Rhea Bhandare, founder RBee Eyewear, partner Bhandare Eyecare, apprises about her brand RBee Eyewear and going online with the new range of eyewear. Excerpts:
- Can you give us an overview of what you do?
I look into many aspects of the business but primarily merchandising, marketing, sales and growth strategy. I select the branded and unbranded eyewear that should go in our stores. I look into various marketing initiatives that we should implement in the online and offline space. I also deal with customers and our sales staff to ensure smooth selling of our products. Lastly, I oversee new ventures that the company should take on. For instance, recently we launched an affordable yet trendy brand of eyeglasses and sunglasses called RBee Eyewear. We are currently selling them at our offline stores and will be going online soon with some of India’s largest e-commerce fashion portals including Amazon and Jabong.
- 80 years into business, what has kept BHANDARE EYECARE running?
Ever since 1932, when my great grandfather, who was an ophthalmologist, started the business, we have been known as a well trusted optical retail company amongst our customers and suppliers. My grandfather was one of the first optometrists to bring in contact lenses to India. We have always prided ourselves in hiring some of the best industry professionals and optometrists at our stores. We have also kept up with the latest trends in International fashion, retailing the most prominent branded and unbranded eyeglasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. Moreover, I think what really sets us apart from our competitors is the attention we give to each customer. If we do not stock a product they might require, we call our suppliers and make sure to get them, even if it has to be imported from abroad. We also are able to deliver prescription eyewear within a few hours of purchase unlike most other optical retailers.
- When you started at BHANDARE, you essentially joined the family business. What was it like working alongside your father?
Fortunately for me, I have very supportive and open minded parents. They are open to new ideas and perspectives, or willing to discuss them out when they have a concern. My father and I have similar temperaments and perspectives. He supports most of my business ideas and decisions. For example, the creation of RBee Eyewear was completely my idea. I have been able to spearhead the business, consulting my parents when needed. They have put in a lot of faith and given me a lot of independence in doing what I would like to do. I am extremely grateful for that.
“We have always prided ourselves in hiring some of the best industry professionals and optometrists at our stores”
- A large portion of the BHANDARE customer base is in Mumbai. What strategies have you employed to maintain a loyal, pan India customer base?
Actually, a large portion of our customers are NRI’s, tourists and people from around India. The rest are loyal customers who have been coming to us through the generations. The reason for this is the attention we give to each customer no matter where they are. We source the product at our customers request, courier them pan India and globally if required. We even ensure that our customers are satisfied with their eyewear, if not we exchange immediately. Our customers also have direct access to our optometrists at any point of time. As promoters we too interact, and are accessible to our customers. Furthermore, we make certain of timely delivery since most of our customers are on the go. Also, we are known to stock the best quality brands in Eyewear. All of this increases customer loyalty and credibility to Bhandare Eyecare.
- What’s been your biggest success?
Ever since I have joined the family business, the company sales have increased exponentially. Our customer base and loyalty have increased significantly as well. This has been through a combination of offline and online promotional strategies. We keep in touch with our customers digitally and constantly try new marketing initiatives to engage a larger audience. We changed around our product assortment in eyeglasses and sunglasses. Today our sunglass sales are probably the highest they have ever been. We have introduced many new international brands and make sure to never compromise on quality products at the store. However, I would not credit this success alone. It comes as a joint effort with the entire Bhandare Eyecare team and my family.
- What are your immediate plans for BHANDARE EYECARE?
My immediate plans for the company is to promote our RBee Eyewear brand online and offline, pan india and internationally. A focus will also be to continue to increase our customer base and loyalty at our Bhandare Eyecare stores. After spending some time on this, we would be looking at potentially opening new stores around Mumbai and other markets.
Interaction with Rhea Bhandare, founder RBee Eyewear