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We want to create a culture & community of respect: L'Oréal Paris–India's Pau Gruart

L’Oréal hopes to counter the scale of street harassment through its new initiative.

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MUMBAI: L’Oréal Paris launched its global initiative ‘Stand Up Against Street Harassment’ in India in November last year with NGO Breakthrough as its on-ground training partner. The aim was to train one million people in India in bystander intervention to tackle street harassment by 2022. The program, with actor Aditi Rao Hydari as its brand ambassador, applies the global ‘5D’ methodology of Direct, Distract, Delegate, Document, and Delay – to help victims and bystanders to take these actions when faced with harassment in public places. 

Now, on the occasion of International Anti-Harassment Week, Indiantelevision.com’s Anupama Sajeet spoke to L’Oréal Paris - India general manager Pau Gruart to know more about the beauty conglomerate’s drive against street harassment and what it hopes to accomplish through it. Gruart also shared insights on the long-term impact of Covid2019 on the beauty industry and why he believes the changes brought about by 2020 in consumer behaviour and consumption “are real and here to stay”.

Edited excerpts:

On what inspired the global cosmetics giant to take on this initiative.

Globally, L’Oréal Paris has always stood for women's empowerment. We are committed to addressing the barriers between women and their ambition. An international survey done by L’Oréal Paris-Ipsos showed that sexual harassment is one of the most important issues worldwide. It happens everywhere, every day, and takes away the right of women to feel safe in the public spaces and impacts their sense of self-worth. We felt there was a need to empower people to take action for themselves, and others. Thus, L’Oréal Paris launched a campaign to encourage women and men to intervene safely if they experience or witness street harassment. We partnered with Hollaback! a global, people-powered movement to end harassment in all its forms, and Breakthrough India, an organisation working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable, for its launch in India.

On what the brand hopes to achieve through this initiative.

We want our program to create awareness about street harassment and let people recognise the issue for what it is. We want to create a culture and community of respect, dignity, and worth by empowering over one million people with the 5D’s methodology, developed by Hollaback - training that can be taken digitally from the standup-india.com site. In India, we are also going on-ground with our partner Breakthrough India. We hope to create a bystander movement that discourages harassers, supports victims, and empowers bystanders to intervene by equipping them with safe methods to do so.

On the findings of the study conducted by L’Oréal Paris in partnership with Ipsos.

When we investigated to know the most important issue women face in their daily lives, we discovered that the #1 issue was street harassment. So, we commissioned Ipsos to investigate the scale of sexual harassment in public spaces.  The survey found that 80 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, at least once in their lives. 76 per cent of people (men and women) have witnessed sexual harassment. While 28 per cent globally said they did not know what to do when asked why they didn’t intervene.

In India, the survey revealed that 81 per cent of those spoken to feel there is a lack of training on how to intervene to put an end to sexual harassment. At least 54 per cent of Indians said someone helped while witnessing sexual harassment and 79 per cent said it improved the situation when someone did intervene.  

These stats clearly show there is intent, but people do not have the tools or strategies that can help them change the narrative. So we decided to #StandUp Against Street Harassment and help people become a part of the solution in preventing street harassment. Our program offers people free training in the 5D methodology that gives them five simple, safe strategies to diffuse a situation without endangering themselves or the victim. 

On the disruption caused by Covid2019 and changes in consumer behaviour.

Firstly, I don’t think there is going to be any ‘going back to pre-Covid normal’. The changes brought about by 2020 in consumer behaviour and consumption are real and here to stay. Digital has become an extremely important aspect of our strategy. Fortunately, L’Oréal Paris has been leading the field when it comes to digital for years now. We have transformed from a beauty company to a Beauty Tech company. We have been able to ride on this shift in consumer behaviour effectively. We have been delivering a much richer online experience for our consumers, capturing the DIY and digital trend through: 

-Delivering education (on products) in a virtual way

-Use VR/AR tools to try the product and see how it looks on you

- Live sessions and leveraging influencers for consumers to help them on their DIY journeys

-Access to e-consultants who can further help answer queries 

L’Oréal Paris Hair Colour, for example, leveraged technology to hold the consumer’s hand ‘virtually’ as she took her first steps into the hair colouring journey at home. We did this by organizing special sessions with our Hair Colour expert to clarify all her questions, having a virtual try-on on our website where you can see how the colour will look on you. So, we educated, demonstrated, and consulted – all virtually.

On the long-term impact of Covid on the beauty industry.

Beauty is an eternal requirement, linked to a fundamental need to feel and look good. While we have been in the business for 110 years globally, the desire for beauty has been with humankind for many more years, and that is not going to change. Even if you look at what happened last year during the lockdown with practically no socialising, people still experimented and expressed themselves in different ways with their makeup. Eyes got a lot more focus, even long-stay lipsticks became a mainstay in makeup bags. Like everything else, the market will transform. With Covid2019, it might go through an accelerated phase of transformation in products, consumer use, distribution, etc but as long as we are close to the consumers and thinking of satisfying their needs, the beauty market will be fine.

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