Road Ahead: Time to Change

Indian Optical market while offering many exciting opportunities and new horizons, yet has its own challenges in terms of managing profitability. Ramachandran Parthasarathy shares his thoughts on how we can overcome this.

Traditional Indian independent optical retailing business has been going through transitional change of guard from the senior members handing over the business to the newer generations. The newer generation in comparison to previous has by and large taken the mantle well and are accelerating their ambitions in professionalising the optical stores. In this direction, while maintaining competitiveness and business secrecy, there are elements of areas wherein the optician community can join hands to leverage the strength and become stronger. As the saying goes, in unity there’s always strength. In the highly competitive and fragmented scenario, however, it is easier said than done!

On this specific subject I recollect Shri Darshanlal Madan, the respected personality of the optical industry in India as well as outside of it and indicating the need for having a platform to get all the opticians together for a common purpose of overall optical business and for mutual benefit of all. He had indicated to me during a meeting of both of us that the members of the community must enjoy the benefits by getting operational excellence in bringing all of the optical fraternity together. According to him the advantage of having this joining together of independent opticians as a commercial venture would be like being a buying group of a kind which can also participate in government tenders for spectacles procurement on a cost plus model. More importantly, the procurements of ancilliary products relating to optical dispensing can be done in bulk quantities taking advantage of better pricing. What it also needs is the suppliers assurance of timely payment for the procurement.

I am endorsing this thought and trying to take it a bit forward here.

If a group on the basis of this thought is formed, I strongly feel that it’s important that the independent identity of the respective opticians will have to be respected and maintained. At the backend it can look at the common approach in footfall generations, inventory management etc. that goes to help the group as a whole. Interestingly this business model is operative in Europe and in the United States of America already and have been fairly successful. Some had also ventured in India earlier but failed due to some reasons and a few business houses have launched similar models in India recently.  

In order to make this model successful a few guidelines and conditions have to be followed and one of them is there must be an independent paid professional heading this and must be made accountable to its performance to the expected level. There must be a task force to work on this with clear time lines and milestone to be achieved .

The model can be evolved from time to time with discussions with all stake holders. The group thus formed must also certainly work towards being revenue positive and plough back the surplus to all the members.

Another area wherein the common strength can derive is under CSR activities. The group with an identity of its own can offer services and spectacles to the needy thereby undertaking social causes.

I firmly believe that this model can certainly transform the way the business is currently done and bring in more profitablity to the member stores.

If we take a step forward in this logically possible proposition we must also acknowledge that the implementation of this idea needs strong conviction, precise execution and trust . My personal view is that it can work if there is a burning desire to do something that can be of good  for the entire industry and is self sustainable .

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