ZEISS Innovations Come From Understanding And Addressing The Real Consumer
Rohan Paul, Head of Vision Care, Commercial, Carl Zeiss India is relatively new to the optical industry as his previous assignments were very different in nature. VisionPlus is ‘In Conversation’ with him to understand his take on the currently trending topics concerning optical business
VisionPlus: Coming from a different industry and being relatively new to the optical industry must have been like taking a big challenge in your career. How different is optical business compared to other businesses and how do you find the new experience of heading ZEISS India operations?
Rohan Paul: Firstly, I would like to use this platform to wish all the readers the best of health in these challenging times.
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work across diverse industries like consumer goods, apparel, and now, of course, the optical industry.
It has been over a year since I joined this industry and I would like to thank all our customers, partners, and my team at ZEISS for welcoming me and continuing to support me in understanding the industry.
Like all industries, the demands of the optical industry consumer are increasingly evolving, and they are demanding better quality, a better buying experience, customized products, and convenience.
Optical stores are aware of the changes in consumer behaviour and are trying to adapt and improve their practice to continue to stay relevant to the consumer of the future.
This role gives me an opportunity to partner with all our customers on this journey. I am proud to be associated with an organization with a rich history of 175 years leading in the field of optics and optoelectronics.
V.P: The present business scenario is rather more challenging than earlier times. How do you find coping up with the time?
RP: The pandemic has affected all of us both personally and professionally. The VUCA world that we live in became more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
We have gone through various phases post COVID-19, in the lockdown when optical stores across the country were by and large closed and then subsequently now when we are in the unlock phase.
The focus has been on connecting with our customers to understand the post-COVID-19 impact on the customer’s business and finding ways to partner with them to help them restart and recover their business.
I am very optimistic about the future and confident that working together, we will emerge out of this stronger.
V.P: Now coming to the real issues of the optical industry is facing. Business is all-time low. What’s your take on the general scene of activities that’s going on in the industry? How do you think getting business back to normal can be made less difficult?
RP: The pandemic had a major impact on most businesses.
However, there have been some businesses that have emerged stronger post-COVID-19. Businesses like edtech, telemedicine and e-commerce have seen a stronger growth post-COVID-19. The reason for the same is that these businesses are relevant to the consumer in the new normal.
The optical industry has been playing an important role in fulfilling a basic consumer need for vision correction. This category(spectacles) is an essential one and therefore, already recovering and in my opinion, will continue to recover strongly.
Also, with consumers now spending a lot of time at home and on screens, consumer vision needs are also evolving, and they are looking for solutions that will help them see better.
The optical business can be more relevant to the consumer by dispensing the right/relevant product portfolio(for example help consumers identify digital eye strain), moving towards omnichannel, providing a safe shopping environment to the consumer and continue to be invested in building customer relationships with the right/empathetic messaging
V.P: Like any other, lens business you must be facing its own problems. How do you assess it in general and how is It effecting ZEISS India?
RP: In the initial unlock phase, we witnessed an impact on the supply chain but focused on servicing our customers well while making sure the right precautions and measures are taken to keep our employees safe.
Thanks to the trust that our customers continue to place on the ZEISS brand and the fact that this is an essential customer need, the business is seeing a strong recovery.
VP: In the competition for market share what is it that ZEISS India does different than its major competitors?
RP: There are a lot of things that differentiate ZEISS from other lens manufacturers.
Our focus on partnering with our customers and not competing with them: We are committed to making our customers more successful in providing high-quality and innovative products and solutions to their consumers.
ZEISS operates across varied segments- Medical Technology, Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology, Consumer Optics, Research Microscopy Solutions, and Industrial Quality Solutions. The comprehensive understanding of optics gives us a unique advantage in our technical expertise and innovations.
Focus on Precision and Innovation: We deliver high quality and precise optical lenses. Our Rx optical lenses are made in our Bengaluru and Delhi labs. The Bengaluru lab is part of the global network of labs that also exports to countries like Italy, France, and Germany.
Over the years, the innovations from ZEISS have been a guiding light for the industry in a lot of ways.
A few examples from history being ZEISS was granted the first patent for manufacturable progressive lenses, ZEISS invented a new way of making progressive lenses with all the progressive optics on the back surface. The list can go on.
Instruments and technology focus: We offer our customers optical instruments that can be seamlessly integrated with their workflow starting from the need analysis to a final pair of lenses. We are focused on digitalization and offer our customers a platform called VISUSTORE to order online. We offer a variety of applications for consultation and measurement. For example, we have an application to identify digital eye strain. India is a key focus market for Carl Zeiss Vision Care. In addition, India also contributes to the Carl Zeiss Vision care globally through manufacturing, IT, and R&D setups.
V.P: ZEISS is known for its high-end products catering to high-income group customers. Does this aspect have any effect on the current market scenario?
RP: I believe that when it comes to spending on health and wellness, the consumer will not compromise on the quality of the product.
Our products are designed based on deep consumer insights and hence the consumer finds value in our products.
This aspect has therefore had no significant impact on the current market scenario.
VP: What are the new product lines ZEISS has introduced in recent times and what is the response you are getting to them from the optician community?
RP: The innovations from ZEISS come from understanding and addressing real consumer needs.
Talking about the more recent innovations, we have ZEISS UVProtect technology that offers full sunglass-level UV protection in all our clear lenses setting a new benchmark for UV protection. We did not patent this technology since we believe that everyone should benefit from this innovation.
Another example of this is the ZEISS SmartLife Lenses. In today’s connected world, consumers are always on the move while focusing on smartphones, laptops, or tablets at the same time. The ZEISS SmartLife lenses are designed for modern, dynamic, connected and on-the-move lifestyle and the associated visual behaviour.
The consumer feedback on the product has been very positive. In a market study conducted in Italy, 96.4% of the consumers rated ZEISS SmartLife Progressive lenses as being better than their previous lenses.
We also launched the ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 that offers highly accurate 3D centration and innovative features to create a memorable experience for patients.
The response from our customers also has been extremely encouraging. We remain committed to continuing to innovate in our products, services, and solutions.
VP: It’s time for all stakeholders to come together and help each other in this difficult time to see that the business bounces back and grow. How does ZEISS help opticians to sell more products to their customers?
RP: We reached out to all our customers with StrongerTomorrow initiatives which covered the following:
- Webinars on product training and understanding the consumer behaviour post-COVID-19: These were organized during the lockdown so that our customers are ready for a strong recovery.
- Initiatives on Safety and Hygiene: Hygiene boxes with high-quality PPE, training on how to maintain safety and hygiene in stores post COVID-19
- Relevant products: Launch of protective glasses. We are also launching a ZEISS AntiFOG solution in the Indian market by the end of October.
- Relevant technology: Contactless consultation- most of the instruments that we offer can be operated by keeping a safe distance between the patient and the examiner. Teleoptometry solutions that also allow the devices operations and consultations to happen remotely.
- Digital Marketing support: We work with our customers to further advance their digital presence through consultation on their online presence and partner with them on digital campaigns to increase customer footfalls.
- ZEISS Business Partner Programs: We launched the ZEISS Vision Expert program to facilitate the optical store to provide their consumers with an elevated and holistic retail experience from the moment they enter the store till the spectacles get handed over.