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Jakarta Post

Jean-Paul Agon: Leading the world of beauty

  • Aulia R. Sungkar

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Mon, March 14, 2016   /  10:28 am
Jean-Paul Agon:  Leading the world of beauty

The chairman and CEO of L'€™Oréal Group talks about his global business strategies and dealing with digitalization.

With an avuncular smile, Jean-Paul Agon greets The Jakarta Post in L'€™Oréal Indonesia'€™s head office in Jakarta'€™s central business district. '€œIt'€™s my fourth visit to this country. The first time I came here was in 1997 and then I came back in 2000 and 2010. Jakarta has changed so much. I see a great revolution in the infrastructure and modernization.'€

Earlier that day, the chairman and CEO of L'€™Oréal Group met President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo at the State Palace to discuss the long-term commitment of the France-based cosmetics and beauty giant to building a more sustainable presence in the archipelago. This includes the opening of the company'€™s first factory in the Jababeka Industrial Estate in Cikarang, West Java, in 2012. Dubbed as L'€™Oréal'€™s largest factory in the world, the 66,000-square-meter factory serves the domestic and Southeast Asian markets. The factory was the first in Indonesia to receive Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification from the US Green Building Council.

'€œSustainability is what we are really focused on today. More consumers and more growth mean more responsibility for us. Yet, our sustainability effort goes beyond commitment to achieving carbon balance by 2020. Sustainability also includes our management, which focuses on innovation, human resources and product quality,'€ Agon asserted.

Well-executed strategies

L'€™Oréal was founded by young scientist Eugène Schueller in 1909, and the company has become the leader in the cosmetics and beauty industry, with a current global presence in over 130 countries.

The company arrived in Indonesia in 1979 and has now opened dozens of outlets in the country'€™s major cities.

'€œI'€™m basically here in Indonesia to see all the stores, evaluate the market and spend time with the team to look at the business plan. In short, I'€™m doing a business review,'€ Agon said of his Indonesia visit.

Agon has spent his entire career with L'€™Oréal. Upon graduating from HEC International Business School, Paris, in 1978, he joined the company and kept climbing higher with various leadership posts. He was appointed as the company'€™s CEO in 2006, and five years later he became the company'€™s chairman and CEO, his current position.

At the helm of L'€™Oréal with over 80,000 employees worldwide is indisputably not an easy task for Agon. Delegation is the key, and he has 15 people who directly report to him.

In viewing Indonesia'€™s market, Agon is aware of its fast pace of development. '€œOur top three biggest markets are the US, China and France. We have around 12 percent market share worldwide, 30 percent in France. In Indonesia, we are a bit less than 10 percent, but we are catching up with more stores offering more products. We also have a new brand that we just acquired last year, Nyx, which has already started very well in Indonesia.'€

L'€™Oréal'€™s ability to stay at the forefront of the industry owes a lot to the well-executed strategies by Agon'€™s team.

'€œThere are three strategies that we execute. First is the combination of keeping a sense of direction, which gives priority to R&D and innovation. Next is the obsession with producing excellent quality products. Last but not least are the human resources, as we can'€™t produce anything without them.'€

In managing human resources, he said, the company has launched a program called '€œShare and Care'€, which ensures that every employee in every country in which L'€™Oréal operates is taken care of, such as with health insurance and welfare.

'€œI believe that the success of a company is related to the quality of its people. So, human resources are the company'€™s assets that we always want to keep, develop, share with and nourish,'€ he explained.

'€œRegardless of the type of company, a strategy is only good if you execute it well. That'€™s why I keep traveling around the world to visit the major countries to review with their teams how to execute the strategy well.'€

Going digital

L'€™Oréal always adapts to the changing world, with the company focusing on the digital era.

'€œDigital era is a revolution. We started four years ago. We recruited over a thousand people in the digital area. Our brands are becoming more and more digital. We are very strong on Facebook and Google, and we have established partnerships with them. Digital is a new world whose system ability is very important in today'€™s world,'€ Agon remarked.

He believes that digitalization is a very important aspect in the growth of a business, particularly for a giant like L'€™Oréal. '€œIn our case, digitalization really connects our decentralized organization, multi-brands and multi channels. With our partnership with social media and digital platforms, we are now leading the field of digital beauty.

'€œLiving in the digital era, I see that the world is changing so fast, especially in the world of beauty. There'€™s been more change in the past three years than in my first 30 years at L'€™Oréal.'€
(Aulia R. Sungkar)



Boulogne-Billancourt, France on July 6, 1956


Has been with L'€™Oréal Group for his entire career: as chairman and CEO, France, (March 2011 '€“ present), CEO, France, (2006'€“2011), president of L'€™Oréal USA (2001'€“2006), general manager of L'€™Oréal Asia Zone, France (1997'€“2001), managing director of L'€™Oréal Germany (1994'€“1997), international managing director Biotherm, France (1989'€“1994), general manager of L'€™Oréal Paris (1985'€“1989), general manager of L'€™Oréal Greece (1981'€“1985) and product manager at the Consumer Products Division (1978'€“1981).


Holds a degree from HEC International Business School, Paris (1975-1978).


Fusion foodies

I love fusion food and the best is from Peru. As a matter of fact, fusion food was invented in that country. There are many Japanese in Peru and they invented the combination of Eastern and Western food. I also like Thai food. Indonesian food is something. I'€™ve had satay and beef rendang. They are indeed delicious.

Passionate globetrotter

Traveling is always part of my life. Last Christmas break, I went to Bolivia and Patagonia. These places are amazing with beautiful landscapes. I sometimes like to spend my holidays in the city, like I did two years ago when visiting Australia. I also sail once a year. During the summer, Greece is beautiful with a lot of wind, which is ideal for sailing.

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