Shweta Sahni: Leading The Change @ L’Oréal Professionnel & Beyond
L’Oréal Professionnel has been steering professional hairdressing education in India for over two decades now. The transformation in the industry is distinct and visible. The 2020s will indeed be a new adventure. Shweta Sahni, National Education Manager at L’Oréal Professionnel underlines the way ahead in a freewheeling chat with Beauty Launchpad’s Isha Gakhar.
With over 20 years of experience at L’Oréal Professionnel, Shweta Sahni is now in the driving seat heading education at LP. She is extremely passionate about hairdressing and has a keen understanding of the industry’s needs when it comes to learning and technical know-how. She is a qualified hair colourist which can be regarded equivalent to a PhD in hair colouring. Shweta believes in learning through experience and draws inspiration from her interactions with international artists visiting the country for L’Oréal’s much-awaited seminars and masterclasses. Being at the helm of L’Oréal Professionnel Hairdressing Education, Shweta was seen recently on stage with the legendary Guy Kremer at LA FRENCH Look & Learn show in Mumbai and Delhi. Speaking to Beauty Launchpad, Shweta Sahni details L’Oréal Professionnel India’s continued efforts and contribution to the evolution of Indian hairdressing.
Tell us about the La French Look n Learn show with Guy Kremer.
Education has always been the backbone for L’Oréal Professionnel (LP). In the past year, we conducted more than 120 shows to train hairdressers across the country. This year, we had the opportunity to invite the master hairdresser Guy Kremer and Jonny Engstrom to present La French mega shows in Mumbai and Delhi.
LP is essentially a french brand and through La French, we are bringing out that Frenchness in concept. It involves working around balayage techniques for that very French free-flowing hairstyling. Each model was given a hair colour that complimented their skin tone and face shape. We also did cuts to enhance their features, while the styling involved long hairdressing as well as open styling.
L’Oréal has been at the forefront of industry developments. What is your take on the current educational standards in the Indian salon industry?
Looking back to about 22 years, hairdressing was at a nascent stage in India. It was a profession that was looked down upon — if you didn’t study, you became a hairdresser. Today, the scenario has changed for the better and we are proud to be hairdressers. The education scenario in the Indian salon industry has definitely evolved leaps and bounds, and it is visible on the global stage as well. Last year, our colour trophy winner Biak Lun was announced as the first runner-up at the L’Oréal Cut & Style Trophy in Paris. This year, we are aiming for the top prize. Being associated with L’Oréal at this time is immensely satisfying as we are training hairdressers inside-out, every single day of our lives.
Our endeavour is to make hairdressing the best-known profession in this country. Whether you are a junior, mid-level, or senior hairdresser, we have the best educational platform available to upgrade your talent. The L’Oréal ARTH (Absolute Route to Hairdressing) Academy offers a six-month programme for anyone and everyone to learn everything about hairdressing — starting from the very basics. This encompasses technical, creative, and communication skills such as how to behave around clients. We also offer internships with our salon partners. Currently, we have a total of 12 L’Oréal Academies / Technical Centers all across the country- Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Guwahati, Baroda, and Indore.
Any challenges along the way?
In tier 2 cities, people still want to be a doctor or an engineer, or do something else but not hairdressing. So, we still have a long way to go. In the last 20 years, we made a lot of progress and in another 20 years, we will change the industry completely.
What career choices can students look forward to in the salon industry?
Graduating students from our academy can expect to begin their careers as junior stylists to a mid-level stylist. Most of them get absorbed within the salon where they do their internships. About 50% of my educators are graduates from the L’Oréal Academy. We pick out our best students and give them intense training to be hired as educators. Many students open their salons or join family businesses too. I don’t think there would be anyone who has graduated from the ARTH Academy, without a job.
What are the certifications offered by L’Oréal academy?
We offer both diplomas and degrees. Students graduating from the ARTH Academy are given the ARTH Certificate for professional hairdressers. For regular students, certificates are given based on the seminars or masterclasses they attend to upgrade skills. For example, if you attend ‘Colour Keys’ — our most popular seminar — you will be awarded a diploma for colour-certified hairdressers.
How many students do you train in a year?
Annually, we train two batches in our Mumbai ARTH Academy. Our partner academies run three to four batches every year. In 2019, we trained over 1,36,000 hairdressers within LP across India. These are hairdressers who got their skills upgraded. 0verall, we have made 32 unique hairdressers in the last year from our ARTH Academy at L’Oréal Head Office in Mumbai and more than 500 students have graduated from ARTH partner academies.
Tell us about your ‘Train the Trainer’ Program.
Though we receive several requests for this course, ‘Train the Trainer’ program is exclusively available for trainers from our partner academies. These academies follow the same training module used at our Mumbai academy and that is why we need these trainers to learn the entire curriculum over a 6-week course. Then, they would start training their own students and will be simultaneously assessed by an LP team from Mumbai. Once the proper presentation and examination are completed, they would be certified as L’Oréal hairdressers. Today, we have 15 partner academies running across the country.
What is the agenda for education in 2020?
My aim is to train 1,50,000 hairdressers this year! The focus is on their colour skills; we want to mould them into the best colourists by thinking differently and offering the best service to clients. That’s why we have launched the Style My Hair Pro app for better client consultations. Using this app, clients can see what different hair colour options will look like on them and then choose a colour accordingly. They can play with the intensity of the colour as well as different techniques that can be used by the colourist. It’s the best app for a professional diagnosis of hair colour.
What’s next for L’Oréal Professionnel India?
L’Oréal’s mother-brand, Majirel is going through a re-staging. The formula, numbering, application time, everything remains the same except the packaging and presentation. Majirel is getting a facelift so that consumers can see what it really is. To mark this, we are organising a seminar called ‘Play Day’. You can come to the academy and play with Majirel — starting with a bit of theoretical knowledge for a quick recap and then, explore various colours and techniques.