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Agon also has a passion for foreign travel. Even when he is discussing difficult markets, like Japan, his optimism bubbles up. "This is a great country for beauty," he says. "Japanese women really love beauty and they are really experts. Mathematically, we have 2 or 3 percent market share and it's the second market in the world. So there is 97 percent of the market to conquer," he says. "As these consumers are very demanding," he continues, "it's a very important market for us because it's a way to test the level of quality of our products, of our packaging, of our concepts of our brands, of everything. It's a way to harden, strengthen, sharpen up a position for Asia and for the world."
He's also looking for new ideas. "During a visit to Brazil last year, I was absolutely amazed by the creativity of Brazilian hairdressers in terms of hair care." Explaining that the market has a multi-ethnic population with all types of hair, "It's a real challenge for the Brazilian consumers and for Brazilian hairdressers. I find in Brazil the most creative hairdressers of the world in terms of invention of new hair care techniques."
As a result, L'Oréal set up a lab in Rio de Janeiro to invent new hair concepts for worldwide distribution. "Ssome of the innovations that we made for Ké;rastase and worldwide last year, in fact, came from Brazil," he says.
Like China, Agon expects Iindia to become one of the great markets of the world. As in L'Oréal went into with all its brands blazing, instead of introducing them one at a time. "India first is a great country, it's a beautiful country and it's a very large country. People are very educated and they have a huge potential," he says. "They are clever people. They all speak Eenglish, which is a huge advantage in this modern world.
"What held it back until now was the fact that there was no modern distribution. Until very recently,
there were no department stores, no malls, no hypermarkets and very few supermarkets and very few pharmacies or modern pharmacies." But that is now changing, Agon notes. "In the very near future, there will be many new forms of distribution." Whether entering markets or acquiring brands, Agon exhibits a voracious curiosity and a questing intellect. "I compare a brand portfolio to a puzzle," he says. "Each piece of the puzzle has a very special role and mission. To maximize the potential of the company we just have to fill in the puzzle. So there may be still some pieces missing."