Lenskart: Providing Vision to India
One company has shown the world that passion is the foundation of a strong business.
There are 15 million blind people in India, which is more than in any other country. Furthermore, a third of India's population needs glasses but doesn't have access to them. With those pain points in view, there's been an urgent need to add value to customers' lives.
Making high-quality, affordable prescription glasses available to those in need can instantly impact lives. No one knows that better than ex-Microsoft 'techie' Peyush Bansal, who, along with Amit Chaudhary and Sumeet Kapahi, founded Lenskart under their parent organization 'VALYOO technologies.'
Lenskart was launched in November 2010, when there was no other optical online store in India. Peyush along with his co-founders spotted the opportunity and went on to fill that void. With their humble start, they proved that if you have no money but have truckloads of relentless passion, you can make a big impact in the world.
Stick around to read the story about a company whose founders started with very little, grew very big, and gave India its vision.
Peyush Bansal - Giving India Vision
Peyush Bansal grew up in a middle-class family in Delhi. He is the youngest of two brothers and has a sister. The three siblings were born to their Chartered Accountant father, Bal Kishan Bansal, and mother, Kiran Bansal. Peyush's parents' supportive nature and their stress on a good education hugely impacted his academic achievements.
Failing to crack the entrance test of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Peyush looked to Canada to pursue higher studies. After completing his Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering from McGill University in Canada, in 2007, he took up a job as a Program Manager at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. The gig at Microsoft seemed to be an ideal start for Peyush as he has always considered Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates an inspirational figure.
At Microsoft, his work involved developing ways to enhance customer experience. But, it was a job he didn't fancy much. He ended up quitting after about a year, a sudden decision that shocked his parents and friends.
His next move was to chase his passion for entrepreneurship with the kind of drive inspired by Bill Gates. So, he traveled back to his homeland India and started sifting through startup ideas he could pursue. After much deliberation, he started a campus classifieds portal he named SearchMyCampus.
The portal was a bootstrapped venture and was a success. Meanwhile, Peyush looked again to academia and pursued a management diploma in entrepreneurship from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM Bangalore).
Realizing that services businesses are relatively challenging to scale up, Peyush now wanted to pursue something much bigger. Shifting gears, he wanted to get into a product-based business. Thus, to give full attention to his next business venture, he started by winding up SearchMyCampus.
By now, a couple of years had passed since Peyush left his Microsoft stint. He felt the time was ripe for him to embark upon his next journey— to launch a product-focused e-commerce website.
That website was Lenskart, and it came when India wasn't quite ready for e-commerce.
When Peyush and Amit launched Lenskart (before Sumeet was taken on board), they began by selling contact lenses only. Witnessing a sudden success, they expanded into eyeglasses, followed by sunglasses.
The Lenskart Co-Founders
Amit Chaudhary is a Computer Science Engineer from the Birla Institute of Technology in Ranchi. He's an avid traveler in his spare time. He's also known to be a maverick leader and an incredible motivator. At work, Amit is at the helm of innovations at Lenskart. He is well-versed and passionate about technology, operations, analytics, and organizational development, which brought revolutionary growth to Lenskart. He's the reason behind Lenskart's rapid physical store expansion.
The third co-founder, Sumeet Kapahi, was roped in a year after the company was founded. Sumeet got his post-secondary education from the University of Delhi. Before joining Lenskart, he was a business development manager at Luxottica India Eyewear (Ray-Ban). Today, he is a partner and VP (Supply) at Lenskart.
About 12 years after its birth, Lenskart has maintained a firm position as the leading eyewear portal in India. It delivers to more than 450 cities. What started as an e-commerce company now has over 1000 stores in India.
So, how did such a small Delhi NCR (National Capital Region) based startup become among India's leading brands for eyewear? The answer lies in Lenskart's business model.
Seeing Through the Lens
Lenskart's business model is inventory-driven with a B2C concept. The company experiences cost-effectiveness due to having control of the entire supply chain. They pass over the benefit of cost-effectiveness to the customers through low pricing of high-quality eyewear.
For just Rs. 399 (USD 5.14), sitting at home, you could buy a high-quality pair of frames fitted with prescription lenses. With their 48-hour free home delivery guarantee and a 365 days return policy on offer, Lenskart was headed towards success.
Lenskart sources proportionately from India and China. They have in-house designers and stylists who come up with trendy eyewear designs. These designs are then passed on to the manufacturers.
Owing to its business model, Lenskart became a successful e-commerce company within the first few years of its inception.
The company ticked all the boxes early on due to its viable business plan. Thus, the company gained a rapidly growing following due to its easy-to-navigate website, competitive prices, and extensive range of eyewear.
But that's not all. The customer base grew further due to Lenskart's home trial service. The service was the first of its kind in India. It allowed customers to try on the eyeglasses they shortlisted online before buying them.
In 2014, there was a slight update to the initial business model. With the support of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, Lenskart opened its first franchised brick-and-mortar store.
Before, the company was successful. But now, the company could take off with a mix of online and offline revenue streams. The working together of both elements helped increase the touchpoints to reach the maximum number of customers.
Physical spaces help scale up the business, as visiting a store allows customers to try the eyeglasses before buying them. Now, keeping with the current momentum of rapid expansion, Lenskart targets opening about 2,000 stores in India.
Lenskart’s Path To Success
The story of Lenskart is proof that a small startup can make it big in India. The company's success has far exceeded everyone's expectations. Even the investors didn't expect such a huge impact.
The clear path to success is a direct result of Lenskart's offerings. They offer a more personalized shopping experience. Customers can try on glasses before buying. There's also a wider variety of glasses to choose from than competitors.
Furthermore, high-quality manufacturing units are set up to enable direct supplies of products to consumers around the country. Precision and quality are achieved through in-house robotic lens manufacturing and assembly.
It's a given that lower prices help boost sales. But, to attract even more customers and grow the brand, the company invests heavily in advertising and marketing.
Finally, Lenskart's amazing employees are another powerful reason for making the company India's leading eyewear brand.
In the early days, Lenskart co-founders used their own (though limited) funds to bootstrap the company and grow it organically. By 2021, Lenskart had amassed $899.3M in funding over 12 rounds, reaching unicorn status less than a decade after the launch.
SoftBank and Temasek Holdings mainly back the startup. Lenskart's present (2022) valuation of over $4.3 billion followed the latest funding round (13th), raising a further $100 million.
As a leading Indian omnichannel retailer and eyewear manufacturer, Lenskart claims to serve over 7 million customers annually. A target that's not difficult to achieve since the company offers an end-to-end experience to its customers, including home eye check-ups, 3D try-on, and home trials.
Lenskart has close to 1000 store locations spread across 175+ locations in India. Smooth operations are possible because of the company's 5,000+ employees. Among these employees are 200 product designers, data scientists, and engineers.
Lenskart is well on its way to conquering the Indian eyewear market. As per its plans, the company will utilize its capital for domestic and international expansion. Over the past year, it has already expanded into Dubai, Singapore, and the US.
Through their vision, "Vision to India," the company targets reaching the masses through the existing low-cost franchise model. The company plans to open 400 new retail stores in India in the next financial year. It envisions gaining 50% of the eyewear market share in India by the next few years.
Lenskart continues penetrating tier 2, 3, and 4 cities of India through its Lenskart Lite model (simpler storefronts). In addition, the company intends to go public in India and perhaps globally in the next two years.
As the company crosses boundaries to scale new heights, it will keep making quality eyewear for ordinary people at modest markups.
As for the key takeaway, Lenskart's success mantra lives up to the words of its founder Peyush Bansal, "As a budding entrepreneur, one should focus on value creation more than anything else."