“Our Expansion Strategies Have Been Aggressive…”

VisionPlus talks to Sudershan Binani, Director of Himalaya Optical, to get an insight into the company’s way of working, future plans and their latest innovative offering- Eye Boutique

Since its inception in the year 1935, Himalaya Optical has been dedicated towards the cause of offering quality eyewear to its customers. Headquartered in Kolkata, Himalaya Optical has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Today, it has 76 optical stores spread across major cities in India and specialises in offering a wide array of products which include designer frames, branded sunglasses and contact lenses.

Recently nominated as the President of the All India Optical Federation, Sudershan Binani, the Director of Himalaya Optical, talks to VisionPlus about the recent trends in the optical industry as well as the road ahead for the brand.

VisionPlus (VP): What is your take on the evolution of eyewear industry in the last ten years?

Sudershan Binani (SB): Globalisation has played a crucial role in our country’s development and it has had far reaching effects on consumer behaviour and market demand. The optical industry has also evolved simultaneously as a result of this trend. Our data patterns indicate customers are demanding globally recognised brands and exclusive products. Furthermore, customers are using various mediums to seek information and their purchasing patterns are also influenced by various social mediums. Thus, this evolved consumer behaviour presents itself as an extended opportunity for this trade.

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Sudershan Binani, Director, Himalaya Optical

VP: Please elaborate a little on how Himalaya has grown as a brand in the last one year?

SB: Himalaya has been consistently growing for the last few decades. This has been possible extensively due to the support of our team of employees and of course the love and appreciation that we receive from our customers. Ever since our inception, our primary motto has been to innovate and differentiate our offerings. This has helped us engage our customers in a better way and also strengthened our brand. In the last one year as well, we have continued to pursue this passion to innovate and the result is seen in the form of our recently inaugurated Eye Boutique stores.

In fact, we are always striving to develop newer retail formats and concept stores like Himalaya Eye Boutique to enhance our brand image and personality. Thanks to our consistent growth, our target of reaching the 100 stores milestone is soon going to be a reality. As of now, I am also proud to say that we are closer to touch the magic figure of 100 stores earlier than its set target, which was 2018. Our expansion strategies have been aggressive for the tier 2 and tier 3 cities that have showcased immense potential where we aspire to be a major player.

VP: Which according to you earns more revenues, niche eyewear or the popular brands and why?

SB: In my opinion both these segments have their own market. More so because the consumer demands are constantly evolving. Additionally, as the consumer awareness increases, the market dynamics also keep changing. However, in case of our optical stores, majority of Himalaya’s revenues come from globally recognised brands and their unique collection designed exclusively for us.

VP: Recently Himalaya has introduced the country to its new concept- Eye Boutique. Please tell us a little about this new format and what inspired its creation?

SB: I would say that with this concept, the challenge was to defy the old rules and present something unique to the consumers. Eye Boutique is an endeavour to bring into the Indians an array of ‘brands with a difference’ under one roof. In the domain of eyewear, there are a few brands that have transcended the conventional definition of the term luxury and refined style across generations. With Eye Boutique, we are focusing on bringing these brands and related offerings to the customers. Each Boutique store is unique in its own way and that is what separates this from the regular stores. Even the store layout has been exclusively designed keeping in mind the luxury and sophistication associated to the products that it houses.

VP: What is the USP of Eye Boutiques and how does it offer a different experience when compared to the other Himalaya stores?

SB: Indians diligently nurse the prejudice that luxury eyewears are either available abroad or in the shops at airport premises. At Himalaya Optical, we believe otherwise. Our efforts are directed towards breaking the long term prejudice, hence brands with a difference is our USP. Our boutique stores house the ultra premium brands like Lindberg, Maybach, Chrome Hearts, Cartier, DITA and many other renowned ones. This makes it a one of its kind experience for the customer from the minute they set foot into the shop.

VP: How has the response to the eye boutique concept been so far?

SB: Eye Boutique is a relatively nascent concept when you look at the Indian optical market. However, the response has been overwhelming! In spite of its recent opening, these boutique stores have been successful in breaking the myth that premium luxury eyewears are only available abroad. We are extremely happy with the way the concept is performing and look forward to its gaining more prominence in the future.

VP: When do you plan to expand the concept to the other parts of the country?

SB: As of now, the first phase of the Eye Boutique stores has been restricted to Kolkata. However, this is the initial phase. We plan to take this further and make it grow. Our intentions are to expand Himalaya’s boutique stores in different parts of the country targeting cities where our stores are currently present. As the boutique store format requires very high investments, thus its proliferation across India will depend upon the city’s potential.

VP: Please elaborate a little on the future plans of Himalaya Optical.

SB: Our expansion strategies are primarily focused towards the major tier 2 and tier 3 cities. However, our key focus is on enhancing our customer’s shopping experience through our stores as well as our offerings. As you would be aware, the concept of omnichannel retailing has been strewing all across the globe and its impact on India is also growing.

In light of these developments, we are restructuring our operational mechanism by introducing digital technologies and streamlined procedures to offer our customers the perfect balance of personal touch and technological benefits that can be derived. We are endeavouring to position Himalaya as an omnichannel brand that provides customers the best of both online and offline shopping experience.

VP: How do you think that the coming of online retail has impacted the business of optical traders?

SB: With the world going digital, optical business is no exception to the trend. When one looks at online retail in optical trade, one conclusion that can be arrived upon is that it has been successful in reaching remote areas of our country where access to standardised products was limited due to the absence of established physical retailers. Furthermore, these newer channels have opened up a new horizon for the trade. However, when you look at its impact on physical retailers, it has been negligible; and in fact made our trade more prominent helping us derive various supplementary benefits.

VP: We hear that you have initiated a new association with a group of opticians?

SB: Yes, that is correct. I have recently been nominated as the President of the All India Optical Federation. Currently, all states have their own optical associations; however these associations were operating independently. This federation will work towards bridging the gap between the objectives of these associations individually. Basically, we have created this federation to further organise the industry.

VP: What are the kind of initiatives that you plan to undertake as part of this association?

SB: As of now, the key initiatives that this federation will focus on are as mentioned below:

To represent the opticians to the government with respect to the problems and issues associated with the optical sector and help them arrive at solutions

To create a minimum standard of operational procedures and product quality at all the associated opticians. This will ensure the uniform growth of the industry throughout the country

Finally, to act as a catalyst and create synergy between manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers for efficient operations

VP: How do you see the way forward for the optical industry in the year that follows for the optical industry?

SB: The optical industry in recent times has witnessed various innovations at different levels of the business mechanism. Initiated from the use of the online space and digital technologies to offering competitive pricing; the optical industry, in my opinion, is again moving towards a more service oriented approach, simply due to the customisation required for every pair of spectacles/sunglasses. These new developments have however affected the service expectations from the customer’s viewpoint, making the use of newer technologies in this service oriented approach extremely crucial.

VP: Thank you for your insights Mr Binani. We wish you all the very best for all your future endeavours.

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