauty practices, they will need to be strategic in their approach to ensure long-term success and profitability. The three main environmental goals of the beauty industry are incorporating natural ingredients, using biodegradable or recyclable packaging and relying on renewable energy for manufacturing. The transition into sustainable practices will require investment and innovation. Lakme Salons considers sustainability as its third pillar, the first two being talent and consumers. "We started this process almost six years back and took efforts to reduce the carbon footprint in our business."

The company focuses on using local, eco-sensitive materials in its salons, from paint to fixtures, all are biodegradable. "During the pandemic the use of PPE kits had taken us a few years behind in terms of sustainability. But we have compensated for it with our product portfolio–we use fixtures which consume less water– this is of the many efforts that we are taking." Across the board the company is focused on improving its sustainability metrics.

Shrabona Ghosh

Correspondent

A journalist with a cosmopolitan mindset. I lead a project called 'Corporate Innovations' wherein I cover corporates across verticals and try to tell stories on innovations. Apart from this, I write industry pieces on FMCGs, auto, aviation, 5G and defense. 
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