On any regular school day, the iconic UP Ikot jeeps are there to take students to their next class or anywhere they need to be in the University. It’s hard to imagine UP without them — they’ve become a normal, everyday part of a UP student’s routine. However, for visitors of the school, hitching a ride in an Ikot jeep is something unfamiliar and interesting enough to try. It is exactly what L’Oreal Asia-Pacific Executive Vice President Jochen Zaumseil wanted to do after giving a talk in the campus about his 36-year long career in L’Oreal. He was eager to visit UP, a great campus partner of L’Oreal. A number of exceptional L’Oreal talents who have found great success around the world are from UP. He invited us over for a jeepney ride so that we could chat and tour him around the campus, and we gladly accepted. We asked about his work in the Asia-Pacific region, his successful career and his insights on the beauty industry. Read our conversation with him below:
What makes the Asia market unique, and what's the best part of working in it?
Uniqueness - it is so diverse, you have the oldest countries, you have ancient countries like Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, you have climate changes, you have all religions in the world here, so it's a very diverse and growing region. The people are what make it unique. It’s always fascinating to work with Asia and the Philippines since they are a little bit different. I worked for 6 years in Latin America, and when I come to the Philippines, it’s always in between — half Asian and half Latin America.
So why did you choose the beauty industry, and why L'Oreal?
I was studying in France, in one of the private schools, HEC [Paris], and there was a campus presentation like the one today. I was inspired by something I didn't know before. I was one of the first non-French interns, there weren't a lot of males at the time, and I was attracted to the unknown. My French friends told me it (L’Oreal) was a great company, and that I wouldn’t regret it. I never did.
After so many years working in L’Oréal, what does beauty mean to you? How do you envision the future of the beauty industry?
The future of the beauty industry is very related to Asia. Asia is the most emergent region in the world, and Asian women and men are very inspired. They love great brands, they love great quality, and the beauty industry will grow with Asia. It is a very strong statement, and a very strong fact.
What advancements have you pioneered in the industry?
We invest heavily on research & innovation, spending almost a billion euros in 2018. At the same time, it's not just cures or research and development in new products. We are also in beauty tech to improve services and connect devices. That's also the future of the industry — it's not just products, but also services. The future will be decisive if you capture consumers' interests through products on one side and services and beauty tech on the other side.You could say that L’Oreal is a company obsessed with innovation. It’s in our nature to actively seek for greater improvements in everything we do.
As EVP, what’s the key to building a great career in the beauty industry, especially for men who want to enter this female-dominated industry?
It’s the people in the industry, since it’s a very social industry. I think if you love people, you will love the industry as well. As a company, you make a difference not just with products, but with people too.
What was the craziest idea that you pulled off? What inspired you to do it?
The craziest idea I had was to appoint a manager very early on a new branch. If you take a risk in the positive sense, you appoint a great manager (within the company), there's no risk. The most striking thing is exposing people to international career opportunities. We get to see our employees’ adaptability, a good quality to possess as a L’Oreal talent. They remain collaborative and people-centric wherever you take them and they enjoy working with different people from all sorts of backgrounds. This ability of our employees to connect has helped L’Oreal become the global brand that it is today.
Change always [was the inspiration], if you always understand consumers and the speed consumers are acting, reacting and judging, you cannot be behind. You need to stay on top of the consumer mindset, on top of the consumer thinking. Changes are what keep you in the game.
What were the challenges (that you faced in taking that risk)?
Managing the speed and quality at the same time. Digital speed is unprecedented, and if you want to be on top, you have to be on top of the speed as well, and with that comes people. You cannot run a company without the right people. You have to get them on board and groom them.
L'Oreal partners with startups and young entrepreneurs, so what is the right balance of acquiring startups and working with them, and how do you know which ones are sustainable for the route of L'Oreal?
As a big company, and as the number one beauty company in the world, we need to stay very agile. Startups — disruptive startups — help us do this. The question is more on the number of startups, so we acquired a number in France and in Canada to keep our agility high and to stay at the pace of the consumer change.
What’s next for you?
The next step is to look for the right balance between e-commerce and offline retail. When you buy online, you need the inspiration offline as well. Stores are not the same anymore, and you need to be inspired by stores otherwise you'll only buy on e-commerce. You need to build brands in this changing environment.
L’Oreal APAC-EVP Jochen Zaumseil, in his talk, presented how exciting it is to pursue a career in beauty, especially with a truly global brand like L’Oreal. He spoke about how the world is rapidly changing and how students like us can adapt to this change and make an impact through the beauty industry. In our Ikot jeep ride, we got to know him on a more personal level. We listened intently to what he said and we were inspired by how he spoke about his genuine love for people, his strong disposition towards excellence, and the ability to adapt to change -- qualities that, we learned, can lead one to a very promising career in the future.