Siraj Bolar, Editor-in-Chief, in conversation with Stephane Hastings Director of Sales International Markets and Co-Founder of Swiss Eyewear Group (International) AG, as he delves deeper into the inception of Invu Optics and its presence across the globe
INVU™ ultra polarised was brought to market with an objective of launching the next generation global polarising brand. The combination of outstanding lens performance with state-of-the-art design offers customers an exceptional and unique experience differentiating the product from others.
INVU™ is a registered trademark of Swiss Eyewear Group (International) AG and is currently distributed in more than 55 countries worldwide. In this edition, Siraj Bolar, Editor-in-Chief, VisionPlus Magazine, talks to
Siraj Bolar (SB): Hi Stephane…You were previously associated to Polaroid. How was your experience there and how has it helped you with the development of Invu Optics?
Stephane Hastings (SH): I joined Polaroid in 2001 and was associated to the company till 2011. By 2007, I was the head of the export market for Polaroid. After Safilo acquired the Polaroid business in 2011, I decided to leave. Soon after, I met with my colleagues from Polaroid. These included the CEO of Polaroid, Subsidiary Manager and even the Italian designer. All of them left Polaroid one by one and by 2013 we decided to come together to form our own company.
At the time when Polaroid was acquired, the reason why I decided to leave was because they were proposing a different culture to what we had in mind. Having said that, I have nothing against the group that acquired Polaroid. They have their expertise in eyewear brands, it’s just a difference of philosophy.
The reason why I am talking about this is because it formed the base for our decision to go ahead with our decision to go for this business with Invu. I remember that when I joined Polaroid in 2001, the total business was less than 20 million Euros. But, by the time, they acquired it in 2011, it was doing business worth 60 million Euros. This was success because we had surely increased sales as well as awareness. I thought to myself, if we could do this with Polaroid, we surely understood what was needed to drive the brand to success.
And so we decided to join hands, step by step, we moved towards taking the decision of initiating our own business with Swiss Eyewear Group in March 2013. We launched a few months later in July 2013. Our philosophy continues to be simple, we want to be same, same because we are dealing with Polarised eyewear, but at the same time, we want to ensure that our products are different.
SB: What is the story behind the name Invu?
SH: After we left Polaroid and were still working on the formation of our business, there were many suggestions for the name. We put together a list of almost five hundred names. Initially, we also thought of sounding similar to Polaroid but that idea was dropped. In fact, the amazing part is that while the entire project took two months to plan, it took us four months to come up with the right name. Then one of us suggested Invu and it clicked instantly. The idea was ‘vu’ in every language means vision and ‘in’ resonates with trends or fashion. So putting the two together pretty much conveyed our purpose. That was the moment when we zeroed in on the name.
There was a little challenge when it came to popularising the name in some part of the world like France. But, even in these places, I owe it to my distributors to popularise the brand name.
SB: What about the challenges that you faced while creating a new brand in the form of Invu Optics.
SH: In the initial phase, we had various lengthy discussions on how to go about it in terms of grading and positioning the brand. The thing is that we already had the knowledge and that gave us the confidence to go ahead. With this in mind, we started approaching our vendors and pitched the idea to them. We invited them to join us for a different experience and gradually they came on board. We assured them of our commitment of creating something different and thus were convinced. Till date, our sole focus has been on providing polarised sunglasses at an affordable price.
In fact, I am sure that we have met this motive. After all, our collection would have been a disaster unless it wouldn’t have been well-balanced and living up to the expectations of our stakeholders. Today, the number one concern for us is the end-consumer and with this focus in mind, we continue to strive towards delivering the best for our customers. This philosophy has helped us tackle our challenges.
In the initial phase, we were not even present at MIDO so the first sales pitches were made to the people that we, the founders, had in our group. But, soon everything began to gain momentum and the growth happened.
SH: According to me, everyone is a customer for polarised sunglasses or eyewear. I firmly believe that once people will know about the polarised sunglasses, they will end up buying it. After all, polarised sunglasses offer excellent advantages and so they are an excellent choice for customers. Initially, even I was not very interested in Polarised eyewear but as I learnt more about the technology, I became a fan.
Another category of customers that I would want the Polarised sunglasses to reach out to is children. Yes! All over the world, it is a common to see parents wear expensive sunglasses but their children go about their routine without this protection and that is dangerous.
SB: There is an interesting concept behind the ad for Invu…can you elaborate on the same?
SH:Yes! Of course. Most people look at polarisation, as a mere technical feature in their eyewear. But, there are immense benefits associated to this technology that ultimately benefit the customers. In order to make them buy, it is important for them to be convinced about the benefits. Our advertisement has been designed with this insight in the background.
As you would see, in our ads, the star is the sunglasses. This is because we want to talk to ordinary people. We have conducted studies where we have learnt that in most advertisements, customers focus on the model more than the eyewear. We did not want that and so our advertisements are different, talking clearly about the benefits for the end-consumer.
SB: How do you ensure that the benefits that are so strongly advocated by the brand are conveyed to the end-consumer as well?
SH: For starters, we have special training modules. Initially, when distributors go to Zurich, they are given a chance to select the products for their region and they are also given specific training modules. We have a common training kit that comprehensively covers all benefits. Additionally, our product comes with specific merchandise where we simply ask our customers to wear the eyewear and experience the difference.
SB: What is your take on the demand of in the Middle East?
SH: Dubai is one of the most important markets for us. We are focusing on strengthening our network of distributors in order to ensure that our products are able to reach out to the Middle Eastern consumers.
SB: Thank you for sharing the information Stephane. Here is wishing you the best of luck for your future endeavours.