Lenskart began life in 2010 as an online retailer of eyewear. Since then, it’s expanded its business model to include physical outlets. In the process, it’s become one of the biggest companies in the sector, not to mention one of India’s most successful and profitable startups. Having recently secured an extra $200 million in funding, it now plans on increasing its market share through further expansion across India and Southeast Asia. Find out more as we look at ten things you didn’t know about Lenskart.
1. Its founder is Peyush Bansal
Lenskart was founded by Peyush Bansal. After graduating from McGill University in Canada with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, Bansal landed a job at tech giant Microsoft. He quickly made a name for himself, only to abruptly quit in 2006 to return to India to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. In 2007, he launched Valyoo Technologies with SearchMyCampus, a classified site for students that provided options for everything from internship opportunities to carpooling and accommodation. It was a success, but Bansal wasn’t satisfied. After deciding to turn his attention to e-commerce, he started to look for new ideas, a decision that ultimately led him to Lenskart.
2. It was founded in 2010
After working at solving the housing problems of college students for a few years, Bansal realized India was in need of something more important: affordable eyewear. “India is the blind capital of the world and about half of its 1.3 billion people need glasses,” he says. After testing the waters with Flyrr.com, a website aimed at providing eyewear to the US market, he teamed up with co-founders Amit Chaudhary & Sumeet Kapahi to launch Lenskart in 2010. At first, it sold contact lenses only, but after it began to gain traction, it expanded its portfolio with the addition of eyeglasses and sunglasses.
3. It’s grown at a phenomenal rate
Since its launch, Lenskart has grown phenomenally and now ranks as one of the fastest-growing retail businesses in India. Over the past two years, its grown more than 200% year on year to become the most popular app for eyewear in the country. Its collection now includes sunglasses, specs, frames, anti-glare lenses, reading glasses, computer glasses, and eye accessories. Via its franchise model, it boasts over 500 stores across 120 cities. Its manufacturing plant in Rajasthan, meanwhile, is said to be the biggest producer of ready-made prescription glasses in the world, averaging 1.5 lakh pairs a day.
4. It raised $4 million in Series A funding
A year after its inception, Lenskart held its first funding round, raising $4 million from early investor Chiratae Ventures. Since then, it’s attracted an ever-growing number of investors, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Temasek Holdings, SoftBank Vision Fund, Kedaara, Chiratae Ventures, T&R, Unilazer, IFC, TPG, Adveq, and IDG Ventures. Prior to its most recent funding round, it had raised $554.6 million in funding over 10 rounds. It’s also made several investments of its own: according to TechCrunch, it invested $1 million in Ditto and $11M in 6over6 in 2017, $500K in Thin Optics in 2018, and $500k in tango Eye in 2020.
5. It’s worth $2.5 billion
This July, Lenskart closed one of its largest funding rounds to date, raising $200 million from investors that include Temasek Holdings and Falcon Edge Capital. According to Business Today, the round pushes the start-ups valuation to $2.5 billion, a figure that makes it one of the most profitable startups in India.
6. It’s got big plans for the future
Lenskart has big ambitions for the future. After announcing that it had raised $200 million in its latest funding round, it confirmed that it planned to use the money to add more brick-and-mortar stores to its portfolio, while also expanding its online business across its target market. It also plans to invest in new technologies, further bolster its supply chain, and increase its investment in eyewear startups by adding $2 million to the Lenskart Vision Fund pot.
7. It was impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns
After ten years of continued growth, Lenskart’s fortunes took a turn last year when the Covid-19 lockdown began impacting on business. Just before the pandemic began to make its presence felt, Lenskart had moved into profit. The subsequent lockdown pushed it back into the red. Just as the business began to recover after the first wave, the second wave came. Fortunately, it staged a recovery – according to CEO Bansal, it’s now back in profit.
8. Its business model is unique
Eyewear companies are nothing new. But even in such a populated market, Lenskart has managed to make a name for itself. Much of that has to do with its business model. While its portfolio of contact lenses, sunglasses, and prescription glasses are common to all eyewear providers, its Omni Chanel business model is singular to Lenskart. While it started off as an online retailer, it soon realized that some customers would always prefer brick-and-mortar stores. So it gave them to them. It now offers an “Omni Channel Experience” that allows customers to pick the shopping method that’s most convenient to them, whether that’s a physical store or an online medium.
9. It has its own team of designers
Today, Lenskart offers 45 different kinds of lenses and over 5000 frames. To keep a tab on the trends and deliver the kind of products that people actually want to wear, it employs its own team of designers and stylists to create its frames before the designs are passed onto its manufacturers in India and China.
10. It’s using digitization to its advantage
If there’s one thing Lenskart has always been savvy about, it’s using new technology to its best advantage. Even before it confirmed plans to invest some of the money raised during its most recent funding round in new tech, its current digital offering was way ahead of the pack. In addition to a virtual 3D tool that allows customers to try out the full range of the company’s portfolio without leaving the sofa, it also uses face-mapping technology and artificial intelligence to help customers decide which frames to try.
11. Katrina Kaif was the first brand ambassador
In October 2017, Lenskart declared that it had appointed Bollywood star Katrina Kaif to be its first-ever brand ambassador. Speaking via moneycontrol.com about why they’d chosen Kaif to represent the brand, COE Bansal said “We were looking for someone who naturally fits the Lenskart brand proposition of addictive playfulness.” In March 2019, it added another star to its roster when it roped in comedian Bhuvan Bam as their first male brand ambassador
12. It splits its manufacture between India and China
Lenskart splits the production of its eyewear between India and China. According to Wikipedia, its manufacturing plant in Deli produces around 300,000 glasses a month. Its facility in Zhengzhou, China, is equally productive, manufacturing about 50 percent of the company’s overall production.
13. It offers big returns to its partners
Since deciding to abandon its purely online business model for a hybrid approach, Lenskart has become a force to be reckoned with on the high street. It now has over 500 stores located across 120 cities in India, thanks in no small part to the franchising opportunities it offers potential partners. While Lenskart benefits from the increased attention that physical stores bring, those that decide to partner up with the brand don’t exactly lose out either. According to Lenskart, the benefits it brings to prospective partners include a quick breakeven and a 25- 30% cut of profits.
14. It’s known for its special offers
Lenkart may offer its franchise partners a great deal, but it doesn’t stop there. Part of the reason it’s managed to capture such a large share of the market is down to the special offers it gives its customers. The offers are extensive, stretching to include a “first frame for free” deal designed to attract first-time buyers and a “try at home” deal where customers can select up to 5 frames to sample at home before making their final purchase.
15. The competition is heating up
Lenskart may be leading the herd when it comes to eye care in India, but there’s plenty of other players gnashing at their heels. As startuptalky.com notes, Lenskart’s competition comes from both online and offline retailers. GKB, Lawrence and Mayo, Titan Eye Plus, Bausch and Lomb, Vision express, Specsmakers, Coolwinks, and Deals4Opticals.are all chasing their share of the market, while e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm Mall, and Snapdeal are doing the same. Some, like Ray-Ban and Essilo, offer both an online and physical presence.
16. It’s launched the Lenskart Vision Fund to invest in startups
Since its launch, Lenskart has benefited substantially from the faith shown by its numerous investors. Now, it wants to do the same for others. In 2019, it established the Lenskart Vision Fund, a $20 million investment pot intended to support startups in the eyewear, eye-care and omni-channel retail sectors. Speaking about the development via The Lenskart Blog, CEO Peyush Bansal explained the reason for the fund. “As a company, we would like to collaborate with startups in relevant areas, and co-create value,” he said. “Often startups with great potential don’t have access to resources that will help them commercialize the idea efficiently. Lenskart can give them access to these resources — physical retail outlets, online platforms, technology stack, production facilities, supply chain, warehousing, etc. Startups can thus test their concepts, and commercialize their innovations with us a lot faster.”
17. It’s invested $10m in the contact lens market
The contact lens market has been historically underserved in the Indian market, but Lenskart aims to do something about it. In 2019, the company declared its intention to invest $10 million in the market after onboarding former Bausch and Lomb commercial director and business unit head, Indranil Chakravarty, to develop its contact lens business and fuel product innovation. Speaking via inc42.com, Bansal said “We want to disrupt contact lenses, and repeat what we have done in the eyeglasses sector, where we have emerged as the largest player in the organized market in the country.”
18. It’s helping computer users
The modern business environment comes with certain challenges, not least for our eyes. The blue light emitted from phones and computers can quickly lead to dry eye, eye strain, and fatigue. While many of us have accepted the problem as an unavoidable consequence of the modern working environment, Lenskart hasn’t. In 2019, they launched Lenskart Blu, an eyewear solution intended to block the harmful rays that emerge from our screens. Although there’s some skepticism in the scientific community about the value of such products, anecdotal evidence suggests they can make a big difference to people who rack up a significant amount of screen time per day.
19. Its planning further expansion
In 2019, Lenskart made its first stab at global domination when it expanded into Singapore. Just two years later, it’s one of the key service providers in the region. It now plans to further expand its operations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, with Bsnal explaining: “We’re already the largest eyewear player in India and in the top 3 in Singapore. Lenskart envisions to have 50 per cent of India wearing its specs over the next five years and become the #1 eyewear platform in Southeast Asia and Middle East over the next 18 to 24 months through organic and inorganic expansion.” Should it succeed in its plans, the profits will be immense: according to Business Insider India, the market opportunity for Lenskart in its target geographies is expected to be over $15 billion by 2025.
20. It’s been named one of the top 10 promising E-commerce Indian startups In 2021
This year, Lenskart added another accolade to its list when it was named one of the top 10 promising E-commerce Indian startups In 2021 by The Indian Wire. Other startups to be similarly honored included the e-commerce company, Flipkart, which began life as a book retailer before expanding into consumer electronics, fashion, home essentials, groceries, and lifestyle products; the digital payment system and financial technology company, Paytm, and the online pharmacy store, 1mg.