'I see many more teens in my shop now'
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'I see many more teens in my shop now'

Jay Thakur, 27, murmurs words of encouragement as an elderly woman reads letters off a lit-up screen in a small, darkened room at one end of his Mahim shop. Sindhu Mansukhani writes.

mumbai Updated: Oct 14, 2012 01:04 IST
Sindhu Mansukhani
Sindhu Mansukhani
Hindustan Times

Jay Thakur, 27, murmurs words of encouragement as an elderly woman reads letters off a lit-up screen in a small, darkened room at one end of his Mahim shop.

An old customer, they discuss her eyesight before he makes up the bill for her new spectacles. "I try to talk to every customer, answer all their questions," he says. "That is how I have built my reputation over seven years."

This was not always Thakur's dream job. A commerce graduate, he initially studied computer hardware and started a business in that sector with two friends; however, it tanked in five months. He then tried to find a toehold in the tourism sector, but was unsuccessful.

Finally, on the advice of his father, Thakur sought out a job as an assistant at a family friend's optician shop in Kalbadevi.

"I gained considerable experience in six months there, and decided to open my own shop," he says.

After completing a diploma course in optometry from the government-run Rajawadi hospital in Ghatkopar, Thakur was finally all set to start his life as a businessman. But it was no cakewalk. For the first three years, he struggled to gain a foothold in the market.

"It was a difficult time," he says. "But those years taught me that, in order to have a successful business, it is crucial to develop a personal relationship with your clients."

Today, about 40% of Thakur's clients are regulars or repeat customers. "I have one 70-year-old customer who has been coming to me for five years and considers me her son," he says. "She brings me a bar of chocolate every time she visits."

Thakur starts his day at 7 am, with a leisurely bath followed by a breakfast of toast and coffee.

At 9 am, he leaves the two-room Matunga flat he shares with his wife and rides his motorcycle to work, getting there in half an hour.

His shop is called Perfection, he says, smiling, "because I am a perfectionist."

Here, he attends to customers for the next 12 hours, taking a break only at 1 pm, for a lunch of roti, sabzi, dal and rice cooked and packed for him by his wife of two years, Mansi.

His clients belong to all age groups, says Thakur, but he has noticed an increasing number of youngsters and teenagers coming in with complaints about their eyesight. "This is mainly because they spend a lot of time in front of TV and computer screens," he says.

With the help of his two employees, who function by turns as optometrist and bookkeeper, Thakur treats about 15 customers a day.

"There has been a significant increase in business over time," he says. "Initially I used to earn about R 30,000 per month, whereas now I earn about 1.5 lakh a month in profits."

Like most opticians, Thakur has affiliations with local ophthalmologists, who refer patients to him.

In his free time, Thakur loves to travel and trek. "I have visited the Har-Ki-Doon valley and Valley of Flowers in the Himalayas. That was one of the best times of my life," he says.

On a daily basis, he shuts shop at 9.30 pm and is back home by 10, for dinner with his wife. He then watches the news on TV and is asleep by 11.30 pm.

On Sundays, his day off, he and Mansi visit either his parents or hers.

His next step, he says, will be to set up a branch of his shop in Thane. "If I am successful, I will rope in my wife, currently an HR executive at a consulting firm, to help run it," he says.

(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)

First Published: Oct 14, 2012 01:02 IST