Home Finance Interview: Ramneek Khurana, co-founder, Lenskart – Brand Wagon News

Interview: Ramneek Khurana, co-founder, Lenskart – Brand Wagon News

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Lenskart, which is putting together an ambitious global expansion plan, believes it is just scratching the surface when it comes to offering affordable eyewear at scale. Co-founder Ramneek Khurana talks to Geetika Srivastava about the brand’s lifestyle versus prescription wear dilemma and how it is going about integrating AI into business. Edited excerpts:

Technology integration has been your strongest suit. Are we going to see more telehealth and AI integration for eyecare solutions in the future?

This is one area that we are actively working on — using technology to solve the vision problem at scale is the reason we exist. For starters, our factory in Bhiwadi near Delhi is the heart of dispensing several glasses we sell daily. What it has been able to establish is fantastic because it can make a made-to-order product and deliver it at a speed similar to categories like shoes, which is a pick-to-pack operation, via a seamless integration of both hardware and software.

Eye testing, which is a subjective exam, is akin to development, where you have good engineers and great engineers. The latter can do the work of the former in the form of fewer lines of code and one-fifth of the time. We are working on Copilot for our optometrists, who can figure out a prescription in a faster and more efficient manner. We are also using AI for recommendations. More than half of the users who are downloading the app give us their face scans so that they select the right pair of glasses that suits them. Each face scan comes with more than 100 attributes for facial features in a consumer. We use that in an anonymised fashion to come to the algorithm that determines what glasses work well for which consumers. We are scaling this.

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Scaling — doing what we do but in a bigger fashion — is an issue. This is a problem that we’ve just solved by 3%, I believe. It requires a lot to be done, and doing it in a reliable fashion over and over again, from the first interaction on the app to the augmented reality experience to a store visit to delivery is key. We are working on consistency.

How have you seen the eyewear market evolve since you set foot?

The eyewear landscape has evolved more here in the past 10 years than in any other country. Consumers are getting glasses beyond functionality, also as a style statement. Prices are becoming more pocket-friendly. We have a burgeoning number of trained optometrists. This is fantastic news for consumers; it is particularly important because of our size, as more than 50% of people need eyewear and less than a quarter of them can get access to it. We believe we are just scratching the surface in terms of the scale of the problem versus what has been done so far. If you look at a lot of smaller cities in the country, you will find it tough to get a high-quality eye test, which is the first step towards getting an eyewear prescription. Even in bigger cities, what you will see is that even in schools, we don’t have regular eye tests even though we have regular health checkups. In terms of products, we have more options as style statements but if one thinks about specific use cases, such as a sportsperson looking for glasses that won’t fall when they flip, glasses for swimming, or glasses for kids that don’t break easily, these are things that are not easy to find. There is a lot of room for growth.

From Mahindra (CFSVision) to Tata (Titan EyePlus), big corporations are also vying for the same market. Does competition look more ominous than when you started?

Our uniqueness starts with the availability of the brand across different regions. A customer can easily download the Lenskart app and try out our glasses using augmented reality and see our products. Moreover, price discovery becomes easy; you don’t have to go to a nearby physical store to understand the cost and see the range of eyewear. After that, when you make up your mind and decide on the glasses, we are available at several places and offer high-quality eyewear tests. Finally, in terms of product availability, our different brands touch different communities. For instance, we have different kinds of glasses for the hip hop community and the K-pop community.

How do you balance the perception of being a lifestyle/fashion brand versus a prescription eyewear brand?
Lenskart’s take on fashion versus prescription has been a source of category disruption from the very get-go. From our perspective, we look at eyewear not only as an instrument of vision correction but also as an instrument of self-expression. That is why, last year we did more than 50 collection launches. This is the maturity we are bringing into the category.

Seeing more than 1 million downloads on our app each month, just for consumers to come and see what they look like in different kinds of glasses, has been proof for us to know that we are going in the right direction.

You have several brands such as Hooper, Vincent Chase and John Jacobs. Are you adopting a house of brands strategy with such a portfolio?

All the brands are doing very well with their respective audiences, who can connect with them through their social handles, website and app presence. All stand for something different in terms of their philosophy and principles. Vincent Chase stands for affordable fast fashion, which is important for the category as it matures. John Jacobs, on the other hand, stands for high fashion, and Hooper is specifically designed for kids. It has shatterproof lenses, funky colours, and tie-ups with the Batman and DC Comics universe.

More than a house of brands, our strategy is to help these brands stand on their own to develop a relationship with the communities that they are catering to. Seeing the engagement that these brands garner on their own, we feel our strategy is working.

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