Digital eyewear retailer Lenskart raises $220 million

Softbank-backed Lenskart has raised $220 million in funding from Temasek Holdings Pte and Falcon Edge Capital.

The online eyewear retailer platform intends to invest in its supply chain as well as new technologies. It will use the funds, along with $95 million raised earlier this year from KKR & Co., to expand online sales and open physical stores in India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

The combined market opportunity is expected to be more than $15 billion by 2025, according to the startup’s announcement on Monday.

“Every vertical from apparel to footwear, aside from eyewear, has been disrupted globally,” said Bansal, 37, on a video call announcing the funding. “We can easily spend two decades solving the problem of awareness, penetration and affordability in eyewear,” said Peyush Bansal, Founder, Lenskart.

The startup’s valuation is now $2.5 billion, the founder added.

Peyush Bansal founded the company in 2010, and it delivers eyeglasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses online and through approximately 750 retail outlets in the country. He established Lenskart Solutions Pvt, as the company is officially known, in the dusty industrial town of Faridabad, outside of New Delhi, and received early support from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

Bansal graduated from McGill University in Montreal and then worked for Microsoft Corp. in the United States before returning to India about a decade and a half ago to become an entrepreneur. He began his entrepreneurial endeavors with a startup aimed at resolving college students’ housing issues. But he quickly realized that selling eyewear would allow him to make a bigger impact.

“India is the blind capital of the world and about half of its 1.3 billion people need glasses,” he said.

The startup Lenskart sold approximately 8 million pairs of eyewear last year and plans to increase that figure by 30% in the fiscal year ending March 2022. The company claims to be India’s largest eyewear seller and aspires to be the market leader in new geographies such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Despite ups and downs during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Bansal has claimed that Lenskart is now profitable.

“We turned profitable at the company level before the pandemic, were in the red during the peak of the first and second waves and have returned to green again,” he said.

The company has claimed that its new manufacturing plant in Rajasthan, western India, is the largest factory in the world for ready prescription glasses, producing 150,000 pairs per day. It recently established the Lenskart Vision Fund, which will invest $2 million in select startups in the eyewear, eye-care, and related retail segments.

Lenskart’s digital services include a virtual 3D tool for trying on glasses and artificial intelligence face-mapping to assist with frame recommendations.

“Technology offers huge benefits to the whole eyewear industry,” Bansal said.

The Indian technology industry is having a fruitful year. Global investors are pouring billions of dollars into the country’s startups, resulting in a record number of unicorns.

Those investments are beginning to bear fruit. Zomato Ltd., a food-delivery app, became the country’s first unicorn to go public, raising $1.3 billion. Paytm, a digital payments startup has filed a draught prospectus for what could be the country’s largest initial public offering (IPO) ever.

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