Sustainability is at core of everything L’Oréal does: Raagjeet Garg

L’Oréal Paris infused a further touch of glamour and beauty in the Cannes Film Festival this year, as it has been doing for the last 20 years. L’Oréal Paris is the official make-up partner for the Festival de Cannes for 21 years now. Known for weaving magic and beauty at one of the most prestigious events of global cinema, L’Oréal Paris ruled the red carpet with the theme of – #Summer Escape this year. And representing L’Oréal Paris from India at Cannes were Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor. 

Globally, L’Oréal achieved dynamic growth in sales and robust profits in 2017. Operating margin and cash flows have set new records. The Group reported €26.02 billion sales in 2017, with a like-for-like sales growth of +4.8 per cent. Region-wise, Asia Pacific contributed 23.6 per cent of L’Oréal’s sales growth. 

The Group saw €2.1 billion of sales in e-commerce, witnessing a +33.6 per cent like-for-like growth in e-commerce in 2017. 

L’Oréal’s operating profit for 2017 stood at €4.68 billion. 

In India, L’Oréal Paris has been growing its spread ever since it entered the market here in 1993. The beauty brand has built up a strong presence over the years, especially in the urban markets. 

Raagjeet Garg, Ganeral Manager, L’Oréal Paris, has been playing a significant role in the brand’s growth in India. With the company now for almost eight years, Garg started his journey in the sales division. Since then, he has worked in diverse roles in the company, with its various brands and also had an international stint managing Garnier in South East Asia. He was elevated to General Manager, L’Oréal Paris in 2016. 

In conversation with Adgully, Raagjeet Garg speaks about the strategy behind L’Oreal’s association with the Cannes Film Festival, growth plans for the Indian market, initiatives to promote women empowerment and gender diversity, and more. Excerpts: 

How has L’Oreal’s performance been in FYI 2017-18?
The performance is quite good and we have been growing faster than the market. Across our categories – makeup, skin, hair care and hair colour – the brand has been doing very well and we are pretty happy with the way the brand is performing. And all our launches have done very well. The Indian consumers are becoming more receptive to the new trends and overall, there is quite a lot of positivity that we see when it comes to personal care. 

Along with the metros, how are you strategising for the Tier 2 and 3 markets?
All of us understand the importance of Tier 2 markets. Consumers in this market are keen and well informed about what’s happening, and so our strategy has been two-fold. First, how do we conquer the Tier 1 markets, because that has been our strength as a brand and second is how do we build the Tier 2 markets. For that, we have a combination of traditional media, which is TV and Print, which we use to establish our products across the Tier 1 and 2 markets. In the last one year, we have been using digital in a very effective way to reach the Tier 2 audience, because we know for a fact that the Tier 2 audience is on a lot of digital platforms. How to target them in a more interesting way has been the journey for the brand. 

When you look at digital, we have tried to use a combination of posters, displays, videos and e-commerce through which we are targeting these consumers, and the response has been phenomenal. Cities like Indore, Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Lucknow are said to be Tier 2, but the kind of growth that we are expecting from these cities is amazing and we are excited to be a part of this journey. 

Please tell us more about L’Oreal India’s local sustainability initiative as part of sharing beauty with all programmes.
This is one thing that has been very dear to L’Oreal, and sustainability is at core of everything we do – right from the way our products are designed to the final point of sale – sustainability is our No.1 aim and we follow this very rigorously. Sharing beauty with all is just one of the programmes that we do, but there are a lot of other programmes at different levels that we undertake. Sharing beauty with all is a simple platform through which we ensure that everyone has the right to be beautiful and everyone has the right to accept a product and has the right to live their life. If I talk specifically about L’Oreal Paris, the entire brand motto is about ‘Women of Worth’, and the entire motto is that no matter who you are and where you come from, you are a woman of substance and the brand helps individuals to achieve their own goals through different initiatives. 

How would you define L’Oreal’s 21-year association with the Cannes Film Festival? What have been the high points in this partnership?
Cannes has been one of the most beautiful associations for L’Oreal and I am so happy that we are celebrating 21 years in 2018. If you look at the journey of Cannes, it has evolved over the decade in a very beautiful way. Today, Cannes is not just about the few celebrities who get to walk the Red Carpet, but the entire attempt is to democratise beauty, and these ambassadors are just a way of achieving it. 

Created for the first time last year, we have continued with it this year as well, where the public can watch what’s happening, and the access to beauty is no longer the privilege of a select few. The concept is to be a part of what the festival is all about. The aura that is built around Cannes is simply amazing, and for us it’s a great platform through which you can talk about the new trends in beauty, new trends in personal care and these ambassadors embody the entire concept in a very beautiful way. Cannes is not just about an individual walking the Red Carpet, but about the complete experience and the content that we create from morning to evening with different ambassadors that actually get curated to different markets and which according to me is what a consumer is interested in consuming, rather than watching anyone at the Red Carpet. 

What is the idea behind the talk show, ‘Worth It’, at the festival? How was the show conceived?
The entire idea behind the ‘Worth it’ show was exactly where powerful women come together and talk about different issues – right from the walk to cinema, to the walk of beauty, to the walk of their personal lives and have interactions with different global ambassadors sitting together and talking about their lives and sharing their views on beauty, empowerment and womanhood in general. As a concept it is very interesting, because it stands for what the brand believes in, which is ‘Women of Worth’, and this is the first time that we are able to do it in a place like Cannes, where you walk the Red Carpet and talk to the whole world about what you really believe in. And that’s what the attempt was – that let it not just be about these ambassadors walking the Red Carpet, but it should be a lot about what they really believe in. 

What more is the brand doing to further the cause of women empowerment and bringing in gender diversity?
In terms of gender diversity, L’Oreal is one place I can tell you that gender diversity is always taken care of, right from the initiation of recruits, empowerment, to a lot of NGO initiatives. L’Oreal has always been at the forefront, be it in India or globally. 

From a women empowerment perspective, ‘Women in Beauty & Science’ is one of the programmes that we have led, which is about empowering women from different walks of life and having them come together and realising their own dreams. L’Oreal helps them in terms of sponsorship, mentoring and making sure women are able to achieve their objectives. We had started an event called ‘Women of Worth’, where we acknowledged women from different walks of life who have done some amazing things in their life. 

Will L’Oreal continue to be associated only with celebrities and beauty queens as brand ambassadors or will it be considering women from all walks of life in its communications?
The brand has a mix of both. While we say there is a brand ambassador who today is from a particular industry, there are also some women we work with who are influencers from different walks of life, and today, when I work with an influencer, they also are an ambassador and so it is very important that you choose the right influencer. We work with influencers from Fashion, Lifestyle, Food, Athletics, etc. The brand does not say that it only works with a particular type, as long as you have done something extraordinary in your own field and you are someone that the consumers will love to look up to, we would love to associate with that person. 

What is L’Oreal’s vision for 2018, especially in the Indian market?
Growth is our only mission. We are still a young subsidiary; the idea is to grow across brand verticals and that has been our only objective, and also ensuring that consumers today are happy and satisfied with the products that we provide and the services we give. Overall, it is about how do we empower these consumers by making them feel beautiful – that has been our goal. I think we want to pursue the same mission as we go along in 2018.

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