Where does Indian Optical Industry stand today?
What is your SKU selection criteria ?There are 2 perspective to this one…
- Sunglasses:As you know our country is majorly influenced based by celebrities, sportsmen, social platform influencers where they influence people on what and which things are to be used. All of these trends majorly come from brands of European countries. so, what we do to keep ourselves updated beforehand, we follow 2 major exhibitions in Europe i.e. SILMO and MIDO which happens in Italy and Paris respectively. We see to it that we at least attend any one of them if not both as they are open for all. This helps us to understand the perspective of what is trending there and as INDIA has been a trend follower that same products will be coming in after 6months from date.We get our products manufactured overseas, and so we understand the designs and models to invest in, to serve our customer needs.
- Frames: Here the whole collection is based on 2 aspects, Experimental products, So, these are the products which are pleasing on the shelves and are great for attracting the customers but that is only consumed by 15% of the customers and not more. Traditional products, 85% of people go by these products as they have a sense of selecting the perfect frames which matches well with their attire or occasion. Our shelf has 35-40% of experimental products and rest 55-60% is traditional which we know is an easy to buy for our customers.
What is the behaviour of optical industry? Cost-centric, Customer centric or Product centric?During the Pandemic: Right now, during the pandemic the whole industry is Cost-centric as churnings are stuck. Also, we couldn’t open our optical stores during lockdown as it didn’t come under essentials, but we have managed to just begun the operations from this month (JULY) under restrictions of ODD-EVEN alternate rule by the government.
What government policies or licences are required to open an Optical Store?We require regular shop establishment and other common certificates required across India. Apart from that when it comes to refraction i.e. testing done in the outlets, there are no licences as such in fact no governing body to overlook that is one loophole in the system, you must have seen many small opticians in the market which have 2-3years of sales experience with enough financial backups to put up a store but they lack expertise. Even though eyes being the most important and delicate organ of our body, it is surprising that there is no such regulatory body. There are 3 stages where an optometrist or the person who conducts the eye tests can complete their education.
- Degree holder (an optometrist)
- Diploma holder (same process as an optometrist but without a degree)
- In this case people do a 6month course over a video call with a doctor who gives a certificate which certifies one to perform the activities of an optometrist.
What are the best marketing strategies to pull walk-in customers?Pre-Pandemic: Every year we have a strategy as in what we have to focus on for both new and existing customers. For our existing customer we do have a loyalty programme where he keeps on buying on a regular basis and the points keep adding to his/her account. Procuring new customers: We have been going through all our digital mediums and stretching our muscles over there. So here, we are not competing with the global competitors which is difficult, so we work on geographical radius where we make our POA and advertise on the basis of demographics like location, customer type, convenience to reach the store etc. We keep changing the window and shop displays which shouts out to the customers and keeps our displays new every time. So, these strategies were implicated before the pandemic but currently things are different.
There are few plans we wanted to initiate but we have kept it on hold due to COVID-19, which are:
- Optician on Call: A customer looks for convenience, and having the touch and feel of the eyewear is only possible by going to the stores and trying it out!! But this gap is to be filled by V.A. Mayekar, Pre-pandemic we started off with a pilot project of OOC in 3-4 areas which proved to be successful. Our person goes DOOR-to-DOOR and gets your refractions done by a qualified optometrist. All the details of the person visiting at your place with all the detailed information of the process would be sent to you as you book through our website. Based on your test report we would provide eyeglass options with prescribed lenses and you can choose your favourite frame sitting at your home!
- Customized frames: We have tied up with a company from the States where we have an open ground for our customers who love wearing customised frames. Under this project a customer can literally get their frames customised from options of shapes, size, colours, designs, materials (available from wood to bull horn) from the convenience of their phones where they need not get off their sofa even or also we can allot our designer to come at your place and explain the whole process and get it documented for you, the service would be free of cost! (As we look for the safety interests of our team members and customers the above services are on hold until the pandemic is over).
Could you share what a buyer should look for, while buying eyewear for themselves?It completely depends on what they require. I would raise a question for the readers to understand better:
If the power is below 1.50 then surely your dependency on the spec is low, who can go for any frames which ever you like on the showcase without brainstorming a lot.
If the customer is a traveller then yes, he has to see if the lenses are equipped for environmental conditions.
So, our staff is completely trained and educated on all these various points and questions raised by the customers to help serve with the right fitted frame and lenses suited for them.
What are your views on companies which hold 80% of the global market share? Is it possible for someone in India to takeover or even have a bite of their share?Luxottica has partnered with Essilor who is into spectacle lens market, here you see 2 giants have partnered together to grow in multiples. To compete with them is very difficult but not impossible. No! we surely cannot foresee overtaking or have a bit of their share for next 5 years or so because for this someone has to be in the race even!! There is nobody even close to them who can be a part of the race and compete with them.
What is the contribution of Optical industry in India’s GDP?The contribution has been really low from past many years but, we do see a substantial growth in the coming years as The growing digital dependency of every individual by 5x, which will eventually require optical solutions in near future. This is the biggest factor for the optical industry to grow and see a spike in the contribution. The spend pattern which we have been following and understanding from our customers perspective, people were never spending that high when it came to luxury brands, a very niche segment used to buy these brands the whole concept of luxury brands is not very firm as to Indian market. But from last few years, people have been travelling a lot and so have been exposed to a lot of luxury brands at airports, streets, malls and so a large no. of people have become brand savvy and conscious with more knowledge on which brands they should buy and are likable by many across the globe. Especially when we talk about men shoppers, they were quite sceptical but now they understand what accessory they got to flaunt and could get their status raised. The parallel market of luxury brands have been developed and will be increasing in coming years too which contributes in the GDP collectively.
What are the key changes the optical industry has to do in order to continue see the sales high after the pandemic?
- We got to be proactive from now, need to understand all the price segments and the customer needs which is possible only after forgetting the year 2020 and give a fresh start.
- Manufacturers and distributors need to be more compliant to the retailers and understand a retailer’s situation in terms of flexibility of pricing.
- Need to understand the digital segment rising and educate the consumers on topics which can help their eyes be saved, like good and bad blue light emissions from digital screens and encourage them to protect by wearing glasses.
- From the industry perspective we need to produce more optometrists in India. Currently the ratio of the no. of people to a single optometrist is more than 2,50,000 :1. This particular field needs exposure to grow by educating people about the benefits and needs of this field in India. If this career option is open to people from the 10th grade people will start opting for it and understand the need for this. Students who aspire to become doctors, opt for MBBS or BDS, but very less are exposed to the OAT or OD i.e. Optometrist Admission Test or Optometrist Degree.