Interview: Ramneek Khurana, co-founder, Lenskart

We currently do more than half a million eye check-ups and eyeglass dispatches per month with our network of online, mobile app, and over 700 omnichannel stores, says Khurana

Aside from the $95 million it raised from private equity firm KKR, Lenskart has been investing and acquiring tech platforms (Tango Eye, Daily Joy), and beefing up its analytics team in a bid to scale up. Ramneek Khurana tells Sapna Nair that the eyewear company is bullish about strengthening supply chain and tech ops to increase its capacity to ship out glasses more than tenfold.

The past year saw many businesses move online. How much of a challenge was it for Lenskart, given that touch-and-feel is a crucial cog in the eyewear industry?

The pandemic has been a game changer not just for the retail and manufacturing industry, but businesses across. The shift towards a digital ecosystem, which made people accept the virtual work and learning culture as the new normal, led to an increase in screen time. Our well-operated vertical supply chain model allowed us to serve our customers without any hindrance. We could identify the key problems that users faced as they transitioned to the online medium to place orders during this period, and worked backwards on our tech solutions to address the same. For instance, eyewear sizes are not understood, unlike the size of t-shirts or shoes. To solve this, we launched a machine learning-based tool wherein users can take a selfie, and our algorithm throws up a selection of glasses that are the right fit for them.

Users want to get a real feel of how the eyewear looks on their face before placing the order. For that, we have worked on augmented reality technology that gives the user the ability to flip glasses on their face by just giving access to their device camera. Besides, users can now see their prescriptions upfront when they log onto the Lenskart app. This is what we have captured based on their previous purchase or eye tests at any of the Lenskart touchpoints.

How much has your online-offline revenue share changed during the pandemic? What will be the focus going ahead?

We have positioned ourselves as an omnichannel brand right since the inception. With the pandemic, our online share has significantly grown. With the integration of our technology and vertical supply chain, the number of online customers has more than doubled compared to the pre-pandemic period. Strengthening both the channels will remain our focus area, but it would also depend on how the pandemic situation unfolds.

Lenskart recently raised $95 million. Where will these funds be poured in?

A significant portion of the efforts will majorly go towards two areas: supply chain — we are working on the largest automated facility for eyewear manufacturing with the ability to serve multi-million glasses per month — and scaling up our technological advancements.

What kind of tech advancements are on the cards? You have been strengthening your analytics team and building a tech hub in Hyderabad…

In our country of over a billion, 600 million people need spectacles; globally, 4.5 billion people need vision correction. Out of these only a fraction use vision correction due to lack of awareness, and the lack of affordable solutions. Lenskart was founded to address this gap. We currently do more than half a million eye check-ups and eyeglass dispatches per month with our network of online, mobile app, and over 700 omnichannel stores.

From a technology standpoint, our work will continue in three directions: making the online buying experience more seamless using computer vision, augmented reality and machine learning; firming up our omnichannel capabilities by using NFC and other technologies; and, lastly, strengthening our supply chain by building tech that is capable of shipping out 10-times more glasses than our current capacity. Scaling this up consistently so that users get the same experience every time is our biggest challenge.

Which markets and store formats will you prioritise as you expand your retail presence?

We have launched more experience centres in Bengaluru, Pune as well as other cities in India. We have also launched stores in markets such as Coimbatore, Jamshedpur, Trichy and Kochi. In terms of prioritising, we are looking at expansion in the Middle East and Singapore this year, strengthening both our online and offline store presence there. Besides, we will be focussing on online growth in the US market.

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