The Bausch & Lomb story began when a German immigrant to New York set up a tiny optical goods shop in the city back in 1853. Today, the multi-national eye health company operates in over 166 countries and delivers world’s widest range of eye health products, including contact lenses and lens care products, pharmaceuticals, intra-ocular lenses and other eye surgery products. Here is the brief in context of “Bausch & Lomb’s MD, Sanjay Bhutani Envisions a Bigger Indian Contact Lens Market”.
In India this proud legacy is lead by Sanjay Bhutani, a visionary in Eyecare industry. As a Director on the Board of MTaI (Medical Technology Association of India), he also advises the government on policy front.
Here he reflects on Bausch & Lomb‘s current position in the Indian market, why the contact lens market in India is still at the nascent stage and the steps he is taking to expand the market and get future ready. Beyond business he also shares some personal insights.
THE WORLD OF VISION CARE
Largely the Vision Care market segments focus on treating Vision Correction & Enhancement.
Then there is the market for Colored Contact Lenses and Sunglasses to improve aesthetics. Diseases such as Cataract & Glaucoma are dealt with Surgical interventions and/or medicines for delaying the onset of Glaucoma
Within these segments Bausch and Lomb India is a well-known and trusted brand in Contact Lens, Lenscare Solution, Intra-Ocular Lenses, Surgical Cataract & Refractive Equipments and Accessories, and Aesthetic Equipments.
WHAT IS AND WHAT COULD BE
Sanjay elaborates, “The overall Contact Lens market in India is segmented into three distinct ways – Firstly Clear Lens and Colored Lens. Clear lens takes about 85-90% of the market share and it is in this space Bausch & Lomb is the strongest player, enjoying a market share upwards of 50%. Colored Contact Lenses come in both power and plain lenses i.e. without any power and are used to give enhanced looks.
Secondly, the market could be segmented in terms of modality (based on usage i.e., daily, monthly or annual use). Bausch & Lomb is again a market leader in monthly and annual lenses and is an active contender in the daily lens segment. We are sharply focused on gaining share in the daily lens space, since we have a clear product advantage with BioTrue OneDay.
we can segment the market by refractive need – spherical, toric or multifocal. Here too, the market shares are largely reflective of the overall market, with Bausch & Lomb enjoying a majority share across sub-segments.
In the Surgical Cataract & Refractive Business segment, Bausch & Lomb offers both Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Intra-ocular Lenses(IOL) for the patients in India. We have also innovated an industry first in terms of micro-incision lenses, by reducing lens diameter from 2.2mm to 1.8mm in last decade and recently launched Incise Intraocular lenses which can be inserted through 1.4mm insertion. To support the overall IOL procedure, we also offer equipment, Stellaric which is a Venturi based system for Cataract Surgery”.
On asking why, when the world average is 35%, the Indian contact lens market is just 5-6%, he said, “The reasons for this are 4 fold – firstly Indians see contact lenses as just a lifestyle product rather than an important measure for vision correction though once adapted are much easier to use and improve your periphery vision to a great extent vs spectacles.
Secondly, they believe contact lenses are expensive whereas you could get Bausch & Lomb iConnect Contact Lenses @ Rs. 220 for a month usage, thirdly they suffer from the curious case of “pokophobia”- the fear of putting an object into their eyes. And lastly is the low number of trained Eye Care Professionals (ECP’s) in the country who are educated & trained to promote contact lens.”
“While there are millions of people requiring eye sight correction and it has huge potential, most of it goes untreated due to awareness and lack of infrastructure. As a company we have been investing in upgrading the skills of eyecare practitioners, creating awareness about the safety & benefits of contact lenses and getting the right products to the market.
Hopefully, if the industry continues educating & promoting contact lenses for the improvement & difference it would bring to the life of the consumers, soon the point of inflection will come where the penetration of the contact lenses will increase from the current 5%-6% to the much higher levels as in the developed countries.”
BUILDING A BRAND, BUILDING A NATION
To expand Indian contact lens market Sanjay has jump started several initiatives.
The first of these initiatives is to Grow the Market. “We introduced contact lens for just Rs 220 per month usage under the iConnect brand which comes in Hydrogel category. This is a very soft hydrogel lens and is targeted at the youth and first time category adopters, and specially designed for India. Recently we also launched iConnect Oxyrich under Silicone Hydrogel Category.
Free trials are being offered by well trained and highly sensitized sales force at all retail outlets, consumer activations are being carried out in the form of eye screening camps in colleges, malls and hotspots allowing people to tangibly connect with the brand and learn more about its benefits.
As Contact Lenses are convenient, easier to handle and have wider peripheral vision, consumers are being educated in this regard so that they embrace an active healthy outdoor lifestyle.
Placing service at the center of the organization, grievances and after sale queries are handled within 7 hours, much quicker than the global standard of 24 hours.
We are also planning to expand further with respect to our digital strategy, including widespread social media campaigns across Facebook and Instagram that showcase the enhanced clarity brought in by our Contact Lenses, through ‘before and after’ challenge. Category relevant awards are also being sponsored – for example ‘Most Beautiful Eyes Award’ at the recently held beauty pageant Stylista by Femina.”
The second initiative undertaken is to Drive Upgradation. ”Our focus is to ensure new, improved contact lens products are launched in India simultaneously as being launched in the global market and are proud that in case of quite a few products, India was the only country to get these products right after their launch in US.
For the more discerning consumers we are introducing technologically advanced products continuously. We have introduced the Pure Vision II lenses in Silicon Hydrogel category which comes with HD Optics. Bausch + Lomb also takes pride in introducing Bio inspired products in India.
Bio True Solutions & Bio true ONE day:
We have introduced Bio True Solutions & Bio true ONE day (daily Disposable lenses). We recently launched ULTRA contact lens with MoistureSeal technology designed for users who spend more time on their digital devices and want to use their contact lenses for longer hours. Ultra has been approved for extended wear by US FDA.
Third initiative is to increase Capability. “Through our accredited ‘Mastermind’ program on Contact Lens practice designed to train Optometrist (started in 2008), we have already trained over 5000 optometrists in the country. This is being conducted for practicing Optometrist and also at Optometry college campuses across the Country.
In addition to the Mastermind program on soft contact lenses, we have constituted the ‘Indian Contact Lens Education Program’ (ICLEP) in association with LV Prasad Eye Institute which trains close to 100 ECPs every year from various parts of the country and sometimes from outside India as well.”
Growing Digital Presence is another way Sanjay sees as the way forward for increasing visibility in the market. He views e-commerce players such as Lenskart as welcome competition, because more players in the category mean market expansion.
When it comes to the new regulations by the government, Sanjay remains objective. Although he maintains that over-regulation can adversely impact the overall business environment and derail investments & technological advancement as the Contact Lens industry is still in its nascent stage, he also at the same time believes that right regulatory framework will lead to good practices.
He expects that the Government, while regulating the medical device industry will take a balanced approach. In his view, not only are GST rates on medical devices currently quite high @ 12%, but Lenscare has been classified under disinfectant category and taxed @ 18%, though it should be under the exemption list.
He urges that the Government should look at the existing supply chain model before implementing any policy framework.
EYES ON THE FUTURE
Sanjay is upbeat about digital technology adoption and proudly shares that, “Bausch & Lomb is the first organization in the Contact Lens space to launch a cloud-based, integrated order placement and fulfilment platform for its partners.
Through this platform, each of our retail partners can place their order directly through an app on their mobile phone 24x7x365 with real time delivery updates. Not only does this improve order accuracy and convenience, it brings in lot of predictability and accountability into the entire supply chain system.
Technology is also being used to improve sales team performance. Sales Executives in India are inputting attendance for sales pitches at retail outlets through geo-tagging, which is helping in getting the exact number of outlets visited by an executive on real time basis.”
Workforce is being constantly re-skilled and up-skilled in newer technologies. “I am of the firm belief that a well trained workforce not only brings in better results for its company, a well prepared workforce is more successful and happier as it is better prepared to handle objections and disruptions, pitch better and achieve its targets.”
THE MAN BEHIND BAUSCH AND LOMB
He is passionate about learning and always makes time to attend workshops and conferences. He is also open to taking in online courses which give him a chance to interact and learn from other professionals and help expand his horizons.
In every way, Sanjay Bhutani leads by example, staying open to change and opportunities for higher learning, holding himself to the same maxim of continuous growth as he holds the employees he leads.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)