Trendy and brave, Optiline, manned by two dynamic visionaries, has taken unconventional steps to stay ahead of their contemporaries in the race for good business in eyewear
First generation eyewear businessmen, Mayank Sanghvi and Jatin Shah have proved that while legacy matters, it is foresight, vision and the ability to innovate that are the real parameters of success. Though not brothers, the two are related by marriage, having married into the same family. And with a father-in-law like Navin Shah of Hind Corporation, a veteran in the optical business, to guide and push them in their initial years, building a successful business was a challenge waiting to be met.
Recalls Jatin, “Mayank started the business in 1991 and I joined him a year later. Initially, we were based in Bhangwadi, the capital of all optical trade. We then expanded our business to all over India. Mayank had worked with his distant relatives Gopani Opticians and learnt the trade there. For a brief period he also worked with our father-in-law who had a retail shop in Matunga. It was on our father-in-law’s prompting that he ventured out on his own into the wholesale business.”
Soon after the two family members joined hands, trouble brewed in the political milieu. The riots of 1992 showed its effect on their business. There were major thefts and huge losses. The optical industry too was struggling with its own issues. Says Mayank, “It was a closed market. There were a lot of restrictions on imports. Whatever imports were being done, were done on the sly. Since the importers’ invoices were not clear, retailers could never openly sell imported stuff across the counter. Neither could they display them in their stores. If a customer walked in and asked for an imported brand, the retailer would bring the product out on the counter. And despite his assurances, the customer was never quite sure that it was genuine.”
Milestone 1999: Safilo India Pvt Ltd
Optiline’s first major milestone in the business happened in 1999 when they were able to break the glass ceiling and reach for branded international manufacturers in a legit manner. They bagged the distributorship of Safilo and four of their top brands – Gucci, Valentino, Pierre Cardin and Blue Bay. A joint venture was floated and a new company called Safilo India Pvt Ltd was formed with Jatin Shah as the head.
Reminisces Jatin, “Being novices in the field, when such an opportunity came our way, it was really something. Safilo was a true leader in fashion. We learnt a lot of things. We worked very closely with the Italian counterparts to get their guidance and apply their practices and bring it in-line with the Indian milieu. We had 12-14 of their brands. We learnt to handle people who were more qualified and train them into taking the line ahead. These were personal milestones.”
The partnership lasted for nearly six years and in early 2005 they parted ways amicably, selling their stake to the parent company. But the years that they worked together established their credibility and stature in the Indian optical market in a big way. Meanwhile, the parallel company Optiline had been progressing steadfastly with Mayank taking care of the business.
Own Brands, New Frontiers
Soon, Optiline opted for a two-pronged approach to the business. They took up the distributorship of noted international brands like Celine Dion and a few other brands from the Far East. Secondly, they started the sale of their own brands. Sapphiré, Scoop, Trends were their home brands. It was a challenging time, but also an opportunity which Optiline recognised and quickly cashed upon. Sums up Jatin, “When you want to stand out from the rest of the pack, you need to take steps which are quite different from what are prevalent practices.”
Home Brands And Challenges
Handling a diverse portfolio of brands is always a tough job. As far as the home brands are concerned, the eyewear is created according to the existing demands and the upcoming trends in the international market. As Jatin puts it, “We observe international trends and adapt them in our own way.” Scoop is made for the younger generation. Sapphiré and Trends is for the middle-age segment, and all brands are targeted for a particular audience in specific price brackets. The real challenge is in selling Indian brands to the shops with a SRP (Suggested Retail Price) and offering a discount to the shop. Explains Mayank, “International brands like Ray-Ban follow this method of SRP, but it is difficult to always insist that store owners sell at our price, especially when the market is evolving. Today, as far as optical frames are concerned, each shop is quoting their own price. We faced resistance, too, but we were able to convince our retailers about abiding by the SRP. The point is if a retailer is not happy with the SRP and he hikes it, the customer may not be interested as he may compare it with other products available. The same customer may buy a much more expensive international brand though.”
Malls Out, E-commerce In
In 2011, Optiline, in its continuing endeavour to move with the times, entered the malls. The going was good till the Maharashtra government increased the VAT from 4.5 to 12.5 per cent. The profit margins narrowed sharply. As the company had signed an agreement with the malls, prices could not be hiked. Finally, in early 2013, the company moved out of the malls and onto e-commerce platforms such as Flipkart, Jabong and Myntra. Looking at the popularity of these sites among shoppers, Optiline leveraged it to their own benefit by selling their eyewear online through these platforms. And this time they were aided by the next generation, Divyam Sanghvi, Mayank’s son, an MBA in Family Business who put his management degree to good use. In the last two years, the company growth moved from a flattened plateau to 25 per cent. As Divyam puts it, “In the online segment you can grow not in multiples of one or two but exponentially. It starts with a new site like Flipkart where every Indian who has a smartphone can go and buy. People have different choices. Some like Amazon, some Flipkart. The idea is to be present on every site. This way we have a direct connect with the buyer. Margins are lower online as it works on a mass scale. But then I don’t have a udhari period. I can pass this benefit on as a discount to my customer.”
With the infusion of fresh ideas from the young Divyam as well as the continued guidance of Mayank and Jatin, Optiline looks set to grow faster and further strengthen its foothold.
Celine Dion Eyes reflects the modern taste for the finer things in life. Classic sophistication and glamour triumphs over fads, just as the timeless voice of Celine Dion shines through. Celine Dion Eyes reveals in itself the timelessness of true romance and popularity. Celine Dion glasses are described as classy, beautiful and elegant in their own way. The glasses are designed mainly for female wearers.
Other Brands In The Optiline Portfolio