There’s a common belief that going to the salon is akin to getting therapy. Something about sitting in a hairdresser’s chair makes people want to divulge their deepest, darkest secrets. Mohamed Madi knows this very well, saying, “This is an industry that requires what I call the three Ps – passion, perseverance and patience.”

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As President of Madi International, a distributor for beauty products and equipment, Mohamed may not spend his working hours behind a hairdresser’s chair, but this is the mantra by which he too lives.

“Being in the business-tobusiness sector, I need to be able to convince and negotiate, and enjoy doing it,” he says. “I must listen to my clients’ needs, fulfil their requirements and ensure that our dealings are pleasant.”

When Mohamed founded the company in 1991, the beauty industry in the UAE was undeveloped. “It was common for beauty therapists to do everything – hair, nails, waxing and facials – under one roof. There was no specialisation and no standards for room sizes.”

Since the market was so fragmented, he identified a gap for a business that could understand beauty professionals. “They needed someone who could be like a friend, who could guide and support them,” says Mohamed.

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Today, almost 30 years later, beauty salons in the UAE look very different. “Most operate like small companies with professional management structures. They have procurement, marketing and recruitment departments; they are digitalised, use social media and have better hygiene standards,” Mohamed reveals.

“The industry has grown a lot, not just in the number of brands and products available but also in the number of people who are interested in joining it.” The sector’s image has been elevated, and Madi International has ridden the swell successfully, expanding from the UAE into Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon and Bahrain. But with this expansion has come challenges.

“It has become much more competitive and the customers are more demanding,” he explains. “Social media has changed the world, and certainly this industry. Consumers now have easy access to the latest trends, nail polish and hair colours, and they want it all. Salons must be able to keep up.”

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And so must distributors like Madi International, which is why education is such a major focus of the company. “New innovative machines and aesthetic technology are constantly being developed. To keep our members of staff up to date, we regularly send them to trade fairs and seminars,” says Mohamed.

Besides providing upskilling opportunities for his employees, he reveals that the firm also runs two training divisions for its clients: one for product knowledge and the other for practical skills such as styling, haircutting and nail grooming.

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These courses provide clients with support when they need help with using products or equipment they have purchased from the firm. In addition to education, Mohamed says that open communication has also proven to be essential to success.

The company regularly runs workshops where it invites employees from various departments – from beauty trainers to salespeople and marketers – to share the challenges they are facing and the observations they have made on the ground.

“It’s a good way to listen to our people, who know the market very well, and to come up with solutions,” he explains.

The firm runs similar sessions for its suppliers and partners where it shares its findings. One segment that has seen clear growth in recent years is men’s grooming.

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“The barber shop concept has become increasingly popular and the demand is much higher than in the past,” he reveals.

“We observed that men are starting to look after their own wellbeing more, so we have set up a division that takes care of the opportunities we have identified in gents’ salons.”

Now Mohamed has his eye on the medical aesthetics and beauty education sectors. For the former, the firm is establishing a distribution channel targeted at dermatologists, selling clinic furniture and equipment such as laser and slimming machines.

For the latter, he has a vision of opening a network of academies that provide professional training for those who are interested in a career in the industry.

The company already has an official academy in Oman, and has ambitions to open more across the region.

Mohamed attests, “I want to support my customers with topnotch training at all levels. I would like to bring a lot more education into the industry; the more knowledge we have, the more we can add value to society as an industry.”

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