VisionPlus seeks interesting facts about the history, innovations and revolutions of Bausch + Lomb. Here’s what we learned about the journey and experiences of Jake Kim, Managing Director of Bausch + Lomb, Malaysia and Grace Guang, Managing Director of Bausch +Lomb, Singapore
Bausch + Lomb has been one of the oldest operating companies in the industry. Not to mention, the innovations and the technology breakthroughs have been enough reasons for the limelight. VisionPlus dug a little deeper to understand the facts from the company’s best.
VisionPlus Magazine: To begin with, a brief insight about yourself and your journey in the optical industry? How did your association with B+L start?
Jake Kim: I started my journey with the optical industry in 2010 by joining B+L, Korea as a Managing Director. Prior to that, I worked at industries like consulting, IT and pharmaceutical with various senior positions. When I worked at pharma industry, I realised that working at healthcare industry (whether it is pharma or medical device) is one of the most meaningful ones since we can help people to live a better life. That’s how I joined B+L and optical industry.
Grace Guang: My path into the optical industry wasn’t a straightforward one. After graduating from university in Singapore, I went to the Columbia University to pursue Masters in Law. Then, I worked at a wall street law firm in New York before moving to Hong Kong office.
It was then that I was introduced to the telecom industry, and subsequently joined a global telecom organisation as General Counsel. Reporting to the CEO, my business acumen was recognised and thereafter, I was sponsored to attend Harvard Business School’s General Management Program. After 10 years in telecom, the company was acquired and it was in 2015 that I joined Valeant Pharmaceuticals as Head of Legal & Compliance for Asia Pacific.
Six months later, I was asked to take up the role of Managing Director for Singapore and lead five franchises, including Bausch + Lomb Vision Care and Surgical, iNova Pharmaceuticals and Solta Medical.
VP: How different or challenging is the eye care industry in comparison to other fields?
JK: The basic principle across industries remains that we should do our best to meet our customers’ unmet needs. Customers are always the top priority.
One difference in optical industry is that unlike other industries, we should not only support ECP but also end users. In other industries, we look after our direct customers only. In eye care industry, however, ECPs recommend our products but consumers still make decision on their brands choice especially for cosmetic lens. Thus, marketing to enhance on brand awareness is important in this industry.
VP: How strong is the presence of B+L in the South East Asia region? What are the challenges faced in these regions and how did you combat it?
JK: B+L is one of the most famous contact lens suppliers. Monthly disposable hydrogel lens market is the largest segment in Malaysia and B+L has very strong footprint at this segment.
Like other Asian countries, Malaysian market trends as well are moving towards daily and premium product segment (i.e. SiHy). Our market share at this segment is still picking up since we entered this market a bit later than other competitors. To catch up with this, we actively increase the brand awareness by presenting our products to ECPs. This, in turn, helps raise awareness of our products to the end consumers.
In the lens care segment, we have built a very strong base and are market leaders.
GG: When I took over the business, it had gone through a lot of internal changes. My first task was to assess the current team and make necessary changes. It took a while, but we now have a solid team with the right experience and passion to grow
the business, while satisfying
Singaporeans, particularly, are very discerning consumers, yet we are able to provide them with the very best in lens technology and comfort.
VP: How difficult was it to compete with brands like Johnson & Johnson, Alcon, etc… How would you differentiate B+L from these brands? What are the strategies in place to withstand the competition and how successful have you been so far?
JK: J&J and other multinational companies are strong competitors in Malaysia market. However, B+L has more than 160 years history, as a dedicated eye health company. Our difference from other brands is that B+L is almost the only company that provides all range of products in contact lens and lens care products. It includes single vision lens, specialty lens, cosmetic lens with various modality and lens care solutions. As the global leading contact lens company, it is our responsibility that every consumer should use good quality product.
Cosmetic lens is not very well controlled in Malaysian market, as there are so many unknown brands of cosmetic lens in the country and even illegally sold at places like night markets and on websites. This is one of the reasons why B+L launches cosmetic lens.
GG: It’s always challenging to compete against big players with deep pockets. However, we are consistently able to provide quality innovation incorporating best-in-class technologies that meet the top consumer needs. We do not fight against our competition, nor do we attempt to be like them. Instead
we play upon our strengths and
focus our innovation pipeline in
VP: How is the consumer reception for B+L in SEA?
GG: Last year, we commissioned a market research study with 800 contact lens wearers in Singapore to understand their behaviours, needs, attitudes and brand perceptions better. Through this study, we learned that the equity of Bausch + Lomb far outweighs its current market position.
B+L is top in consumer’s minds and is able to meet the needs of its consumers better than some of our biggest competitors. Consumers recognise and value our long heritage, reputation and technology.
VP: How is the demand scenario of lens versus spectacles?
GG: Singapore is number 1 in the world for the prevalence of childhood myopia in seven to nine year olds. Therefore, it’s safe to say that eye care is of the utmost importance to Singaporeans.
Of course for this age range, parents will opt for spectacles but consumer’s desire for convenience only continues to increase – and at that time they will search for contact lens.
B+L is also able to meet the eye care needs of all consumers with our range of contact lens solution, dry eye and allergy care, vitamins and even cataract needs for our older consumers. From young to old, we are able to be a consistent part of consumer’s eye care regimen, which other contact lens players are unable to do.
VP: What are the expansion plans/ vision of B+L in South East Asia? Any strategies for 2017?
JK: Our vision in B+L is, ‘To be your trusted healthcare partner’. We always place product quality as our highest priority. By doing so, we want to improve people’s lives with our healthcare products. Our 2017 strategy in Malaysia is continuously to become trusted business partner of our ECPs.
GG: Our corporate mission is “To improve people’s lives” and one way we are delivering on this is introducing new product ranges that deliver on the key needs of the consumer – long-hour comfort and moisture and eye health. Globally, we are one of the best-known and most respected healthcare brands in the world, and our future pipeline is just a reflection of this reputation.
Concluding, VisionPlus sought opinion of both Jake and Grace on the latest initiatives in Bausch + Lomb
VP: What is unique about the much hyped Biotrue Oneday ?
JK: Biotrue Oneday is made of a unique material called Hypergel. This material can provide the amount of oxygen needed to maintain healthy, white eyes for daily wear of lenses. The lens is also designed with an outer surface that can prevent evaporation and minimize lens dehydration.
With this unique property, Biotrue Oneday can retain moisture better than leading brand of daily disposable in the market and it can retain moisture even up to 16 hours of lens wear. A study on tear break up time also indicated that Biotrue Oneday can provide a more stable tear film at 12 hours of lens wear when compared with 5 other leading brands of daily disposables lenses available in the market.
VP: How has it been received in the market? What are the challenges for this product?
GG: Biotrue Oneday has been well received by the contact lens consumer. Our market research shows consumers believe that Biotrue Oneday has significant advantages over key competitors. Biotrue Oneday is considered “thin enough to barely feel anything” and ‘healthy for your eyes’ – more than any of the key daily lens competitors. Furthermore, Biotrue Oneday scores extraordinarily high on ‘standing for something unique’ and ‘having distinct product features/benefits’.
VP: Any other new product launches / initiatives?
JK: We are launching Ultra, a monthly replacement silicone hydrogel contact lens, in the SEA market. Ultra is made of an innovative silicone hydrogel material called samfilcon A. The proprietary material in Ultra allows the lens to have a low modulus and high water content while providing excellent oxygen transmissibility.
GG: Another innovation in ULTRA is the MoistureSeal technology which represents a 2-phase polymerization process. Study shows that ULTRA can maintain 95% of its moisture even after 16 hours of lens wear. With the low modulus and this moisture retention capability, Ultra can support excellent wearing comfort from the beginning to the end of the day.
VP: Anything for the beauty lens market?
GG: Currently, we have Naturelle series of beauty lenses in Singapore and we will continue to review our cosmetic
JK: In Malaysia we have launched our Lacelle cosmetic lens in 2014. Now we have our 2nd and 3rd generation of Lacelle in the market. We have a big group of ‘die-hard fans’ who keep pushing us to launch in new ranges as they truly understand our effort to introduce beautiful lenses without compromising on the safety and comfort.