VisionPlus catches up with Indranil Chakravarty, Commercial Director, Bausch + Lomb India, for an insight into the company’s new communication strategy, as well as product offerings and educational initiatives
Think of contact lenses and the one name that will pop up in your mind is Bausch + Lomb (B + L). Over the years, the company has become a hallmark for innovation and quality and has a brand recall that very few companies can lay claim to. And behind this tremendous success lies the efforts of its motivated team that is committed to take the legacy of this global brand forward. We speak to Indranil Chakravarty, Commercial Director, Bausch + Lomb India, to understand how B + L is evolving in terms of business strategy as well as product offerings to address the changing needs of both new age consumers and ECPs.
VisionPlus (VP): You began your professional journey with the electronics and telecommunication sector. How did the transition to Bausch + Lomb happen?
Indranil Chakravarty (IC): As a person I am driven by a desire to learn new things and this thirst for knowledge has led me to work in many different industries. After specialising in Electronics & Telecommunication, I started working with a cable manufacturing company. Later, I completed my management studies from XIM and joined the paints industry, where I stayed for almost 12 years. Next I joined the telecommunication sector and spent a large part of my career with Vodafone India limited.
After working in the telecommunication industry for almost eight years, I joined the healthcare sector about two years back. And I am glad I did it! I have really liked what I have seen so far and hopefully this is the space for me for the next 10 years.
VP: And this rich experience must have helped you in your role at B + L?
IC: Yes, at B + L, I have been able to draw a lot from my experience at ICI Paints, as well as at Vodafone. The contact lens industry is very similar to paints in terms of the dealer network and the role played by KOLs in category growth. My Channel Management experience at ICI has helped me to establish better channel partnerships with trade engagement programs like Club Uno, EyePL Bonanza, Reward Fiesta, etc., to strengthen B + L’s partnership with our channel partners. During my association with the telecom industry, I closely witnessed the Indian telecom revolution first hand, and I am trying to implement a lot of those success stories to increase category penetration of contact lenses in the Indian market.
VP: Internationally, B + L is focusing a lot on ‘Bio-inspiration’. What’s Bio-inspiration? Are you planning to launch these products in India too?
IC: Globally B + L is poised to deliver the best products to our customers. Hence, we are designing our products to mimic the ‘Best in the Universe’, which is ‘Nature’. Bio-inspiration is a discipline that studies and learns from nature’s best ideas to generate breakthrough products and technologies. Bio-inspiration is a proven method for developing new products. So far we have launched a contact lens solution – Biotrue Multi-Purpose Solution. This has a pH equal to the pH of healthy tears. It uses certain ingredients that are inspired by the biology of our eyes, and hence it is gentler on them. Thus, the end user can now enjoy a more comfortable and safe contact lens wear. We have also recently launched a daily disposable contact lens based on the science of Bio-inspiration – Biotrue ONEday.
VP: Why Biotrue ONEday lenses when B + L already offers SofLens daily disposable lenses to consumers?
IC: The existing daily disposable lenses in India, including SofLens, have been available in the market for quite some time. Though each product has a substantial customer base, consumers always need something new and better, and Biotrue ONEday addresses this need the best.
With Biotrue ONEday, we continue to bring innovative products to our customers. The lenses are made from a revolutionary new material, HyperGel™, through Bio-inspiration. They have 78 per cent water content due to which the patient can enjoy incredible comfort the entire day. Also, HyperGel™ supports oxygen transmission through the lens.
VP: In price sensitive markets like India, what’s the contribution of daily disposable lenses?
IC: The contact lens market construct in India suggests high consumer upgradation to silicone hydrogel and daily disposable lenses in the past three years. Also, the demand for silicone hydrogel and daily disposables has grown three times faster than the rest of the category. We looked at it as a good opportunity to launch a premium offering, like Biotrue ONEday, in the daily disposable segment.
The daily disposable category contributes to around 15 per cent value share of contact lenses, growing at a CAGR of more than 50 per cent over the last few years. This is the fastest growing modality in the category.
VP: Moving on to Lacelle. Tell us more about this new range of coloured contact lenses.
IC: After the huge success of Lacelle Colors in the Southeast Asian markets, we decided to launch the product in India too as the beauty products industry here is experiencing a major boom and consumers are looking for trusted and best-in-class products to enhance their beauty. Therefore, we have made the lenses available in four attractive colours with a specially designed lace pattern & USFDA approved colour pigments.
The size of the cosmetic contact lens market in India is very small compared to other Asian and Western markets, primarily due to the non-availability of a good quality product. With Lacelle, we plan to change that by giving the Indian consumers an opportunity to experience the best in style and comfort.
VP: Contact lenses have been seen more as a medical aid in the past. What is B + L’s strategy to reach out to new age consumers who look for cosmetic value too?
IC: Over the years, the contact lens consumers’ need has evolved from just having perfect vision to a more emotional need to look better and beautiful with the help of contact lenses. B + L acknowledges this shift in consumer perception and hence in our continuous effort to serve the consumer better, we have taken the first step of making the packaging of our strategic brands more appealing to the end consumer through the use of graphic imagery.
At B + L, we have always promoted positive change for our consumers with regards to both their appearance and lifestyle. So far, our communication has been to ‘See better. Live better.’ Taking our message forward and incorporating this generation’s thirst for the bigger, better and newer, not just in our products but in themselves, our communication will now focus on transformation.
VP: You talked about innovation which reminds us of B + L’s educational initiative called ‘Mastermind Plus’. How has the programme been received by ECPs?
IC: Education is the key to positive change, and since its inception in India B + L has always focused on practitioner upgradation through various educational programmes. Mastermind Plus has been regarded as an innovative educational initiative since its launch in 2008, and has been well-received throughout India as well as abroad. With new and breakthrough products being launched in India, ECPs need to be aware of the science behind these new materials and products. With Mastermind Plus, we aim to do just that. We have also launched a new programme called ‘Mastermind Premier’ for our exclusive partners. The programme offers a good blend of the latest in contact lenses and consultative selling skills.
VP: Are there any other programmes from B + L that ECPs can benefit from?
IC: Yes, of course. B + L has rolled out various other structured educational initiatives such as ‘Festive Carnival’. Through this platform, practitioners get to share their experiences with others and learn in a fun-filled environment. This program is held in the last quarter of every year. ‘Healthy Eyes Campaign’ has been designed to enhance the practice of dispensing disposable contact lenses, and is a good blend of technical and practical knowledge. ‘Oxygen Quest’ aims to strengthen silicone hydrogel practices.
At B + L, our endeavours are not restricted to facilitating the mere transfer of knowledge. Our core purpose is to increase awareness, and therefore B + L training programmes also have an online portal. Through this portal, practitioners have access to educational resources. Additionally, each program is followed by a rigorous process of final assessment which consists of theory, viva, group discussions and hands-on training and live projects. With the assessments being creative, the practitioners are encouraged to push their limits and prepare the project which has a weightage in the final score as well. It is this blend of comprehensive modules coupled with rigorous training that helps us equip the practitioners with the much-needed competitive edge.
VP: A wonderful insight, Indranil. Thank you for your valuable time, and we wish you the very best.