India’s eyewear segment, once a near stagnant market, has today been converted into one of the fastest growing retail sectors in the country. In 2016, the Indian eyewear market was estimated to be around Rs 8,400 crore. Further, the sector is projected to grow to Rs 12,600 crore in the coming years. While unorganized stores handle most of the prescription eyewear, the organized market is set to grow much faster at 15 per cent CAGR. Talking about the growing organised eyewear sector, Business Head & Co-Founder, John Jacobs, Sambuddha Bhattacharya outlines the category dynamics and reveals how his brand will leverage the growing potential of the segment in India.
The organized eyewear market in India – although much smaller than the unorganized sector – is expected to draw Rs 1,700 crore of business over the next four years. Almost 80 per cent of this market is for spectacles, while the remaining 20 per cent are accounted by sunglasses. These figures shed light on the immense potential of the market for a brand like John Jacobs which – through its organized stores – is educating the consumer and bringing in the much-needed transparency that the eyewear industry lacks.
Tell us about the latest in the eyewear industry? Which is the fastest growing category?
The Indian eyewear industry is witnessing a renewed prominence across both the developing as well as developed economies. The increasing proliferation of advanced eyewear models in the former will create a pathway for upgraded living standards, whereas, in advanced nations, the market is characterized by product innovations, exports, and increased productivity. Global demand of eyewear market will continue to be driven by spectacles, on grounds of the fact that spectacles covered 55 per cent of the overall revenue in 2016. The onset of the third millennium has witnessed a plethora of trends and styles, eyeglasses being no exception. The global eyewear market has been experiencing a reinstatement of the yesteryears, which is evident from the changing consumer inclination toward round glasses, cat-eyed frames and asymmetrically structured sunglasses. Also, the gradual shift of eyewear as a tool of protection to fashion accessory has led to the industry constantly coming up with new styles and trends in sunglasses.
What are the challenges faced by the industry?
The primary challenge in the eyewear category is the lack of access to affordable eyewear. The price gap between unbranded and branded eyewear is substantially high due to opaque pricing and mark-ups.
Are Indians brand conscious in as far as eyewear is concerned?
India is changing, and consumers are starting to care about ‘modernized’ brands – stylish, premium, high-quality, yet sensible: one that resonates with their ‘smart quotient’. The new age Indian consumer is confident, value-conscious and aware of global trends. The purchase decision is led by their mind, and not by wallet or potential show-off value.
What is the price range that Indians are comfortable with?
With increasing disposable income and reduced propensity to save, the urban Millennial is spending on exploring the latest in food and fashion from around the world. While the consumer behaviour varies with cities, the preferred price range for branded eyewear is in the range of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000. (source: Technopak Analysis)
What is the male/femaleshare in buying eyewear?
Eyewear, like food, now cuts across genders and appeals to both men and women equally. Over 90 per cent of John Jacobs Eyewear is unisex and are donned by both men and women with equal panache.
Sunglasses have become a fashion statement today. Give us some insights into this category with respect to the current market scenario?
Judging from the plethora of eye-catching sunglasses that have been getting face time over the last few years, be it on ready-to-wear runways or in the adjoining office cubicle — it’s clear that glasses have gone from being a necessity to a chic accessory. A few years ago, people would spend a lot more money on their bags and their shoes. But now eyewear is a great quality accessory. The sunglasses market in India has been given a
boost by the development of innovative and improved products as well as designs that not only serve specific needs of customers in terms of protection, but helps them keep up with latest trends. In fact, sunglasses are now being looked at as a fashion device rather than a protective device. Consumers in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and other Tier I cities experiment with designs. A store must house all the ranges to fulfil the needs of trendy customers especially between the age group 20-28 years.
What is your market positioning and customer profile?
John Jacobs Eyewear has set out building their business with a few well-defined agendas: To offer premium quality eyewear at sensible prices, to kill the opacity in the world of eyewear by bringing in transparency and to bring much needed innovation and freshness in the optical retail experience.
We offer sensible pricing for the premium designs and quality through its game changing manufacture to retail model. We also take full control and ownership of the supply chain and cut out all intermediate or royalty costs. With our own exclusive stores, we avoid retailer mark-ups – selling products priced at a revolutionary Rs 3,000 including lenses.
CUSTOMER PROFILE: Our primary consumer is the urban Indian Millennial. The new-age Indian consumer is confident, value-conscious and aware of global trends. With increasing disposable income and reduced propensity to save, the urban Millennial is spending on exploring the latest in food and fashion from around the world. The consumers now want to match their glasses to occasions, moods, attire and latest styles.
Tell us about the brand, product range and services available at your stores. What is your marketing strategy?
BRAND: Launched in 2015, John Jacobs is a homegrown eyewear brand with one mission – offering international quality eyewear at surprisingly honest prices, both online and offline. The first and only eyewear brand in India to own the manufacturing-to-retail
model, a revolutionary and disruptive model that allows us to price sensibly.
PRODUCT RANGE: Our design philosophy blends centuries-old craftsmanship with modern lifestyles. Using the choicest high-end materials like handcrafted Italian Acetate, pure wood, titanium etc., each collection is inspired by some of the trendiest and designs including classics such as aviators, classic rounds and hipster frames. Engineered with strength and durability, our eyewear ranges from a variety of eyeglasses and sunglasses to suit each face type at honest affordable prices.
STORE: John Jacobs Eyewear stores, first of its kind in the Indian retail landscape, are becoming well known for hosting interesting in-store events for their customers like the polaroid picture campaign, caricature artists and bringing in high-caliber educated staff on-ground to ensure great consumer experience and interactions.
With this revolution, John Jacobs looks at disrupting the way people buy and look at premium quality eyewear is based on a three-point agenda:
– to offer premium quality eyewear at sensible prices;
– to kill the opacity in the world of eyewear by bringing in transparency;
– to bring much needed innovation and freshness in the optical retail experience both in terms of products and services.
Give us insights into the brand’s Omnichannel approach.
Our Omnichannel strategy is a win-win for customers and retailers as compared to a silo-based multi-channel strategy. It acknowledges that mobile and social have enabled customers to not only quickly switch between channels, but actually use channels simultaneously. For example, checking out product reviews on their sunglass while evaluating the same on a physical retail store shelf. It ensures that customers receive a personalized conversation with a brand. In a market placed with only multi-brand stores and aggregated online businesses, John Jacobs is pioneering the exclusive brand store experience, both online and offline. There is a sense of reliability and realism for an engaging experience and intelligent conversation with your audience.
How popular are international brands with Indian consumers? What is the price point that the consumers are most comfortable with when buying eyewear?
International eyewear brands have notable presence in the market, owing to the high demand for premium sunglasses amongst urban Indian consumers. Exposure to global trends, changing lifestyles and higher disposable incomes, have enabled Indian urban consumers to spend on premium and luxury sunglasses, which are now seen as essential accessories than necessities.
While the new age Indian consumer is confident and aware of these global trends, he is also value-conscious and strives to makes sensible purchase decisions. The purchase decision is led by their mind, and not by wallet or potential show-off value. John Jacobs instead exists at the intersection of inspirational, honestly priced yet luxury quality brands; that is international yet homegrown; for a brand that is ‘modernized’ and real.
What are your future plans and targets in terms of opening new stores and new product off erings and initiatives?
Overall, we see ourselves growing 10X to become a Rs 1,000 crore business by 2020. We’ll be at about 50 stores across Tier I and II cities in India, and also across a few marquee international destinations. Besides the retail foray, we will also be a sizable online business and our website, IOS App and Android App will have strong stickiness – not just for the product being sold, but the story being told. As the industry moves towards a personal branding space from fast fashion, consumers will continue to love John Jacobs, for our realism and our transparency.
Besides their presence in the Indian market, John Jacobs also sees an ever-growing market for their stylish products internationally as it retails in the UK, Australia and Philippines. The brand is also preparing to enter new markets like the US and Canada to expand its presence globally.