Feature

E-tail gets Real

After strengthening their presence online, e-commerce players sniff out a lucrative market offline

Illustration: Kishore Das

The landscape of India’s Garden City, Bengaluru, changes when you enter Electronic City. If you see it in the right hour — the greenery is manicured, buildings are towering and shimmering, and the roads stretch to a farther horizon. In the midst of all that opulence, it is still hard to miss a sprawling new addition — the Lenskart store. 

In the ground floor of a two-storey building, the 5,000-sq ft store houses eight merchandising zones and many facilities. What could a spectacles store have, besides the right-sized mirror and a wipe? Ask Lenskart. Its store has an eye-massage lounge, a juice bar and a makeover salon, and then there is impressive tech such as virtual machines for a 3D try-on. It is exactly what its co-founders, Peyush Bansal and Amit Chaudhary, envisioned for the brand.

“When somebody is operating offline and online, technology plays a big role. For example, when you go to a Lenskart store, you will ‘browse’ a store, like you do online, without interference. It is built as a seamless experience,” says Chaudhary, who co-founded Lenskart as an online portal to sell eyewear, in 2010. Inaugurated in May, this is the 500th and the largest store for Lenskart. 

The company stepped into the offline world in 2015, when it had about 1.5 million customers. It has since added an average of 13 stores a month. Today, it has a customer base of seven million and offline transactions contribute as much as 75% of its overall business. Little wonder then that brick-and-mortar stores are the preferred channel for trade in India (See: Touch and buy). 

Chaudhary states that their target is to achieve 50% market share in the Indian eyewear market. That cannot be achieved only with an online presence. Therefore, their plan is to hit 1,000 stores across the country in the next two years with major focus in the South. The overall eyewear industry is highly unorganised, and Lenskart reportedly has 10-15% of the market. 

The eyewear company, looking to expand at a faster pace, is speeding

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