Laying eyewear optic fibre to make 400 mn specs per year: Lenskart’s Bansal
Peyush Bansal is passionate about running and eyeglasses. He has a vast personal collection of over 100 pairs of spectacles and wears some of them during his early morning 15 km runs. These include his favourite sky blue transparent wayfarer eyeglasses that he wore on the reality television series ‘Shark Tank India’.
“It has an odd colour. But after I wore it on Shark Tank, it became the most popular colour and the specs went out of stock,” said Bansal, the founder and chief executive officer of eyewear company Lenskart, in an interview. “The biggest difference between us and other companies is that we are not about how this industry has been working, but what is possible.”
An ex-Microsoft techie, Bansal’s vision is to build the world’s largest eyewear firm, where he aims to ship 300-400 million specs a year. This includes serving 50 per cent of people in India.
“To really serve, we need to lay the optic fibre of eyewear and create a system, where you can make about 300-400 million specs a year,” said Bansal. “We’re creating a centralized model, where one can order eyewear from any part of India and the world and customised products can be made and dispatched within 2-3 hours.”
As part of that strategy, the SoftBank-backed firm is setting up the world’s largest eyewear manufacturing plant in Bhiwadi, a city in Rajasthan. This is expected to play a major role in the supply chain to service orders from this facility. It would have a capacity to ship 50 million pairs of eyewear a year. Bansal is investing about $150 million to build this facility.
Lenskart is looking to capture half of the eyewear market in India. Bansal said companies such as Reliance’s Jio, Maruti, Asian Paints and Indigo Airlines have already done that.
The firm recently closed a $200 million funding round led by Alpha Wave Global (previously Falcon Edge), where its valuation rose by over a third to $4.5 billion, according to the sources.
The funding would also help the company to expand in the global market including making acquisitions. It recently bought a majority stake in Japan’s Owndays, the direct-to-consumer eyewear brand. The deal is creating one of Asia’s biggest eyewear retailers. The acquisition is taking Lenskart’s presence to 13 markets in Asia, including India, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan. The deal, according to sources, is estimated to be $400 million. The two firms combined have a revenue run rate of $650 million in the ongoing financial year with $400 million from Lenskart and the rest from Owndays, according to the sources.
Presently Lenskart is focused on tapping India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where myopia and high myopia is very prevalent. “We would also look at the US market in the next 3-4 years,” said Bansal.
What is also helping Lenkart expand globally is its subsidiary–Neso Brands, which invests in eyewear brands and helps them grow. This year Singapore-based Neso raised more than $100 million in its first funding round. “Here we will be looking to acquire European brands and bring them on this platform,” said Bansal.
The opportunity is huge for Lenskart as the global eyewear market size is anticipated to reach $323.77 billion by 2030, according to a report by Grand View Research Inc. The market is expected to exhibit a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4 per cent from 2022 to 2030.
Globally and in India, Delhi-based Lenskart competes with players such as Titan Eyeplus, Specsmakers, Vision Express, Warby Parker and Italian eyewear conglomerate Luxottica Group. Bansal said one of the biggest differentiators for the company is its technology capabilities including in house robotic lens manufacturing and assembling. It is making huge investments in technology and supply chain automation. The firm is also building up its tech team from the current 300 to 500 people in FY23.
In India 90 per cent of the specs market is unorganized. There is one optometrist for every 50,000 people–the figure for the United Kingdom is one per 7,000 people.153 million people in the country need reading glasses but do not have access to them. It is this problem that Bansal, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore and Canada-based McGill University, wanted to address when he founded Valyoo Technologies (Lenskart) in 2010 along with his two co-founders Amit Chaudhary and Sumeet Kapahi.
Lenskart now ships over 10 million pairs of eyewear every year and has over 20 million app downloads as well as over 1200 stores across India, Singapore, and Dubai. It will continue to expand with 400 new stores as it looks to scale the revenue. Besides selling the products online, the firm is selling them at various pharmacy shops, providing the service at home and even taking orders over the phone.
The company grew by 65 per cent year-on-year in 2021 and is on track to grow by another 50 per cent in 2022. It posted an operating revenue of over Rs 905 crore in financial year 2021 along with profits of nearly Rs 29 crore, as per regulatory filings.
“We are still early in this journey of eyewear disruption and it is still day one for us,” said Bansal.