The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Retail roll spurs salon service in city

Staff training by foreign professionals, Italian equipment, products and fashion that are available in salons from London to Paris… “because the Calcutta woman should also get her money’s worth”.

That and more is what the new exclusive L’Oréal hair and beauty salon, inaugurated on Tuesday, offers. The Gurusaday Road shop, opened in collaboration with Head Turner, is the third of its kind in India started by the French cosmetics and haircare company, after Mumbai and Delhi.

One of only five such “exclusive centres” planned for the country in the near future, the aim is to set a benchmark in the industry. “In the past six or seven years, there have been significant developments in the haircare industry in India,” says Didier Villanueva, managing director of L’Oréal India.

“We have been a part of that for nearly a decade, and now we are just extending our area of expertise. Beauty used to be just for the ‘upper classes’, but now it is a popular demand. We are providing the opportunity,” adds the Frenchman. “Also, this is fast emerging as a profession that people want to pursue.”

Calcutta was a natural choice for one centre, explains Vismay Sharma, director of the professional products division. “We have been here for five years, and we didn’t even need a market survey to tell us that this project will do well in this city. People know what they want and they can afford it.”

Although the real number of those who can pay the price for these products and services might be “marginally lower” in this city than in Mumbai or Delhi, the figure is “definitely rising faster” than the other metros, and the gap is rapidly closing.

“All these years, the concentration was elsewhere. Now, everyone wants to come to Calcutta, because the retail sector is on a roll here,” says Sharma. “And the Forum is more beautiful that any other mall I have seen so far in any Indian city,” adds Villanueva.

As for competition, “there is no question of that”, since a large number of the other salons are clients, not competitors, of the company, using L’Oréal products for their hair treatments. “But this is the only one here that we are directly associated with, and we monitor every aspect closely,” says Sharma.

So, from training the local staff by international L’Oréal experts and conducting “hair workshops”, to keeping tabs on the latest trends and publishing a booklet with the findings, it’s all part of the “world-class” service. Even the layout and ambience of the salon, next to Barista and Mainland China, is in keeping with the company’s other centres worldwide.

“It’s all part of the service. The entire experience must be worth the money. This is all part of what is offered in the West, and is now available here.”

The wall facing the main road is a huge bay window, with the onlooker afforded a clear view of the inside, “so that they will be inspired by what they see to come inside and try it for themselves”.

The stress is on service, with an international touch. “The products are, in fact, an extension of the service, instead of the other way round,” Sharma sums up.

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