Saturday, June 02, 2018

A Closer Look at Eyecare: Lenskart vs. Titan Eye+


I needed a new pair of spectacles desperately. The one I have been using for the past three years was in bad shape - both the lenses are full of scratches, one of its arms broken, and I felt my eyes had now reached the dreaded zone of bifocals or progressive lenses.

My search began in Kolkata early this year. I thought I was quite clear about what I needed: A sturdy pair of glasses that I could wear comfortably, both outdoors (mostly distance running or trekking) and while working at my laptop. Anti-glare lenses would be a useful feature while driving, and above all they had to be affordable. 

At Himalaya Opticals on near the Dhakuria flyover, I was greeted by salesmen wearing formals and fake smiles. Within a few minutes they figured out that I was not looking for expensive frames or fancy lenses with 15 coatings, and their attitude changed. Fake smles gave way to sneers. I realised their 'target market' was different and that this was not the shop for me.

Back in NCR Delhi I decided to focus on the options available in Noida. At the bustling Sector-18 market  there are at least 10 optical shops that cover the whole spectrum. Just on the street leading to the metro station there were four - Himalaya, Spectica, Titan Eye+ and Lenskart. 

Having scaled the heights of condescension at Kolkata, I skipped Himalaya Opticals and headed first to Spectica. I had been to Spectica earlier and had found them to be a local business run by an elderly avuncular gentleman. It is the kind of neighborhood shop that sends you New Year greetings, where the owner sits at a counter by the door with the fragrance of puja-agarbatti wafting through the doors. 

Today they were saving on the air-conditioning. At a tiny room on the first floor the saleman patiently explained available options: Frames starting from INR790, two broad options for lenses - CR39 and Polycarbonate (PC) - in three brands (R?, Trio, Crisal) with 
prices ranging from INR1450 to INR4100+. The prices of PC lenses were about 50% higher 
than CR39 which it seems were also less durable.





The Titan Eye+ was fancy and spacious. A Tata brand had keep up some standards -  brightly lit walls and shelves lined with frames, lens promos all over and lots of staff in blue uniforms. The gound floor was was only for shades and branded sunglasses while the basement was for prescription glasses, with an optermetrist on stand-by. 

For all the investment that had gone into Eye+ the shop did not offer many choices. Even those that were available seemed rather expensive compared to Spectica - a wire-frame that cost INR79o was priced here at INR3200! Of course the gave me some spiel about 'real titanium' and 'top quality'.

I got my eyes tested. The optermetrist examined my eyes through an Autorefractor through which I saw a colorful air baloon turn from a blur into sharp focus, and within a few minutes a print emerged from the machine with the test results - a confirmation that I had a near-vision problem as well. Now came the bit about lenses. Over here, CR39 with a narrow 'corridor' was priced at INR4750/lens and a one at INR8750/lens. PC lenses were about 50% more expensive and if I were to choose Crisal lenses they cost much more than the Eye+ brand. So, at the very least, it would cost about INR12,000 to get one pair of glasses. If you had deeper pockets you could opt for a custom made lens that would cost over INR29,000. Not my cup of tea.



Final stop: Lenskart. Located a few meters away from Eye+ this outlet was much smaller but the space was designed much better - plenty of choices with additional options shown on tabs, and a better equipped optermetrist. Unlike Spectica and Eye+ this place was also teeming with customers, most of whom had come here after checking out the Lenskart website. Also unlike any of the outlets I had seen so far the staff was better trained - much better on customer focus, with excellent coordination within the team.  

I was guided through available options, and to my delight they had quite a range within my budget and a "buy one, get one" option to boot. I selected two pairs and headed for my second eye-test of the day. Surprisingly, the autorefractor here gave a different set of readings though it did reconfirm that I needed bifocals/progressives. Now came the second surprise - the cost of two pairs of spectacles, one with progressive lenses (Kodak, wide transition) and the other one PC (Tokai Lutina), was less than the cost of a single pair at Eye+!

Lenskart did leave me puzzled though with items in the final bill. It had listed a 'Gold Membership'  fees (I never asked for one) for INR500 which was cancelled out by a 'Gift Voucher' of the same amount. It also takes much longer to deliver - the bills says 14 days but the sales team said it would arrive within a week.

On the whole Lenskart seemed to offer much better 'customer experience' and value for money, compared to its main competitor Titan Eye+ as well as the local opticals. Now lets see if the quality of the final products lives up to expectations... 

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LINKS & REFERENCES

* (9Dec17) - Lenskart news - https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/venture-capital/lenskart 
* Machines with the Optermetrist 
- http://www.goldenvisionclinic.com/vision-tools/
- https://www.verywellhealth.com/eye-examination-equipment-4020398
* EndMyopia on CR39 lenses - https://endmyopia.org/cr-39-vs-polycarbonate-lenses/

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