The world looks at the Middle East as a rich and brand aware market. But when it comes to education, is it lacking?
There are a lot of initiatives from companies in the Middle East to educate opticians and optometrists. The recently held Eyecon 2013 was a step in this direction. Poya Eghterafi, CEO – EGMA, who initiated this, made it very clear that they were planning a lot of investment in education for the region and mentioned that “EGMA sees a lot of value in this investment, as educating the optician is the first step to educating the end consumer.”
As Abdollah Sedaghat, General Manager, Ophthalmic Lenses – EGMA, rightly points out, today the awareness in the market about lenses is quite evident. “Today the consumer realises that the vision is better because of the lenses and not just the eyewear, and he is willing to pay more for the lenses, which was not the case earlier.”
He remembers that in 2002, when he joined EGMA, opticians would wonder how come there was a salesperson for ophthalmic lenses. “This was not happening and I would credit EGMA for having this foresight and realising, that educating the optician and the consumer is very important for the growth of this industry.”
Feras Dwagy, Marketing Manager – EGMA, agrees with this. “Since our products are high end products, education is very, very important. An optician has to know why our products are superior and with this in mind, we had started Eyecon, and it’s a step that has been well appreciated by the industry. For us, education has a lot of interpretations… we can educate about technology, about brands, about innovations as well as methods to
As an institute that offers education, the region has The Vision Care Institute situated in Healthcare City, Dubai. Opening its doors in 2008 to offer high standards of continual education to eye care professionals from all over the Middle East, with the objective of fostering a more confident and proactive approach to eye care, The Vision Care Institutes strives to become the leading source for continuous learning and information for all eye care providers in the region.
Anglia Ruskin University, a British university, is keenly looking at the region for its distance learning programmes. Dr John Siderov, Head of Vision and Hearing Sciences at Anglia Ruskin, who was in Dubai during Vision-X 2013 to explore the options seems encouraged by the response. “The education of optometrists and opticians in the Middle East has a history of development over many years with pockets of excellence in some countries in the region, perhaps with more of a focus on optometry. Anglia Ruskin University’s, Department of Vision and Hearing Sciences is in a unique position to help deliver distance learning and work-based learning courses for dispensing opticians and optical assistants. Our Department of Vision and Hearing Sciences is ready to work with partner institutes and companies to develop optometrists and opticians in the region,” he says.
Innovation and personal interaction are as important in education as events and academies. There are a lot of methods that companies need to ‘innovate’ to achieve this goal. Matthieu Ruatti, Marketing Manager – Essilor International, explains, “Depending on the region, we adapt and customise our methods to teach, to make sure we meet the demands of the local ECPs.
In South Africa, for instance, we do breakfast training sessions in stores, short sessions, typically less than an hour and these are very focused… each time dedicated to one very specific subject, just when the store opens in the morning and before their first customers start walking in around 10 am. In Italy, we dedicate Mondays for in-depth trainings at the main office, where we gather groups of about 20 ECPs for half a day together, which they and we love to do.
Here in the Middle East, we organise some advanced training events, where we can ask for one of our international specialist trainers to join us. And we also have regular sessions with opticians, usually in-store, for trainings dispensed by our internally-certified local team members.”
Having to hear from a brand owner, an institute and a distribution company is one thing, but what about the optical stores. Do they think education is important? Azza Hussein, Business Development Manager of Kefan Optics, agrees, “Education is very, very critical and not just for optometrists but also for technicians and sales staff. Today, Kefan Optics, is known for being a company that has well trained and educated staff. I have taken it upon me personally to make this possible as this is what makes our company different.
Our aim is to have loyal customers and our customers are going to be loyal to us only if we give them good service. To give good service we need qualified staff and the only way to have qualified staff is from education. So you see it’s very important that we pay as much attention to education if we want to grow our business. Sales is important but it’s not the only thing.”
It’s quite clear from the opinions that the eyewear industry needs to look at education of the optical industry as a very important aspect for the future growth of the industry. But the good news is that there is awareness about this need and a few steps are being taken in this direction.