Home-grown online brand eyewa revolutionising eyewear shopping

Rupkatha Bhowmick

Founded in August 2017 by Anass Boumediene and Mehdi Oudghiri, home-grown eyewear e-commerce platform, eyewa has seen considerable growth. From a team of 2, the team size is 30 now. Combining a seed round in January 2018 and the recent Series A round of $7.5 million, eyewa has raised total funding to $8.6 million. Currently, eyewa offers contact lenses, sunglasses and prescription glasses.

“We received our first order on August 2, 2017,” recollects Oudghiri. “We have a sizeable youth population – our core audience, aged between 20 and 35, majority being female – that is connected and active on social media. The region boasts one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world. People are willing to buy online, but the offering is still scarce, except for the large e-commerce platforms. We saw this as an opportunity to set up eyewa, a niche vertical, specialising in a category. We offer a lot of products that are not available on the generalist e-commerce platforms. We looked for specific brands of contact lenses that were not available in the region and brought them onboard. Today, we guarantee 100% availability of contact lenses on eyewa – our biggest category and what is usually seen as a pain point in the offline space.”

Not only does eyewa offer a wide range of contact lenses, but 90% of the delivery within the UAE also happens on the same day. In the worst case, it takes up to three days. In Saudi Arabia, the delivery timeline is two to four days.

“We still have low penetration in eyewear and sunglasses categories,” Boumediene admits. “But we are growing at an exponential rate. We are registering double-digit growth. Our average cart size has also grown.”

Brand availability on eyewa varies between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “Currently, our inventory – including 2,000-2,500 SKUs in sunglasses and prescription glasses and the largest in the region in contact lenses – is already larger than a single physical eyewear store. However, the goal is to create a combined inventory of all the optical stores in the region,” Oudghiri states.

At the moment, the purchase process for prescription glasses on eyewa is simple. Customers with prescription can choose the brand and lens and place the order. Since eyewa is growing the prescription glasses category, there is a plan in place to even get eye tests done online. “Research is ongoing; tools are being developed to use the camera on a smartphone or laptop to do an eye test. We are also in touch with an FDA-approved company that is helping us to develop a feature on eyewa to enable our customers to do their eye tests online. We will launch this feature on eyewa in the upcoming quarters,” reveals Boumediene.

eyewa is doing an augmented reality (AR) based trial, wherein the customer can see how a frame will look on their face. “Currently, we are in the process of digitalising our frames for customers to check virtually how it will look on their face. There will be a share-ability option as well to gauge peer reactions towards a pair of glasses, adding excitement to the shopping experience,” Oudghiri points out. “Of course, we don’t develop these solutions in-house. We scout for such innovative solutions from the world-over to make the customers’ shopping journey on eyewa smooth and convenient.”

Currently, eyewa has fulfilment centres in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “Our goal is to serve the entire MENA region,” Boumediene shares. “We would like to get into Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, followed by Egypt which is a huge market. Along with expanding our geographical reach, we would also like to increase our product offering, while maintaining a high level of customer service. Eventually, we might even look at bridging the online-offline gap by creating brick-and-mortar presence.”