“Over 4500 members of the Lakme team have attended over 300,000 hours of high-quality education in this period”

Pushkaraj Shenai brings the knowledge and experience of his multi-faceted, 20 year career to his job. As CEO of Lakme Lever since 2012,he has aggressively grown the footprint of the beauty services business to 490 Lakme Salons across 165 cities. An architect and MBA, he undoubtedly has brought his skills through a host of innovative initiatives transforming the chain to be more consumer-centric than ever before.

Pushkaraj tells us how the Lakme Salons are fully prepared for welcoming clients, post lockdown.

Sandhya Chipalkatti: As silly as it sounds, how are you doing during this pandemic?

All good, God’s kind….I tell myself this every morning and a few times through the day. We are more fortunate than many others and hence this is really the time to put family, community, company and country before self.

Keeping our team’s morale high has been our primary focus. Having said that, protecting livelihoods in the present and preparing the team to get back with enhanced skills in the future has kept us busy.The Lakme Lever team has been busier than ever. We have stepped-up education leveraging the digital classroom on our Xcel online varsity. Over 4500 members of the Lakme team have attended over 300,000 hours of high-quality education in this period.

How has this situation affected your 400+ Lakme Salons?

COVID19 and the consequent lockdown has had a widespread impact on the businesses. For an industry that is based on human interaction and touch, salons have been greatly affected.

As a Unilever company, rigorous hygiene protocols and high-quality products have always been top priorities for us at Lakme Salon. We have implemented 55 enhanced measures developed in collaboration with medical professionals, for utmost safety of our customers and staff post lockdown. We have used the period to digitally train our team – housekeeping staff, experts, salon managers, office teams and business partners – in these new methods to ensure complete adherence to protocols.

Any special advice for standalone salons?

Ensure that you keep in touch with your clients and use this time to hone skills of your team to give your customers the best experience when they return. Continue taking care of your team through the tough times.The reopening needs to be planned with an utmost focus on hygiene and customer safety and keep this at the forefront when operations resume.

Customers will trust brands with experience and depth of knowledge. Standalone salons should evaluate if they should stay that way or join a reputed and experienced brand network.

What is changingin the salon industry as we deal with COVID? What are the challenges? Opportunities?

The current situation has created a new normal

that will remain with us for a while. And this will rapidly change the dynamics of the salon industry – new methods of working, new patterns of consumption, new ways of interacting with people which is the key to the salon business.

This change will be driven by stringent hygiene and safety measures. Masks & gloves may become part of the new uniform. It’s not just about being clean. It is about being seen as safe and assuaging any fears in the mind of the customers.

Hygiene has always been a priority at Lakme Salons. We are now increasing focus on these aspects in line with the government guidelines to ensure that the salons follow the highest standards of safety when we welcome our customers back post the lockdown.

Is there any silver lining to this situation? One learning from COVID?

Adversity always leaves lessons for the future. At a macro level, our cities haven’t seen such low levels of pollution in a long time. The lockdown has demonstrated the difference we can make to our environment if we behave responsibly.

At a micro level, we have learnt efficient and effective ways of doing things. Digital education and remote working have been the biggest gems we have discovered in this phase. These learnings will change the way we live and work in the future.

Are you anticipating a rush of clients to your salons post lockdown?

With a gradual relaxation of the lockdown, consumers are looking forward to visit salons to get their regular hygiene and grooming regimen back on track.The news from markets around the world is heartening – in countries where the lockdown has eased, salons are booked for weeks on end – albeit with strict social distancing and increased safety measures in place.

“We have implemented 55 enhanced measures developed in collaboration with medical professionals, for utmost safety of our customers and staff post lockdown’”

Finally, what other skills or talents have you discovered within yourself during this lockdown period?

We hosted a Quarantine challenge on our Facebook page where a Lakme Salon expert guided husbands through the steps to give a pedicure to their wives. Called the “Lockdown Pedicure”, we received more than 3.5L views on the session. I can say that this is a new skill I’ve learnt in during the lockdown period.

I had learnt to give my daughter a haircut for her 10th birthday. This lockdown period gave me the opportunity to brush up those skills again. Apart from this, the lockdown has also given me ample time to catch up with my reading and writing.