Distributors to some of the finest international brands including Cartier, Givenchy and Balenciaga, Eternity Lifestyle’s own brand Opium is a forerunner amongst Indian brands
Eternity Lifestyles was always sure that it wanted to do business differently, so its vision and foresight were clear at the onset itself. Launched in 1999, the young company is manned by people whose families have been in the optical business for over thirty years. Armed with that experience and infused with new ideas, Eternity has effectively carved a niche for itself in a short span of 15 years.
It all started at a time when two companies, Ronak Enterprises and Pearl Enterprises, were jointly doing business with Luxottica. Things were hunky-dory till Luxottica decide to expand its business, and to consolidate its operation, expressed the desire to work with one company, instead of two. Both Ronak and Kiran Sheth of Ronak Enterprises and Deepak Panchamia of Pearl Enterprises immediately aligned with the request and jointly formed one company that would look into the Luxottica business – Eternity Lifestyles. They represented Sferoflex, Emanuel Ungaro, Byblos, Genno, Bvlgari and Chanel for Luxottica. Incidentally, the company has been responsible for getting some of the most expensive eyewear to the country, like Oakley in 2002, before it was taken over globally by Luxottica in 2008.
The optical business in India depended largely on brands being produced locally. It did have a large segment of people who were quality and brand conscious, but international eyewear products enjoyed only a grey market space. Eternity Lifestyles has been instrumental in formalising this part of the business to a great extent. Both the Sheth and the Panchamia family have been in the optical business for decades—Himmatbhai Sheth, the Sheth brothers’ grandfather, is called the ‘Godfather of the optical industry’, while Deepak’s granddad, Girdharilal Panchamia’s company PTK is rooted in goodwill and respect in the optical industry, built as it was by the maestro over a period of 68 years. While both Deepak and Kiran have worked individually in their respective family businesses, Ronak was new to the optical industry. This had its unique advantages as he and his partners brought in fresh ideas and business methods that impressed principal companies and brands. On the home ground, it took a little more time as conventional thinking ruled the roost. People were accustomed to ordering on the basis of just one sample set while Eternity stressed upon the need to stock an assortment.
Says Kiran Sheth, “It is imperative for opticians to understand the importance of a brand and how the store needs to reflect the image. Earlier people were used to seeing a sample set and then ordering. We convinced them into realising that a base assortment of styles of a particular brand are required to build an image, like a ‘story-telling’ of the brand, which in turn will draw customers and reflect positively on sales.”
Eventually, opticians bought the argument. They understood the importance of the best possible brand position in terms of product presence, displays, visuals in the store, all adding up to the building of an image and establishing the brand. Eternity also stressed upon the importance of each brand’s character and intrinsic qualities. This helped the optician to opt for brands that individually have a unique presence. Adds Deepak Panchamia, “Brands that cannibalise each other meant bad business sense. We understood this and imparted the knowledge to our stockists too.”
The Heady OPIUM
Like its namesake, Eternity Lifestyles’ home brand Opium, is addictive. But not in the negative sense. Says Ronak Sheth, “Like opium that can instantly transfer you into another world, the right kind of sunglasses can transform you into another person. You are essentially what you think you want to be. The attitude that Opium projects is evident from the logo itself. As you read the word Opium, you can see the thickness of the letters slowly thinning from O to M. As though all the heaviness of life has suddenly dropped off and it has become simpler and lighter. That’s just the kind of feel Opium wants to lend. The perfect sunglass for a strong willed person who is cool, colourful, a wanderer and wants to win the world. Our sunglasses say all of that. Our marketing and advertising reinforces this. The feedback from the market is so positive and encouraging. It is closest to an international brand, we are told.”
In keeping with this thought, Opium has floated a new concept, ‘Opium Wanderer’ that promises to be with the wanderer as he sets off on his adventure. Says Ronak, “There’s a traveller in all of us. And for the traveller, sunglasses is an essential. Opium, naturally.” Opium Wanderer urges and teams up with travelers to blog about their experiences. Recently a biker who journeyed through Uttaranchal wearing Opium sunglasses shared his experiences on his blog. And now, Opium is ready to hit the road once again with a traveler who is journeying to Ladakh. By associating itself with a certain lifestyle and projecting a particular attitude, visible through its advertising and its corporate website, it has created a special space for itself – independent, non-conformist and perhaps even anti-establishment.
Point Of View
The Eternity Lifestyles website takes you a bit by surprise when you visit it for the first time. Using a tagline, ‘My Point Of View’, the site illustrates how smart conceptualisation can stir up curiosity, invoke an eagerness to explore and finally lead the reader through the company’s vision and ‘point of view.’ Even the advertising that Eternity Lifestyle does is off-beat and eye-catching. While it is an eyewear company, none of the ads they do show any eyewear. It’s either a face or a body, but without the expected sunglasses. The attitude is apparent; the eyewear is not. Nonetheless, the result is impactful and therefore effective. Also, where other companies are associating with big names to be their brand ambassadors, Eternity has not jumped on to the bandwagon yet. But as Ronak puts it, “When we finally bite the bait, our brand ambassador may not necessarily be a star. It will be someone who can be instinctively linked to an attitude. Individualistic, nearly rebellious. Clearly a class apart and someone whose mindset matches ours.” Meanwhile, the company has already made its presence felt in films like ZIndagi Na Milegi Dobara, Don, Wanted and Rann, and in shows like KBC where Amitabh Bachchan has worn Opium. The brand is also the official sponsor of Volkswagen Motorsport.
Eternity Lifestyles is still a young player in the market. And yet, in these fifteen years, it has achieved what many of its senior competitors have failed to. Its dedication and foresight and the commitment of its key players, Ronak Sheth, Kiran Sheth and Deepak Panchamia, have made this company a force to reckon with.