CEO Talks: Interview with Sudhir Syal, CEO Lenskart Middle East

February 10, 2022 | By Zubina Ahmed

India’s largest eyewear retailer, Lenskart has formally entered the Middle East with the aim of securing 25% of the regional $3.5 bn opticwear market by 2026. With the twin objective of establishing market- leading status as the region’s top eyewear platform within two years, backed by more than 5000 styles of eyewear, Lenskart’s US$50 million (AED185 million) expansion into the Middle East with its omnichannel strategy includes the opening of the first physical store at the Dubai Festival City Mall. The brand will expand into two other locations at Ibn Battuta Mall and BurJuman in 2022. Zubina Ahmed caught up with Lenskart’s Chief Business Officer , Sudhir Syal, about the expansion and opportunities he is looking forward to from the region.

1. Describe your role and journey so far as Lenskart’s Chief Business Officer in the region?

I am an experienced Venture Builder having built and scaled BookMyShow in 2 markets – SouthEast Asia and the Middle-East. With close to four years of experience in the region, I am able to ensure the correct merchandise and branding is incorporated into our expansion plans and yet meet the consumer promise. My previous position as CEO of BookMyShow 

Middle East, an online entertainment company, prepared me for my current role, although working in the retail industry is new for me – it’s also very exciting. The omnichannel approach of the brand is very – for wont of a better term – “on trend” and the eyewear market is under-discovered with plenty to tap into. Operating in e-commerce, fashion and retail – three of the biggest industries in the region – is inspiring, so I really look forward to our future endeavours. 

2. After a decade of disrupting online opticare markets in Asia, Lenskart, has formally entered the Middle East. Tell us all about this launch, investments made, and what opportunities the region presents? 

Well, we raised US$100 million from the Falcon Edge Global investment fund to focus on our regional expansion. Our current target is growing the retail stores, while solidifying our brand image and consumer promise. We are set to have one of the most unique brand launches for any company, with a ground-breaking spectacle in line with the company’s four pillars: transformative, inquisitive, confident, and accessible. Saudi has one of the biggest economies in the region so we plan to launch there, while Qatar is on our radar too due to the high spending power. Of course, the fact that Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup later this year makes it a very enticing market. Egypt too has a large, urban, middle class population so we are also looking there. Really, there is a lot happening behind the scenes at Lenskart and I expect rapid growth across the MENA region. 

3. What technologies have you adopted in the brand’s new flagship store in Dubai? How
has Lenskart been bolstering its omnichannel retail strategy?

With Lenskart taking on an omnichannel approach, we offer a variety of technical solutions within our store that mirror our website and enhance the shopper experience – both online and offline. This approach will expand as we do. Just to give you can idea, we aim to open 60 stores across the region within 12 months. Some of the technology we have implemented includes an augmented reality (AR) in- store screen, which is integrated with virtual face-mapping that suggests suitable frames to the customers. This makes frame selection faster, more effective, and of course it’s fun too. Customers can explore more than 5,000 unique pieces of eyewear, while trying them all on virtually. We also offer the ability to customise pieces  for customers, giving them complete control based on their preferences and facial features. Another thing we are super proud of is our Sunroom, a transformative and innovative element for customers to try on sunglasses in a setting that mimics a natural environment’s sunlight. 

4. What, according to you, is the power of a direct-to-consumer model and how is Lenskart planning to go D2C? 

Lenskart has been following the D2C method since its inception in 2010, completely controlling the supply chain manufacturing. Our products are designed and crafted with the highest-quality frames sourced from Italy and we believe our in-house brands, such as John Jacobs and Vincent Chase, will soon become household names in the region. Coupled with our unique omnichannel approach, our ‘factory to frame to face’ approach eliminates the middleman and maintains our tagline promise to consumers: accessible for all. 

5. Lenskart has also launched an exclusive loyalty programme in the form of a Gold Membership. Tell us more about it.
Loyalty programs have a strong impact on a business, no doubt. They hold the power to draw in an audience and continuously grow that relationship between audience and brand. If you look, for instance, at one of the biggest retailers in the world, Amazon’s loyalty program Amazon Prime has about 300 million subscribers and continues to grow daily. Lenskart Gold is the largest loyalty programme within the Asian eyewear sector and for an annual fee of AED100, members have access to BOGO deals not only for them, but also their friends and family as well. 

6. What are your comments on the GCC’s eyewear sector? Any statistics you would
like to share? Who are your biggest competitors here and how do you want to revolutionise the way people perceive and use optical eyewear in the region?

Looking at the industry, we’ve found that there is a divide between upscale brands and lower-end options. There is no option whereby the middleman has been removed and the brand still provides high-tech, high-fashion, direct-to-consumer options. That’s why we plan to eventually open 200 stores across the Middle East region, by the end of 2023 – to become the leading fashion eyewear brand in the region. Less than five per cent of sales takes place online as compared to in- store today and we truly believe that percentage can increase to 15 or maybe even 20 per cent within the next three years and therin lies the opportunity. 

7. As we look ahead to a new year, what are your future plans and the vision for Lenskart in the region?

As we grow within the market, we look forward to localising our brand content and marketing
material to fit the community. That is essential for us. Our regional campaigns will be filled with localised, innovative twists that will help us cement our position as the leading eyewear retailer in the Middle East and we are very confident in our ability not only to succeed in general, but to transform the market with our fashionable, innovative and yet accessible products.

We got a preview of the first physical store at the Dubai Festival City Mall where our Multimedia editor Zubina Ahmed caught up with Sudhir. Watch the video below.



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