Profitable from day one, Eyewearlabs shakes up the $2.2B Sunwear market, with its uniqueness, street style, and affordability
In 2016, Mehul Jakharia decided to leave his well-secured job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in the USA only to create a space for smart streetwear sunglasses. “Our vision is to create the unorganised sunglass market into an organised brand,” he says.
“Sunglasses usually top the list of items in a travel kit. But outside of metro cities, especially in the Tier II and Tier III areas, getting sunglasses is an expensive affair. Very few companies make good-quality eyewear in India, and a surge is always witnessed in the demand. Due to this demand-supply mismatch, prices are abnormally high,” says Mehul.
This led to the initiation of Eyewearlabs, a Mumbai-based eyewear brand that aims to make waves in the eyewear industry with its stylish yet high-quality and affordable range of sunglasses.
Starting out from their 100 sq ft office, Mehul and his team spent the next eight months understanding the sunglass market, the customer base, their choices, and figuring out challenges in the industry. But, the main focus was on design; all their designs are tried and tested in-house before they are out for display on the website.
“Gradually, we noticed the positive feedback for our styles, designs, and quality, and on a monthly basis we started rolling out new designs,” adds Mehul.
Today, the 100 sqft area had been replaced with a 5,000 sq ft warehouse with an office.
But, working capital became an issue, Mehul points out, as the growth strategy was between 2x to 10x year-on-year. “However, we closely monitored all expenses to reduce operational cost and focused on maintaining our growth,” he says.
As a direct-to-consumer brand, Eyewearlabs cuts down massively on distribution costs. While its competitors sell sunglasses starting at Rs 2,500, they bridge the gap between low-quality sunglasses at Rs 700 or very high-priced sunglasses priced at Rs 2,500.
“We ensure sunglasses with a value for money, focusing mostly on lenses and the frame designs. So all of our sunglasses are polarised with 100 percent UV protection to reduce glare, thereby protecting the eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. That's one norm that we follow,” adds Mehul.
But in this new competitive era of playing it well, how do Eyewearlabs ensure that they are at par with other players of the ecosystem, regarding quality and cost-effectiveness?
“Our sunglasses have a young and vibrant look, where lenses are imposed with cool mirrors, and colored lenses like blue, green, purple, and so on. Thus, the wearer not only looks cool but it also gives them a lot of confidence. Even large brands whose sunglasses are worth Rs 3,000 may or may not have polarised lenses. Also, the metal frame we use is aluminuim-magnesium, so it's lightweight and more durable,” explains Mehul.
Customers Wearing Vibrant Shades from Eyewearlabs
“Eyewearlabs is named so because we wanted to innovate and shake up the sunglass market. That's engraved in our company DNA, and the labs are places where you innovate the most. So, that’s how the name Eyewearlabs was born,” he adds.
Growth and revenue
As a 100 percent bootstrapped company, they started off with Rs 15 lakh as an initial investment. Talking of the recent scenario, Eyewearlabs has already acquired a premier position of being one of the market leaders in the $2.2 billion sunwear industry in India within just four years of its launch and aims a GMV (gross merchandise value) of Rs 100 crore in the current year.
But, what does the sales proposition look like? Are there any brick-and-mortar stores? To this, Mehul answers, “We sell through our website Eyewearlabs, However, we are in talks to be omnichannel very soon.”
With monthly revenues of more than a million dollars, this young startup is looking at a 3X Y-o-Y growth, thanks to its efficient operational strategy of closely monitoring all the expenses to reduce operational costs and maintaining a self-financing growth rate.
With an extremely lean team of 15 members, including designers and a loyal set of customers, this brand is well on its way to becoming a unicorn.
Following this success, Mehul adds, “We wanted to bank on products which were not available in the Indian market, so we were very diligent on designs and didn't take any huge inventory risks. Also, we didn't spend money on the black hole called branding. We let our products do the talking and only focused on performance. We are planning to add 100 kiosks across Tier I and II cities in the next two years, and strive to clock Rs 500 crore revenue.”
Eyewearlabs’ policy of gaining customer loyalty, called the ‘Damn It!’ policy allows users to avail a 50 percent discount on their next purchase if they break or damage their sunglasses within eight months of their purchase, and repurchase any style they like.
Innovation is the key word behind the success of any brand. “Using the latest technology in lenses, we intend to launch performance sunglasses in military, cricket, motorcyclist, and other sports categories and additionally grow our distribution channels,” Mehul shares.
Describing how celebrities love donning their sunglasses, Mehul says, “Rannvijay Singha loved our sunglasses so much that they launched a Rannvijay X EL exclusive collection together. The collection is unique, and is designed by the style icon himself.”