Tuesday, May 15, 2012: 09:00:08 PM


For Your Eyes Only

Dhruv Gupta from gkboptical.com, talks about the various aspects of eyewear retailing online

Online retail of eyewear is a very niche segment and an underserved market. It is a comparatively new concept in India as compared to developed markets, where the trend started almost a decade ago. On the global fore, the Indian eyewear industry remains underdeveloped, with the Indian market accounting for about 1 percent of the worldís consumption. Estimates indicate that a third of Indiaís population is in need of vision correction, and only a small percentage of this population has had its vision corrected. However, the situation is changing rapidly.

Eyeing the Challenges
So far, the Indian masses almost exclusively used the services of local opticians for their eyewear needs. Since the launch of online mediums however, customers have been inundated with a virtually unlimited variety of brands and products at the best prices, access to high quality eyewear, along with free shippingñall in the comfort of their own homes.

Buying eyewear online is a new concept, while the mindset of the consumer is to try out a product before buying it. Hence, our website's unique feature called 'Try On Virtual Mirror' helps customers to try on their spectacles or sunglasses using their computer. Designer lenses are a fastgrowing category, as good branded lenses are backed by the guarantee of high quality lens. Due to the physical limitation of stores in terms of location, we retail designer lenses such as Crizal, Seiko and several others through our website.

Looking towards Growth
E-retailing is an ideal medium for any consumer who seeks a convenient shopping experience, large variety, and attractive deals and discounts. Consumer preferences have changed considerably with the rise in internet usage. Consumers are now aware about the various style trends across the globe and demand quality products. E-commerce portals have also achieved considerable success in instilling consumer confidence in e-retail. There is growing acceptability of e-retail among consumers, who now see it as a convenient way to buy good quality products while sitting at home. Secure payment options and cash-on-delivery have further sweetened the deal for consumers.

E-retail will be a significant mode of purchase for consumers in future, due to the several benefits it offers. It will flourish in tandem with the physical retail business, as there is enough room for both e-retail and non e-retail businesses to grow in India. Both physical retail and e-retail have their clear sets of benefits, and they can complement each other. Internationally, there are several examples of traditional retail companies successfully venturing into e-retail.

Consumers First
To further encourage consumers to embrace the virtual format, we also offer assistance with frame selection, consultancy on choosing the most suitable lens based on the selected frame and the consumersí lifestyle, advising consumers about suitable tints for their sunglasses and various other aspects that go into the making of a highquality set of glasses.

Many parts of the country do not have access to quality eyewear retail outlets, despite substantial consumer demand. These consumers can turn to online shopping to meet their eyewear needs. While customers in big towns/cities are well-attended to, the major focus is on connecting with consumers in the unexplored markets that exist in the smaller cities, towns and villages of India.

E-retailing India
The Indian e-commerce segment has been witnessing strong growth in the last few years. The Indian ecommerce market (which includes e-retail) was considered to be worth `46,520 cr. in 2011, which denotes almost 400 percent growth over the last five years (as per an IAMAI and IMRB study). This resurgence in the Indian post-dotcom domain is here to stay, with several e-commerce companies selling a variety of goods and services online. The sudden growth spurt of the industry can be attributed to the unprecedented increase in domestic internet users; India has over 100 mn users despite poor penetration and slow internet speed. India is now the third-largest internet market in the world, judging by the number of users alone. Compare this to the much more modest figure of 50 mn internet users worldwide in 1997, when the world's largest online retailer Amazon.com went public. E-retail is one of many applications of e commerce that provides a direct interface for businesses to interact with their consumers. In fact, by the end of 2011, the domestic e-commerce industry had raked in revenues of `10,000 cr. E-retailing is especially relevant to companies following the B2C model, given the fact that the internet is now clearly a mass phenomenon.

Seeing the Future
Consumers do realise and appreciate the ease that online shopping offers, thanks to the increased number of connected devices available at their homes, growing broadband access and the increasing number of timestarved households. A good number of tech-savvy online users are making big purchases in the digital space. Retailers of all kinds are enhancing their product offerings, adding in-store pickup and offering free shipping these days. They are even using several social media platforms to lure more customers, in a bid to improve online sales.

We expect good consolidation and restructuring in every category of business over the next five years. India is a special marketóit is still very dynamic with a large proportion of young consumers, and there exists a huge opportunity for creativity and innovation.

In times to come, online retailing in India will strengthen even further. However, long-standing sustainability directly depends on factors such as changes in the market, innovations and interactivity by market players. Owing to increased usage of credit cards and easy access of computing facilities, internet retailing in India has witnessed encouraging growth.

Dhruv Gupta is CEO, gkboptical.com

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