“Even With The Advent Of Online, Business Has Grown”

Siraj Bolar, Editor-in-Chief, VisionPlus Magazine, talks to Amarbir Singh, Director, Sales & Operation, South Asia, and Ronak Sheth, Director, from the Eternity Lifestyles team, to get an insight into the company’s way forward

Distributors to some of the finest international brands including Cartier, Chrome Hearts and Maybach, Eternity Lifestyles has recently acquired the distribution of Kering’s portfolio of brands which includes names like Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and many more. Launched in 1999, Eternity has indeed grown, and its endeavour to grow further, the company has recently got Amarbir Singh on board as Director
Sales & Operations.

In this edition, Siraj Bolar, Editor-in-Chief, VisionPlus Magazine talks to Amarbir Singh and Ronak Sheth to understand the impact of this recent acquisition and their growth plans in the months that follow.

Siraj Bolar (SB): Hello, Amarbir. Tell us a little about your experience in the eyewear industry, particularly your association to Safilo.

in-conversation-amarbir-singhAmarbir Singh (AS):  I joined Safilo way back in 2003 as the Regional Sales Manager. My profile included taking care of the sales in the North and Eastern India regions. I remained in this position for the next five years. Later on, I was promoted as the position General Sales Manager. This promotion came with the additional responsibility of the SAARC nations.

In my thirteen years long association to Safilo, I consolidated the dealer network, gradually we even made a foray into distribution and with Vittorio we got the opportunity of entering into the smallest markets of India.

SB: Why did you decide to move to Eternity Lifestyles?

AS: I believe, it was time for me to move out because I was looking for bigger opportunities. That’s when I joined Eternity Lifestyles. I came on board as Director Sales & Operation, South Asia.

Additionally, Eternity has a brand portfolio, which I think did not exist in Safilo. For instance, in Safilo, the brand portfolio was from Vittorio to fashion and luxury. But in Eternity, the scenario is very different. In Eternity, we have the best brands. In fact, I would call it a very balanced portfolio, this includes the top luxury brands as well.

Even with the Kerring group brands being added to our portfolio, we are adding more balance to our bouquet of offerings. For instance, we have the top luxury brands, the luxury brands and at the starting level, we also have our in-house brands like Opium.

I believe that this balance in portfolio has made us one of the strong players in the market.

SB: Coming to you Ronak, how do you think Amarbir’s addition to Eternity Lifestyles can help the brand grow stronger?

vp-india-2016-mar-apr-page-24-25-28-30-in-conversation-amarbir-singh (1)Ronak Sheth (RS): As a company, we have always been focused on being at the top. So, we were looking for a person who would be able to shape the vision and helpful fulfil the goals that we three directors have with regards to Eternity Lifestyes.

In fact, for a very long time we knew that Amarbir was the right guy for this job. It just took us some time to approach him to convince him and get him on board.

In Amarbir, we see that leader who will take Eternity Lifestyles to the next level. We have a lot of brands that we are adding up including the Kerring portfolio which in itself is large. Even our in-house brand, Opium is growing strong. With Amarbir on-board, we are keen to look into not just the Indian markets but explore options in the international markets as well.

As directors, we appreciate Amarbir’s ability to be constantly updated with the market dynamicity. He is a great individual and has an excellent rapport with all the customers. In fact, while being connected to the market, he is amongst the few who can envisage the macro level development and accordingly help us grow.

SB: Moving on, What is your take on the evolution of eyewear trade in the last ten years in India when compared to the International markets?

AS: There is a sea change in the trade. I joined Bausch & Lomb in 1992 so my association to optical trade is quite old. I feel there are major changes, not just in the way opticians do business but also how companies participate in this trade. Be it marketing strategies or the display that they want in the store, one can see this change reflect prominently.

For instance, in case of opticians, second and third generations are running the stores. These people travel abroad, get exposure and are often inspired by these trends leading to their introduction here. Very often, even the company supports their decision to innovate and present the products differently. Ultimately, this change is for the better.

RS: Of course, the industry has changed a lot and continues to dynamically change even today. I believe, it is necessary to have this change or shake up occasionally, since it encourages you to do business differently. By far, I would say that the biggest change that the optical trade has seen in the last few years is the dawn of the online retailing. However, it is disappointing to see that most people perceive this medium only through the discounts its offers.

The perception that brands are perceived only through their price tags leads to the whole idea of the pride associated to owing a branded product getting lost somewhere. Additionally, when they buy unbranded products at cheap prices, they don’t bother about investigating the details about product quality, lens type, etc. This is one effect, that I would not be in favour of.

From the eyewear industry perspective, I would say, the coming of online has somewhere degraded brand value. But, as usual, there are pros and cons to all advantages. For instance, even with the advent of online, the business has grown.

SB: What is your opinion on the brands like Gucci, AMQ and many other that Eternity has recently included in its portfolio?

AS: I am confident that Eternity will benefit from this addition to its existing portfolio. The new portfolio is not just related to fashion, it is related to top luxury , fashion and sports. I think, the addition of this portfolio will help us capture all price segments and age categories which in turn will help us grow our market.

vp-india-2016-mar-apr-page-24-25-28-30-in-conversation-amarbir-singhSB: According to you, which is a better revenue sunglasses or prescription eyewear frame?

RS: On the branded side, I would say sunglasses and prescription eyewear generate the same revenue. However, I would also like to add that it is time opticians acknowledge the potential of the sunglasses. In course of the last 4 to 5 years, sunglasses have become more of a fashion tool. Consumers are buying more sunglasses.

However, their point of purchase is shifting from opticians to other commercial set-ups. In contrast to this, the few opticians who chose to stick around with the sunglasses as part of their product portfolio, are making a lot of profit simply because they could think against the trend of being purely into prescription eyewear.

AS: Adding to what Ronak said, I would also say both categories are good but for the opticians, I believe, prescription eyewear is a happier sale. The reason for this is simple. For instance, when he sells a prescription eyewear, he sells the frame as well as the lens. Additionally, sunglasses purchase is more impulsive while prescription eyewear gives him a loyal customer.

SB: What are the key initiatives that Eternity would be undertaking to strengthen its relationship with the opticians in India?

RS: We, as a company believe, that better relationship with our customers (opticians to be precise) will help us grow. We are currently working on a method to categorise our customers that will help us provide better
services to our customers according to their merit.

Another key initiative that we are undertaking is the introduction of better technology driven channels for the distribution towards the customer. We are focusing on developing something more technology oriented that will help them do better business

SB: What is your take on online retailing and now that you have been introduced to our new concept through YouAndEyeOnline, how do you think it can help the industry?

AS: I think it’s a great platform. Something like this can truly help the industry grow!

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