EsteticaExport has interviewed Mr Shahzad L Qadir, who has created a new brand – Pegasus for international markets as CEO of Presto Industries – an inherited family business in Mumbai, India.

Please introduce your company.
“We started as a family business more than 100 years ago. My fathers grandfather started it in Mumbai as an importer of pressure cookers – a completely different business. This changed in 1965, when my father started a manufacturing site about 30 km North of Mumbai, producing many different items, especially packaging for the cosmetic sector. Later on, my father decided to expand the range of products and went into manufacturing of combs and hair brushes. That led to the setting up of another factory in 1979.
Since then, we have been mainly producing this kind of product. In the beginning, we were manufacturing for third parties, especially for customers in Germany and the United States. The factory shut down for a few years until 1987, when I came into the business. I resumed the line of work of the company and slowly I turned it around to make it more modern and more interesting to international buyers.
At that time, we were still only working for private labels, but I had this dream of producing better-quality combs and hair brushes. I believed that the best combs in the world were made from hard rubber (also called ebonite) and that is what I had to do to reach the level of quality I desired. I had this idea around 1994 and I worked hard experimenting a lot to create the material I needed. It wasn’t easy and there were a lot of failures. It wasn’t until 2005 that we were able to develop our own hard rubber combs and launched them at the Hong Kong Cosmoprof Asia fair that Autumn”.

How did the launch go?
“It was a success: lots of orders came in from all over the world.
But soon I realised that it was not the kind of quality I was hoping for, because soon we discovered they could break easily. I wanted something better, so we went back to R&D and a long period of research started again until we realised that we needed to change the entire production system. That meant a huge investment because we had to reinvent the entire production system from scratch. It took a lot of hard work to balance the right formulation for the material of the combs. It was only in 2011 that we reached our goal and we launched our new material in 2012. Since then, we have developed our new brand – Pegasus – for the export markets. Until now our sales have been limited to some niche markets and lately, the Covid crisis slowed us down again”.

How big is your company now?
“Our company now has two factories – one for the domestic market and the other for export business. We have a total of about 300 staff, including the salesforce”.

So what is the next step?
“We are now ready for further development of our company. For many years, we have been concentrating our efforts on product development – ultimately achieving our dream of creating a high-quality production. However, that dream is not complete because now it’s time to focus on marketing in order to make our product known to a wider range of consumers all over the world”.

What are the main benefits of your combs?
“First of all, you should know that we have also another line of production, our core business since 1979, combs made from Cellulose Acetate that are primarily for retail. The very special feature is that all our products are handmade, which means the combs are not injected but processed one by one with our custom-designed machines. We employ a similar method to produce our new hard-rubber line, which is designed for professional use. This is the material hairdressers prefer to work with because when using hard rubber combs professionally, you get high precision”.

Where are your target markets?
“Firstly, we are focusing on Europe, which we consider one single market because when you enter one of the European countries with a distributor or subsidiary you can sell across the whole EU.
Of course, we are looking to have as many distributors as we can for different regions”.

Why should a hairdresser buy your combs?
“Hairdressersgoal is to give the best possible service to their clients. They tend to look for the best product in terms of colours, treatments and accessories like scissors for example. We believe that a bad comb can undo all the goodness done by expensive products and hi-tech tools. Therefore, comb quality is equally important for a first-class service. Pegasus combs are definitely better than injected combs. Thanks to our special production technique, our combs have very smooth teeth that respect the hair structure and protect it thus helping the hairdresser offer a healthier and accurate service”.

From your privileged point of view, how would describe the hair & beauty market in India at the moment?
“I do not have the exact numbers, but I know that the market is in constant exponential growth. We have a multitude of small local brands that are growing, following the model of LOréal, which has become the absolute number one in our country.
Since LOréal entered the Indian market in the late 90’s, it has become highly challenging for other international brands to compete. It seems things are changing a little now because other brands appear willing to increase their investments. There is also a growing number of hairdressers that would like to try something different. Therefore, brands with the right marketing tools might have a chance to be successful”.

Do you participate in Hair & Beauty fairs?
“Every year we have a booth at the main Cosmoprof events (Bologna, Hong Kong & Las Vegas). In future, we might also participate in some other fairs. I believe fairs still have an important role to play as interpersonal relations – touch and feel – are fundamental catalysts for a good business”.

Mr Shahzad L Qadir, CEO of Presto Industries, in Estetica Headquarters in Torino.
Mr Shahzad L Qadir, CEO of Presto Industries, in Estetica Headquarters in Torino.