The Indian eyewear market is largely unorganised, dominated by mom-and-pop stores, with only a handful of big brands vying for consumer attention. We, at Lenskart, capitalised on this gap in the eyewear market and introduced a brand with a vision to provide affordable quality eyewear to consumers at the ease of a few clicks – and now bricks.
Growth Story – From Online Success to Offline Triumph
We founded the brand in 2010, and we started off by selling just contact lenses. A couple of months later, spectacles / eyeglasses were included and in March 2011, we added sunglasses to the collection.
Winning consumer trust was one of the biggest challenges we faced as an online player, but over the years we have gained that trust and have managed to convert our biggest challenge into our unique selling proposition.
Lenskart started out as an online player, with customer satisfaction at the heart of its business, but after gaining customer trust online, the brand went after the large segment of consumers offline, branching out into the traditional brick-and-mortar format.
Going offline significantly increased accessibility to the brand. We did a small experiment in 2014 by opening a store at Delhi and customers loved the experience. Our stores are unique in the sense that we don’t sell in the store, but only take orders. Essentially, by opening stores, we are solving the problem of ‘trying before buying’.
We wanted to be wherever our consumers are and provide them with a unique and differentiated retail experience. We now have over 450 stores across 100 cities and deliver to around 15,000 pincodes.
Both our online and offline businesses complement each other and work with a single goal of maximizing consumer satisfaction.
Recently, we also opened our new facility in Haryana which will help us scale our business to 10X of what it is today. At present, we are dispensing 10,000-12,000 spectacles daily and the new facility set-up will help us raise this number to 70,000 – 80,000 spectacles a day.
The Mantra of Success
A big aspect of Lenskart’s success is in our Omnichannel approach which includes online, modern shops and home visits by optometrists on motorbikes. We are available wherever our consumers want us.
We have implemented lot of innovation in our stores to keep them small, lean and profitable. The stores are unique, we don’t have an inventory and orders are placed through an iPad and served from a central warehouse.
It is quite a unique model as we work all the way from manufacturing to front-end supply to provide affordable quality eyewear to our consumers.
The Loyalty Factor – Lenskart Gold
We recently rolled out a special initiative for our loyal customers, Lenskart Gold- an exclusive membership program to entitle our loyal customers with a special ‘Buy One Get One’ offer all year round.
Under this program, customers can enroll themselves in Lenskart’s exclusive membership program for Rs 500 and avail a ‘Buy One Get One’ offer throughout the year. The membership benefits can also be availed by family members simply by using the same mobile number enrolled for membership at Lenskart stores as well as the website. The benefits of the loyalty program can be availed from their first purchase itself.
Technology Driving Brand Loyalty
Technology is in our DNA. It is the backbone of what we do. We offer unparalleled services like online eyewear selection, personalized services, stringent quality checks, prompt deliveries, one-year product warranty, 14-days no-questions-asked return policy and convenient payment options to consumers. Our points-of-sale at stores are handled by iPads. Everything we do is possible because of superior technology.
We also provide unique services like 3D try on, home trial, home eye check-up and the use of robotic technique that delivers glasses which are accurate to 3 decimal points. A lot of this has served to revolutionize the Indian eyewear industry.
We also recently introduced Lenskart Lite, an android app which has been built specifically for the bandwidth strapped Indian consumer. With growing concerns about Internet speed in India, this lite version of our main app allows users to browse products and purchase them even in the absence of Internet. Being the first in the e-commerce industry, this app is almost 80 percent lighter than the regular app, which enables customers to download easily. It requires Internet only at the point of download. On completion, users can browse products, avail discounts and place an order even when there is no Internet.
Omnichannel: The New Retail Currency
Lenskart’s Omnichannel presence enables the brand to reach out to people all over India, no matter where they are.
While we have done so much innovation around Omnichannel, other brands are still evaluating online-offline as a channel. We are exploring the next level of innovation of Omnichannel which includes an answer to how we can trace a consumer’s journey from offline to online and vice versa.
John Jacobs: Creating Another Standalone Brand
Only a very few, select brand in any country manage to become mass brands. When we started John Jacobs, we understood that this was one such brand. John Jacobs gave us the opportunity to bring affordable luxury into our distribution network.
Today, eyewear is no more a necessity. It comes under the tag of fashion, something in vogue, which people want to wear on their faces. We decided to push John Jacobs as fast-fashion and encourage customers to buy multi-frames and wear spectacles by occasion and voila, an affordable luxury brand was born.
At present, John Jacobs contributes towards 20-25 percent of our total sales, approximately.
Currently, there are 5 John Jacobs EBOs and we plan to take it to 15 by this year end. For this particular brand, we are targetting only metro cities for now, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Sunglasses are priced at Rs 3,500 onwards.
Why Lenskart is Investment Wise
Lenskart has earmarked about US $2-3 million to invest in companies that are working on either products or technologies that can help provide affordable eyecare solutions. The intent for investing in these early-stage startups is to collaborate in development of innovative products. As part of this strategy, we have invested US $500,000 (about Rs 3.3 crore) in US-based ThinOptics.
Previously, Lenskart has picked up minority stake in Israel-based 6over6 for US $1 million. 6over6 allows consumers to determine the power needed for the lenses for their spectacles by using a smartphone application.
In September 2017, we had invested a similar amount in US-based Ditto. Lenskart is now using Ditto’s technology to allow users to try on various frames on their picture before making the purchase.
At present, Lenskart has 5,000 SKUs and we aim to expand our footprint in Tier II and III cities. WE are hoping to take the number of stores to 550 by March 2019.
Lenskart counts names like IDG Ventures, Ronnie Screwvala-led Unilazer Ventures, TPG Growth, TR Capital, IFC and Premji Invest as its investors and we have raised about US $100 million in funding till date.
Since we reached our break-even point a few months ago, we are now at a run-rate of Rs 600 crore, and next year we want to do close to Rs 800-900 crore in terms of profit.
The company does not require any immediate funding but listing on market will make our position stronger and will also create an option for existing investors to exit. As far as an IPO is concerned, 2021 is something we are aiming at. However, we are still learning, and this is just the beginning for us.