We are seeing a lot of international beauty brands entering the East African market. What is driving this?
The middle class is growing and consumerism is following right behind. Secondly, the internet, which we easily access via our mobile phones, allows everybody access to information. This means we no longer have to educate people about products. Advertising in the 1990s focused on problems and solutions. Today the focus is on why a customer should choose a particular product or brand.
Is the entry of other foreign brands and the growth of local players a threat to L’Oréal?
The day you start to compete against competition, you are not really a marketer. You should be in the business to meet consumer needs. The more choice the better; let the challenge be on which is the better brand in terms of meeting consumer needs.
Describe the opportunities and trends in the beauty industry?
The potential is huge. I spend time observing how people behave in the washrooms. I am fascinated that every single woman, whether an executive or cleaning lady, will come in with a compact and powder their face, line their eyebrows and apply lipstick. Every salon in Kenya offers manicures, whether it is in a shack or a five star hotel; it is just a question of price and quality. This was a luxury but now it is standard. Women are increasingly becoming more confident, are loud at home and hold higher offices. I think the next big thing is deodorants. The beauty industry can only progress.
What advice would you give to foreign brands planning to enter the East African market?
It is not as difficult as it seems. I had a fantastic experience because I have a lot of networks locally and the backup of a global brand. It is very systematic once you are clear what steps need to be made. The first step is to get a good lawyer who can help with the documentation and registration. You also need to get a good talent recruitment partner. Placing an advertisement in the newspapers will get you all the people you do not need.