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The ‘people first’ approach of JCB Salons' Samir Srivastav

Samir Srivastav, CEO of JCB (Jean Claude Biguine) Salons India, on being inspired by Oberoi Group founder, and the need for licensing in the sector

Samir Srivastav believes the stylists and beauticians are the stars in his organisation.
Samir Srivastav believes the stylists and beauticians are the stars in his organisation. (JCB Salons )

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Samir Srivastav, CEO of JCB (Jean Claude Biguine) Salons, takes pride in stating that he owes his success to women. It’s not surprising considering the large number of women working in the beauty industry. In fact, 60% of employees at the Indian operation of the French brand are women. 

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Mumbai-based Srivastav believes in maintaining exclusivity and, therefore, is happy with having grown to only 21 branches in three cities in the last 14 years. It has helped them maintain the lead in the premium hair and beauty services segment, he says.

Nearly two decades of experience in the beauty industry has seen Srivastav work with VLCC Health Care, Kaya Skin Clinic and Marico. To increase public-private partnership in the beauty segment, Srivastav has also worked with National Skill Development Agency. 

In this interview with Lounge, he talks about why he considers Oberoi Hotels and Resorts the gold standard of luxury hospitality, why in his organisation, an operations manager also handles HR, and his productivity principles. Edited excerpts:

Who do you consider your mentor or someone who has inspired you, and why?

Mohan Singh Oberoi of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts. He has taken hospitality and personalisation to another level. I have been in a similar industry for many years and found the way he lead the business insightful. He kept his business boutique and personalised, and taught how to grow small specialised businesses. 

I have tried following the same principles at JCB since I joined the company eight years ago. The level of personalisation and individualisation that we do has helped differentiate us in the otherwise fragmented market. And that’s why we have higher rate of repeat customer.

One major insight you implemented, which turned your business?

Over the course of time, I realised the person, who should manage the people working on the floor are operations heads. They spend the maximum time with the employees at the salons rather than the human resource (HR) manager, who is sitting at the head office. So, while the HR frames the policies, it’s the operations manager who carries out day to day HR functions at the outlets. 

We also provide opportunities to people to handle additional functions. For instance, besides the HR role, the operations or category manager act as the interface between us and the brands, gather market intelligence to fine tune services, and so on. I believe it adds value to individual careers. 

What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?

Being a mentor means facilitating capacities and potential inherent in each individual. It’s a rewarding experience and the culmination of good leadership. I hope my journey inspires people I work with and nudges them in the right direction. 

From guiding a new pedicurist and understanding the stresses and fears that come with that position to integrating the wisdom and learning experiences of a veteran professional, I want to inspire, encourage, and push people to break barriers, expand perceptions and do the impossible. Limitation is just in the imagination, it’s the courage to continue that really matters.

Also Read: Kalpesh Parmar of Mars Wrigley on authentic mentorship

What's your morning schedule like?

I get up by 6.15 am and begin my day by chanting vedic mantras for inner peace and strength for half an hour. I then take my pet, a one-and-a-half-year old Beagle, for a 45-minute walk. It’s our time together. After this, I go to the gym for an hour. 

Once I am back, I relax a bit, read about four newspapers, have breakfast and also send my thoughts, inspirational messages, birthday wishes or updates to the core teams over the Whatsapp group. I do this from Monday to Friday. I believe it peps them up for the day. By 9.45 am, I am off to work. 

What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

I focus more on humans rather than the resource now. The average age of employees at JCB is 26 years. They are creatively gifted and spend 10-11 hours, six days a week within the four walls of the store, where they meet all kinds of customers. Their lives revolve around their work. In our industry, the individual is the hero. So, it’s very important that we put their needs first and take care of them. 

What is the one innovation you would like to see in this industry?

I would to see high calibre hair and beauty training institutes in the country, which offer licenses. Abroad, you cannot cut hair if you don’t have license you have not done a four year degree in hair dressing from a recognised institution. I think we need to take this licensing part more seriously. It will be beneficial for individuals serving and being served. 

What are your productivity hacks?

I had the privilege of attention a session with leadership coach Ram Charan. He talked about the importance of execution. A great idea can fail if it’s not executed well, and so I take it very seriously. When we do new service launches, I personally get involved in the initial phase to ensure its executed well. 

I also believe in ‘less is more’. We only have 21 outlets in the country and are not swayed by opening more stores. There is so much to do in the existing ones; I believe in depth of business. It’s better to focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking in our industry won’t work well. You need to give time for any new service to pick up, as customers take time to understand what’s being offered. 

Any book you would recommend on mentorship and workplace growth? Why?

Tom Peters’ book People First wins hands down when I think of good leadership and management at the workplace. It relates to mindfulness to human side of business. He talks about the immense human potential everyone has and how it connects to customer delight. I find it very relatable to our business. 

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