Fancy wearing Nikon lenses for your prescription spectacles? Or Kodak? You would possibly have tried Crizal lenses by now –the brand has been advertising aggressively for the past two-three years. Chances are, if you have experienced what the better lens brands deliver, you would not go back to unbranded options that cost you much less.
At the more expressive end of the spectrum, eyewear is also gaining ground as a fashion and lifestyle accessory. Kriti Malhotra, 24, a mass communication student is known for her sporty eyewear in her college. “But they are zero power spectacles,” she admits. “I only use these branded frames like any other accessory I flaunt,” she said, adding that she has another six pairs in different designs.
The Rs 21,000 crore eyewear market in India, according to industry body ASSOCHAM, is projected to grow to Rs 43,000 crore by 2015, at a compounded annual growth rate of 30%. Eyewear brands are getting aggressive with sunglasses, prescription eyewear frames and lenses, contact lenses and intraocular lenses. While the share of organised eyewear is 25% currently, branded players believe that if they can get within easier reach of consumers, they will see huge growth. The reason for their enthusiasm is the changing urban Indian consumer.
“Rising disposable incomes and the emerging concept of eyecare is making the transition possible. Discerning customers pay reasonably for purchasing spectacles,” said Biju Alexander, divisional manager, Titan Eye Plus.
Among the Indian retail brands, while Titan Eye Plus, which caters to prescription eyewear needs, has recently been very aggressive in expanding its presence across India, others such as Himalaya, Lawrence & Mayo and GKB are also expanding their outlets countrywide.
Titan Eye Plus plans to expand its retail outlets from the current 204 to 500 in two years’ time, Himalaya plans to have 100 outlets by 2018, up from its current 56 stores. GKB Opticals has 60 stores by now.
“Unorganised businesses are turning organised at a much faster pace. With corporates entering retail and the market opening up to offshore players, the pace to get organised will increase, leading to consolidation and restructuring in every business category over the next five years, which will be good,” said Simeran Bhasin, marketing head, Fastrack, which offers trendy eyewear options.
Titan has also launched its designer eyewear collections Acid, Caf, City Silk and Rev.
International brands too are making a beeline for India, mostly with premium offerings. Brands such as Ray-Ban, Nike, Guy Laroche, Esprit, Cartier, Tommy Hilfiger, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Cabana, Dolce & Gabana, Switchers, Vybes, Calvin Cline, Police and Versace are already selling through various retail routes. The global annual growth rate for eyewear is 20%, against India’s 30%.
“India, with population of 1.2 billion, is a growth driver for us and emerging as a big market of the future,” said Amitabh Sehdev, marketing head, Luxottica Eyewear, the world's largest eyewear company which owns brands such as Ray-Ban, Prada, Chanel and Oakley.
While brand consciousness and quality considerations are growing with Indian consumers, except for the upper end consumers, pricing is still a major issue. An internal study by Titan Eye Plus says that Indians willingly spend Rs 2,500 on a pair of branded shoes but hesitate when they have to pay similar money for quality eyewear. “They hardly spend Rs 800-900 while purchasing prescription spectacles,” said Alexander. “But things are fast changing and we plan to reach 300 million middle class Indians in the next three-five years.”
“Prices are still high as far as global brands are concerned. We need domestic brands to come in, which may result in bringing prices down,” Arvind Singhal, chairman of retail consultancy Technopak Advisors said.
However, in the sunglasses market, premium sunglasses sales are growing at 40% and account for 30% of the overall sunglasses market.Disposable contact lenses are expected to be the next big thing. "Demand for daily disposables and frequent replacement contacts including coloured contacts amid youth especially – the college going crowd as they mix and match the colour of lenses with their wardrobe – could well generate significant demand," Singhal concluded.
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