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John Jacobs targets 6 million consumers in three years to become India’s largest eyewear brand: Apeksha Gupta, CEO

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Apeksha Gupta, chief executive officer of John Jacobs, talks about the premium eyewear brand’s strategic priorities, omnichannel journey, marketing initiatives and more

Bengaluru: Designer eyewear brand John Jacobs, under the aegis of Lenskart, has carved a niche in the Indian eyewear market by transforming eyewear from a medical necessity to a fashion statement.

Founded in 2015, the New-Delhi-based brand is currently accessible in more than 2,000 Lenskart retail stores, over 20 John Jacobs exclusive brand outlets (EBOs), Lenskart and its own website as well as various e-commerce marketplaces, across India, Singapore and UAE.

Lenskart is an investor as well as a parent marketplace, providing John Jacobs with an extensive supply chain, retail network, and global online presence. With nearly nine years in the market, John Jacobs has become a trendsetter, introducing around 800 new product options annually and being the first eyewear brand to showcase a runway collection at the Lakme Fashion Week.

In an exclusive interaction with IndiaRetailing, Apeksha Gupta, chief executive officer of John Jacobs talks about the brand’s strategic priorities, omnichannel journey, marketing initiatives and much more.

Edited excerpts…

When did John Jacobs start offline retailing?

John Jacobs primarily began as an offline venture in 2015 before going online through Lenskart. It was an experiment to see if consumers preferred shopping at a single-brand eyewear store, as most eyewear retailers are multi-brand.

We started with key premium markets, including Galleria in Gurgaon, Indira Nagar and Koramangala in Bengaluru, and Khan Market in Delhi. When this proved successful, we expanded the stores to other cities.

How is the omnichannel strategy progressing?

From a consumer perspective, we ensure consistency across all channels: The same products, pricing, offers, and launches are available both, online and offline. Anything featured on our Instagram account or website can also be found in our stores.

The difference in the in-store experience is the presence of an optometrist, who provides expert guidance. Online, we replicate this experience through assisted buying. This helps address any confusion about prescriptions or product suitability, mimicking the support provided by optometrists and sales staff in stores.

From a technology standpoint, everything is interconnected at the backend. Customers have a unified account where they can view their purchase history, regardless of whether they shopped in-store or online. We offer cross-channel services for pickups and returns—customers can buy online and pick up at a store, or purchase in-store and have the product delivered home.

How often do you refresh your collection?

Normally, people change their glasses every three years. However, many John Jacob customers update their eyewear at least once a year.

We consistently release at least one campaign collection each month and occasionally two. We collaborate with brands like Outhouse, Masaba Gupta and celebrities, especially around key consumer buying occasions. Additionally, we align our collections with seasonal trends, such as the travel collection we launched to coincide with the summer holidays. Overall, we produce a minimum of 15 collections annually.

Which product is experiencing the highest demand?

India may not be a large market for sunglasses, but it is a significant market for prescription eyewear. Interestingly, people have different pairs for watching movies, attending parties and even specific John Jacobs styles for their weddings. Building demand for eyeglasses is both fascinating and challenging. While our focus is on growing both segments of our business, 80% of it is dedicated to eyeglasses.

Are you available outside of the Lenskart ecosystem?

We are already present on all leading e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Myntra, and TataCliq. Additionally, we are available at Noon in Dubai. We will continue to expand our international partnerships as well.

On marketplaces, we only sell sunglasses because handling prescription eyewear is a complex process. Collecting prescriptions accurately and managing the customisation required is beyond the capabilities of most marketplaces.

Which market do you see high demand coming from?

We have a strong market share in North, East and West India. The South, particularly cities like Mysore, Kochi, and other parts of Kerala, is an area of upcoming growth for us.

We already have a significant presence in tier 1 cities. However, the most promising growth opportunities are seen in tier 2 cities such as Jaipur, Jamshedpur, Lucknow and Jammu in the North. These cities show considerable potential for our expansion efforts.

Are there lens labs in John Jabobs EBOs?

We utilise the same lens lab that Lenskart operates. Customers have two purchasing options: For sunglasses and contact lenses, they can pick up products directly from the store over the counter. For prescription glasses, the order is serviced by our lens lab in the back end and then shipped. We now have the capability to ship within 24 hours to several major pin codes, providing a quick turnaround for customers.

What’s your approximate marketing budget?

We allocate less than 1% of our total revenue to marketing, which is unusual for a brand of our size and age. It reflects a conservative approach to spending, focusing on effectiveness rather than high marketing expenditures. This approach helps us maintain a low marketing burn and sustainable growth as a business.

John Jacobs has an unconventional choice of brand ambassadors. Why?

We aim to establish ourselves as the absolute default brand in certain spaces—fashion, art, and culture, as well as music. Our partnerships are selected to reflect our presence and influence within these cultural spheres, which are integral to our brand identity. Among the figures are actor and poet Arunoday Singh, chef Ranveer Brar, British-Indian actor Arjun Mathur and creator Varun Duggirala, to name a few.

Our brand philosophy often revolves around elegance and a sense of being ‘in the know’. We prefer ambassadors whose personalities align closely with these values rather than choosing individuals solely based on their level of exposure.

Retail expansion plan for fiscal year 2025?

We are aiming to maintain our strong presence in tier-1 cities, while we continue to expand with Lenskart in both metro and non-metro cities. This is our strategy moving forward.

We don’t have a long-term target number for expansion; we grow as opportunities arise. Additionally, since we are already present in numerous other retail points of sale, we want to avoid cannibalising our exclusive store network.

Top three strategic priorities?

Our priority is to enhance the purchasing frequency among our current customers, encouraging them to return and engage with us more often. Additionally, we are developing a partnerships division to collaborate with other designers and brands, offering our consumers a distinctive perspective on eyewear. Lastly, we aim to establish an artist program that invites industrial designers and artists to collaborate with us on our designs and contribute to our brand’s cultural identity.

Where do you see John Jacobs in two to three years?

As of now, we have 3 million John Jacobs customers. Achieving this milestone took us six years, and our goal is to double this number in less than half of that time to become the largest eyewear brand in India. Currently, we believe we are at the top in terms of revenue within the premium segment

We aim to expand our market presence internationally, targeting the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Currently, we are present in Singapore as well as UAE and Thailand is on the horizon—our strategy involves partnering with other platforms rather than investing in building our stores.

We have been experiencing a growth rate exceeding 50% year on year (YoY) for many years now, and we hope to maintain this growth trend. However, what I consider most important is our ability to retain and engage the consumers we attract, transforming them into loyal super-consumers. Our existing consumers are our biggest advocates.

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