Lakme's head of innovations, Purnima Lamba, made a key observation about Indian consumers: “Most Google searches on beauty are on ‘How to…’. Indian consumers are looking for more complete solutions today. This is giving rise to brands bringing stylists and styling solutions to the forefront. It is also enabling predicting of style trends.”
Major beauty, personal care and fashion brands, riding on the “how to…” opportunity, are coming up with easily accessible consumer solutions. Styling has now become an everyday affair. With more working women and more looks-particular men, retail shelves are flooded with do-it-yourself products including hairfall defense shampoos, conditioners, styling products such as serums, hair sprays, mousse, skin tan removal creams and facial kits.
In response to the consumer desire for a more salon-finished look, consumer product companies are betting big on affordable salon-style products. With its latest shampoo brand TRESemmé, with different hair effect variants, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is eyeing the consumer who visits parlours frequently.
“TRESemmé satisfies intrinsic consumer aspirations to have salon-like hair every day for women, in the comfort of their home,” said Srinandan Sundaram, general manager, haircare, HUL. To sell TRESemmé, HUL has targeted high-end beauty stores and modern trade outlets.
The brand’s advertising brings the stylist to the fore. In fact, a significant upshot of the consumer “how to…” trend is the emergence of the stylist. And this is not just for premium products. HUL has also introduced international stylist-developed hair solutions in its Sunsilk shampoos. For Sunsilk Perfect Straight, it has teamed up with Yuko Yamashita, a straight hair expert from Japan, to co-create the range.
Style has gone democratic, making the exclusive more comprehensible and accessible. Lamba said that this is making trend-setting easier on a larger scale. The recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week predicted “neon” as the current season’s trend. The last season was all about “monochromes”. For IMG, the organisers of Fashion Week, the consumer ‘style’ trend is encouraging it to scale up the event in India.
Salons are becoming brand stockists and pushing their stylists forward for customised advice, as more salon products go out of their exclusive clutches. Said Maryann Khullar, salon manager, Amatrra: "The salon-going consumer is unlikely to give up visiting the parlour. She is most likely to go with her stylist’s recommendation on what to use."
Voonik, a start-up by Sujayath Ali, a former executive at Visa, is an e-commerce site which wants to become your personal stylist. It suggests products based on the type of person the buyer is (you fill a 30-second style quiz) and the occasion the product is needed for. “Our stylists reject 34 items on average before recommending one item to you!” the website says.
“In India, while people from metros such as Delhi and Mumbai know a bit about style, people in other cities are relatively new to many style aspects,” said Ali.
At haute designer apparel stores, stylists are more visible on the floor than ever before. Fashion stylists are innovating to create trends. Anita Dongre, creative director, Global Desi, has partnered with Birla Cellulose to introduce a fluid, new-age natural fabric range of apparel, “designed for the woman who steers away from the conventional and is a trendsetter.”
Dutch electronics major Philips overhauled its personal care appliances business, shifting its product appeal from convenience to quick-styling. “While the companies are exploring ways to compete and sustain, consumers are getting the best of stylists’ products at the retail shelves,” said Aarushi Agarwal, marketing director (personal care) at Philips India. “Our focus is now on salon multi-styler products for men and women, which are very easy to use, reasonably-priced and designed for more style, less damage.”