His deep understanding of human capital, organisation development and finance has brought in a revolutionary transformation in his ventures
Peyush Bansal has established himself as not just a passionate online entrepreneur with four successfully running online portals, but also as an expert in the eye wear industry. Under his leadership, LensKart has emerged as the industry leader in its category and has been instrumental in the success of the company in a fiercely competitive market. We get talking to know more about this dynamic individual and his vision for business…
VisionPlus (VP): To start with, could you please give us a brief introduction about yourself, and your days at Microsoft?
Peyush Bansal (PB): I did my engineering from McGill University in Canada and landed in the US. That’s when I worked for Microsoft. My job in Microsoft was to think about additional features which could be incorporated into the product to make it better.
I would say that I started my career with Internet-based innovations by launching India’s first online campus classifieds portal, Searchmycampus.com in 2007. The portal helped college students meet their basic needs of finding affordable accommodation, books, tutorials, food, etc.
After attaining sufficient success and profound knowledge in the domain of e-markets, I started Valyoo Technologies in 2008. I pride myself on my ability to connect the dots from strategy to tactics, and this is what helped me to lay the foundation of Lenskart.com in November 2010. Since then, the company has become known for providing great value for money and customised eye-wear products. Once the company managed to gain a good grip over the eye-wear market, I started targeting other verticals such as watches, bags and jewellery with other ventures including WatchKart.com, JewelsKart.com and BagsKart.com.
VP: We are sure your Microsoft experience must have given you the initial push for your online venture. Can you explain your experience there?
PB: Even though I was working with a company like Microsoft, I was not satisfied with my work there – which was making already happy Microsoft users happier. That’s when I realised that I wanted to solve bigger issues. I also realised that I wanted to do something more customer-focused.
VP: At what stage of your life did you think that you are an entrepreneur and not a worker, and you should try your hand in business?
PB: I wanted to do something on the Internet. My first venture (Searchmycampus), which was centred on college students, wasn’t purely about e-commerce. It was mainly about connecting college students to someone who can provide services to them – very similar to classifieds. The only thing we were not doing was making a transaction on the Internet.
The ads on the website earned us revenues. We also built websites for colleges and those who owned hostels. But the model that primarily worked was selling leads to educational institutes and PGs.
Classifieds, as a model, was not making money and was not scalable. We wanted to do something that would scale up fast. That is when we shifted gears and came up with the idea of LensKart. We launched LensKart.com with the help of some funding. This left us with huge targets. Gradually, we found that it was not possible to keep Searchmycampus.com live since we would not have been able to attend to customers.
We then shut Searchmycampus.com in 2010 as we did not have time and energy to look for someone to sell it off. Eventually, we wanted to offer more related services to customers and we set up BagsKart, Watchkart and JewelsKart.
VP: How has the journey been for Lenskart so far, right from the beginning till now..
PB: Lenskart.com is India’s largest online retailer of fashionable and stylish eyeglasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. Started in 2010, Lenskart.com has today firmly established its position as the leading eye-wear portal in the country. In the last three years, the company has seen remarkable growth with a 300 per cent increase in its turnover and an employee strength that currently stands at 150.
Lenskart.com offers over 5,000 stylish frames and glasses and more than 45 kinds of high quality, scratch resistant and unbreakable branded contact lenses. It offers one of the biggest selections of prescribed and fashion eye-wear from all leading manufacturers of the world such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Tag Heuer, Fastrack, Sprint, Vintage, Johnson & Johnson, Ciba Vision, Bausch + Lomb, and CooperVision, etc.
As of now, it’s been funded by two venture capitalists, namely IDG Ventures and Ronnie Screwvala-led Unilazer Ventures.
Already delivering in more than 450 cities in India, the website offers unparalleled services such as help for eye-wear selection online, stringent quality checks, personalised services, prompt deliveries, one year product warranty, 14-days no-questions-asked return policy, convenient payment options and unbeatable prices.
The fact that there is no middleman involved means the company can pass on the benefit of reduced costs to the customers in the form of almost 70% lower prices. The frames at Lenskart.com are crafted in some of the finest production lines in the world and are inspected thrice before being delivered.
VP: Lenskart didn’t limit to only eye-wear products.. You did go beyond, creating Watchkart and Jewelskart. How was that experience?
PB: As we became the market leaders with Lenskart, we started looking at other verticals. The result was the launch of Watchkart in May 2011, Bagskart in August 2011 and Jewelskart in 2012.
The success of Lenskart and the impeccable customer experience that we had learnt to offer – through Lenskart – encouraged us to get into more verticals. Watchkart emerged as a category leader, even as other e-commerce horizontals got into selling watches aggressively. On the other hand, Jewelskart always faced stiff competition with some existing good players in the online market. However, it surpassed all hurdles with its competitive prices, authentic jewellery and innovative contemporary designs.
VP: How would you describe an online customer and also, how he or she is different from a regular high street shopper?
PB: Online consumers are net savvy and feel more empowered – they can check prices actively across offline and online retail. There have been instances where consumers check or try brands in retail outlets and then buy them online.
Consumers are now much more aware. They read and share a lot online. It’s not easy to get away with things. The online world has opened a direct channel between consumers and brands/retailers – a world where problem solving is much faster as compared to offline retail.
VP: How would compare Lenskart with other popular online shops like say, Flipkart?
PB: We can comfortably say that we are the only player selling prescription eyeglasses in the industry.
Secondly, the difference is in depth of stocking the range. Being a vertical retailer, we have certain specialisation which a horizontal player would find hard to focus on.
VP: From some of the services Lenskart is offering to its customers, which ones do you consider more attractive than, or different from, other online shops?
PB: Keeping up its constant endeavour to increase convenience for customers, Lenskart.com also offers the unique service of home check-ups in top eight metropolitan cities. Our optometrist visits your doorstep, conducts the eye test and brings a variety of over 200 top-selling frames for you to choose from. The optometrist then places an online order for your lenses as per your prescription.
We have been improving our ‘virtual try-on’ facility where people can try frames online. We are also working on some new stuff that you can access on mobile and which will be released soon. People can order only the lenses—if they wear spectacles, LensKart picks it up, fits lenses and returns it to the customer.
Besides, we have launched a ‘doctor locator’ feature. We are scaling up our home eye check-up service which is running in seven cities. We were attending people in a week’s time and now we hope to do that within 24 hours.
We have launched another service where you can order five frames which are sent through courier. The user can try them and place an order.
VP: We understand you have now ventured into offline retailing as well. Is it because e-commerce is not as attractive business proposition as you perhaps thought?
PB: It is a franchise model. Optometrists are signing up, opening stores and becoming partners with LensKart. We have 20 offline stores. Most of these are in tier II cities.
We want to look at all the reasons why a consumer will not buy from LensKart. One of the reasons is that they want to get their eyes checked. Our offline franchise stores help people get their eyes checked. We are mainly expanding these stores to tier II and III cities where there are not good eye check-up facilities as well as a good range (of spectacles) for customers to choose from.
VP: How do you plan to expand Lenskart in the future?
PB: Our plan is to make spectacles accessible to everyone in India. Anyone who needs a vision correction or doesn’t need any should buy spectacles from LensKart. We will set up 100 retail stores across the country over the next two years as we aim to strengthen our offline presence and compete with local players.