Today, Marg News brings you the story of a 28 years old Gujju boy who brought the Ultra-thin lenses at affordable prices and making a difference in the Indian lenses industry. He founded Zylux at the age of 25 with a belief that if you are passionate, you will definitely get your success.
Pratik Bhatt, the self-made new-age businessman who gives the credit to take the plunge to his Gujju Blood, parents, and wife, talks about his passion, Zylux. He is a reader, traveler and loves biopics.
The most interesting thing about this conversation is Pratik’s zeal, his Gujarati accent, and the examples he gives, thanks to his habit of reading. He says that everyone should read at least a book a month.
Please tell us something about Zylux.
Zylux is a startup in the spectacle lenses industry. We started in 2018 and have the vision to make lenses at down-to-earth prices. He says that, as we can see that there is a huge gap in the market. When we started, There were two entities that were working in the Indian spectacle lenses industry. One was the MNC brands that do have very good technology available with them, but the prices that they offer are exorbitantly high. And on the other side, the Indian players, who have an economical range but again the technology affects… because they are more working on the Chinese technologies. So, we saw a visible gap between these two entities. And thought that we can definitely bridge the gap by offering quality lenses at value for money prices.
Like there was no brand available that can give the technology of an MNC standard and a price as good as the Indian players. So that is when the ecosystem came into my mind.
Giving examples of Ola, Uber, and OYO, Pratik adds that, If you see over the last 10 years, every tech entrepreneur has become successful only by building an ecosystem.
If OLA would have gone to buy so many cars, to hire so many drivers, getting the fuel filled by itself…the company would have not expanded at this level.
He (OLA) did this by creating an ecosystem where he brought the buyers and sellers to one place and then that ecosystem is working over the last 10 years.
Very excitingly, talking about OYO, Pratik says that OYO has not built a single hotel, but again they just have brought the buyers and sellers together.
Then relating the ecosystem concept to Zylux, he continues, With Zylux, we also have done the same thing. We have partnered with a Singapore-based company to distribute their products in India without having to create a lab to make the lenses.
He told us that, it takes a minimum investment of 10 to 15 crores to set up a lab that can create the quality of lenses that can match the quality of big players. He says that it is not easy for a start-up like mine, to gather this amount of money as getting into the industry with all money without a godfather is quite a task.
So, that is where the Zylux ecosystem came in and that’s what I was looking up for. We partnered with a 27-year-old, Singapore-based lab and saved the money, that a lab setup here in India, could have taken.
He informed us that just maintenance cost of a lenses lab takes at least 10 lakhs of rupees a month. And he saves 8 lakhs a month by not having a lab and offers lenses at an affordable rate while providing that benefit to his customers and end-consumers.
We offer our customers quality products at half the price of the market prices offered by other competing brands. The same product that they offer at 20000, 18000 or 15000, we have introduced them at 7000, 6000, and 5000 rupees.
He concludes by saying, Zyluz is the ecosystem that I tried to create over the last three years.
How did you get into this business?
Being a Gujarati entrepreneur, it is in our blood to do business. (Chuckles) So, I did my Masters’s degree program from Sydenham college of commerce in Mumbai and after doing that, I did a corporate job because I wanted to learn. Because corporates are the ones who teach us that Process is everything. So I did a corporate job for a year. But, at the end of the day, I used to think that I want to do something of my own and that was my ultimate goal. I was doing the job only to save money so that I can invest in my own venture after 5 years.
Then one day I realized that an entrepreneur journey needs at least a decade. Ten years is what you need to give your company to grow from scratch. So, one fine day, I just took a decision.
My family supported me a lot. When I told them that I want to start something into entrepreneurship. He says that I am the only child of my parents so it was very difficult for me. Counting his fears, he says, if at the end of the day my startup doesn’t work, how thinks will go. Data says 99 percent fail, only 1 percent gets the success in the startups.
They told me Pratik, ‘See if your goal is to become an entrepreneur, you are 24, why don’t you start just from now. Even if you fail after four years, you will be only 28… and you will still have time to restart your life. But after 30 or 35 years, it would be difficult.’ That is how, One fine day, my dad and I took the decision and I resigned from the company.
And connecting how the spectacles and Zylux lenses came into my mind. During my semester breaks, I used to visit one of dad’s friends who is into the spectacle lenses industry. And he has a small wholesale business. From there I learned about lenses and how these lenses are made and what is the raw cost. We had a 2 to 3 months break between every two semesters. I knew only about lenses and I did not have any other idea. So, I told my dad that ‘Dad, I know this, and let me start something with this because I am not aware of any other industry.’ So that is where and how I got the idea and started my journey in 2015 finally.
I left my job and slowly started taking lenses from the local traders. And then I went to Korea, Europe, France, Singapore, and many other places to explore the markets and what opportunities I can get. Though I was doing that local business like buying and selling the lenses. But that was not my goal, I really wanted to create a brand wherein I can pitch to the bigger and finest opticians available in the industry.
So, finally, in 2018, I visited a trade show in Taiwan and that is where I met these company guys. And that is where I saw the product and the pricing. Then an ecosystem came into my mind. I proposed to them. I was 25 then and they were very reluctant that ‘Boss how can we give you the distributorship for a market like India but I convinced them. They saw a spark in me and after a lot of discussions and meetings…finally in 2018, we signed a contract to get the rights to sell their products in India. Then Zylux was born henceforth and then we branded it, we did all the marketing and advertising, so that is how things started for me.
And what were the challenges you faced after executing the idea?
Not coming from the background…I don’t have any godfather in the industry. Every day was coming with a hell of a lot of challenges from pitching to the customer, getting negative reviews, discouraging people, who were saying that you should not invest in this kind of product.
Smilingly says, Now the same people are working with Zylux.
So, there were a lot of challenges like managing finance. I managed everything on my own. I remember, my dad is a normal serviceman and we do not have any background as such (Business). So, I started with some business loans and started my journey alone. I did not have any marketing or advertising budget. I started by visiting opticians, talking to them about the idea.
The twelve months were very difficult to survive with the daily expenses and managing everything. But yeah we survived. It says that when you have the passion to work, it is not a challenge but you take it like…okay, it is my work. So I survived those challenges and that initial phase.
He says that how gradually, we made strategies, we failed. We did not give up. We had a small team of 3 to 4 people only with one Laptop, one table, and one small office. And today we have around 1000 square feet of office in Mumbai with 15 people working in operations, 10 people working in sales. So gradually, business came up, I got the right business partners to work with and revenue also started coming slowly.
One thing that encouraged me to take risks is the positive word-of-mouth publicity that opticians gave. It happens when the top opticians start encouraging, you start to get motivated….they said ‘Pratik you have a beautiful product, don’t give up on your dreams, we see you growing over the next 10 years, so that motivated me every day.’
Talking about a Delhi-based optician he says, ‘One optician from Delhi calling me and say, ‘Pratik, I have already spoken about Zylux to 5 opticians. Next time you are coming, You pitch the product over there.’ So they encouraged me to take more risks. That’s how I found that I am on the right path. People were saying that you are not on the right path but opticians of India started giving references. They started advertising through WhatsApp status. They started telling people that there is a new guy who started making a small change in the industry. Of course, challenges are there and I kept myself motivated over the years and today we have 500 Zylux partners stores from Delhi to Kanyakumari.
What do you do besides doing business? What are your other passions?
I am an avid traveler. I really love traveling because as an entrepreneur, every day is a challenge. My goal is, just want to travel after 5 years. I want to explore the world. Five years down the line, I really want to invest myself in traveling. I enjoy visiting places, different cultures, getting to know different kinds of people, meeting different people, and knowing what they do. Because I feel business and enterprise are never-ending things, they are never going to end. There should be some limitations. I am doing it all for my passion not just to earn money.
I could have easily earned 2-3 lakhs in a corporate job but earning money was never my ultimate goal. I want to travel across the globe. Travelling is my ultimate goal. Other than traveling, I enjoy watching Netflix shows and listening to music.
How your upbringing has helped you become the person you are today?
He told us that he comes from a middle-class family that has seen its ups and downs. His family was living in Gujarat and his dad was the sole breadwinner of the family. Besides being into the service, his father had a business also which went into losses and they had to shift their base to Mumbai.
Then he recalls the two incidents that made a big impact on his life. One by his principal and two, by his parents.
It was our farewell day and our principal told us one thing that ‘Guys in the next five years you will be a graduate…21 to 31…that decade will decide what you’re going to be. This decade will either break you or will make you. It depends on you if you work hard in these 10 years. After 31, you will be having whatever luxury you want but agar ye 10 saal timepass ho Gaya naa, toh baad mein poori Zindagi time pass hai, then slog hi slog hai…’ So, that is still in my mind. I do a lot of shows and in every program, I tell everyone that guys these 21 to 31 are very crucial for you.
He says that as a lesson of his upbringing, he was told by his parents that ‘Pratik agar jaldi uppar jaoge toh jaldi neeche aaoge, it’s better ki slowly jao but concrete way mein jao…(If you goes up fast, you will see the downfall at a fast pace, it’s better that you go slow but do things in a concrete way)’ And another lesson he learned in his formative years was, ‘Nothing will come easy on your way. Nothing is going to be easy. You will have your own set of struggles.’
Do you have any partners in this business?
Yes, we have partners because, at the end of the day when you want to grow and take your company to the national level, you definitely need investors, finances, and partners. Our growth strategist, Ashish Joshi is our partner with Zylux corporation private limited. We collaborated in January 2021 and came together to expand our business. He invested money in our company and helped it grow to a large extent. Like we were predominantly present in the west market such as Maharashtra, Goa, and Gujarat. But after, Mr. Ashish Joshi joined us, we took our brand across India.
What are your Future Plans with Zylux?
Today, we have around 400 to 500 partner stores available. Over the next 3 years, we’ve planned to take it to 1500 partners across India. And we are going to limit our partner stores because Zylux is a niche brand. There are two types of brands available in every sector. One is the mass commercial brand and one is the niche brand. If I give you a layman example…SBI, ICICI, etc are mass commercial banks as you can see their branches everywhere. But there is Citi Bank and American Express Bank which are niche banks. So Zylux never wants to become a mass commercial brand. That is where our goal is, we don’t want to give it to everyone, we want to be very exclusive. I want to make it something niche, valuable, rare, and something which is not available to everyone. And that is where our business model lies, we saw that our competing brands’ products are available to every store and that is where we thought that our brand will be available to selected outlets who understand the brand and our vision. And that is our main driving force.
Talking about being available only at selected stores, he says, ‘We have one market one player policy. Today we have 500 families of Zylux partner stores. We want to take it to 1500 stores. Then we want to be an educator because it is an unorganized market. We want to create some opportunities to educate the stores about ‘How to dispense the lens?’
There is a lack of education. People are not aware of the technologies and the right quality available in the market. Today our industry has grown by leaps and bounds. So many technologies are available but the education is not there for the opticians to give it to the end consumers. So that is our goal to create awareness and educate people about lenses and their technologies. Our main goal is to educate our customers.
How are you educating people?
We have tied up with a lot of optometrists. There is an organization called Optography, which is based in Kolkatta. Optography is one such organization that has a team of around more than 500 optometrists (students) in different zones. So, we are educating these students about our lenses, technology, how lenses are made, and how they can educate the customers. So when they will join any outlet, they will be ready to dispense the lens as they will have the knowledge. And we are doing this on a small basis and we also have the training and analysis teams in Delhi and other metro cities. We have our qualified training and analyst’s team who are educating people on daily basis. They have a target of visiting 3 outlets a day. They inform these outlets about Zylux and the technology we use at Zylux.
They teach the people about lenses and how they should dispense the lens. They are visiting 30 to 40 outlets every day across India. And they educate these stores on various bases about the technology of the lenses, how do things are evaluating in the industry, What you can expect after 10 years, what is going to be the next big change in the industry. We do it all through a lot of workshops, zoom meetings, and organizing corporate events.
Was the journey tough on the personal front?
Yes, it was very tough, When we started people came up and said, ‘Arre yaar! It is not easy and nobody knows Zylux lenses, how will you do it?’ You know… the main challenge was the Lockdown, our baby was just learning to walk in 2020 since its start in 2018, it was ready to run but the lockdown showed up. But we never gave up, when people were getting frustrated with it, we developed the most in that lockdown period.
Because before lockdown, we used to call opticians for Zylux. They asked Zylux kya hai? (What is Zylux?). People did not want to hear, meet and they were not ready to even give an appointment. We were trying to convince them but they were very reluctant and used to say…Baad mein phone karo (Call me later)…They used to avoid us even on WhatsApp. We were not getting replies. But with lockdown, everyone sat down at home and that’s what we capitalized on. We went social in an aggressive way and used the media in a constructive way. We started calling people, changing our pitch.
As the result, we opened a hundred accounts from March to June-July. This was the time when the government relaxed the rules for essential services. Shops were getting reopened and we started getting chances. People considered to start keeping Zylux products at their stores. This whole journey was really tough.
How did you think of this name? Why ZYLUX?
There is a story behind the word ’Zylux’. Firstly, the brand was not Zylux, the brand name was ‘OptoMight’. And Zylux was just a product (then) under OptoMight. When I got the rights for this company, I was so excited about getting that opportunity at a young age. And I just thought that I don’t want to invest in the name. I just want to run and enter into the market
So, I just kept it ‘OptomMight’ because ‘Opto’ is related to the optical fraternity. ‘Opto’ means eyesight in Latin and ‘Might’. In 2020, when I was fully confident that I want to take this brand to the national level, I hired a brand management team. And we had a survey done. We asked our opticians that How OptoMight is looking? What should be the name?
Everyone told us one thing, ‘Pratik, the name OptoMight is good for the industry but it is not having that connection with the consumer. They told us that when we say OptoMight or Zylux, consumers get convinced of Zylux as it looks unique.’
I have a young team with the eldest person being 31 and the youngest being 19 years old. This 19-year-old IT engineer of my team coined this word and gave me the word ZYLUX and I found that connect. And then we asked opticians about it… they said ‘ when we say Zylux, we see that there is a new wow feeling on our customer’s faces.’
And then we rebranded from OptoMight to Zylux and we changed the parent company name from ‘Pearl Lenses’ to ‘Zylux Corporation Private Limited’. So Zylux being a very classy name gives a WOW effect and generates that feeling of connect. Today, we get a lot of appreciation for this name called Zylux.
Proudly says, When you say Zylux lenses, it adds to that brand value. He concludes that Zylux has that connect with the customers. Our tagline says ‘See Life Beautifully.’ That’s how Zylux connects.’
Now when you are a successful self-made man. How do your parents feel about you?
It’s a dream run. When I started this journey. I never knew that it is going to be a roller coaster ride. So, when in September, we opened our 1000 square feet office in Mumbai. It was a very proud moment for my parents. As I said, it was my parents and my wife, they were the ones who encouraged and supported me throughout this journey.
How do you deal with the work-life balance?
I will connect this question to my family who has supported me in my vision. I feel that if you really want to go on an entrepreneurial journey, you need the support of your family. Because at some point in time, I was having questions about my vision during covid times. But when I asked them and told my wife that the next ten years are going to be a roller coaster ride for me and you have to support me. And I don’t know, I might fail or I might go bankrupt but whatever comes this way I will face it, and they have understood my vision.
When I started in 2018. I have worked 18 to 19 hours a day because I was the owner and I had to see everything. I was doing the work of HR, marketing & sales, business development, etc. But now when I have a team. I try to give my weekend time to my family. From Friday evening to Monday morning, I prefer family more than Zylux. But the weekdays are all about Zylux.
But I understood that work-life balance is also important over the 6 months. So I try to balance between these two. But still, 80 percent is fixed for Zylux and 20 percent of the time is for family.
Any message for young entrepreneurs.
I will only say, guys, if you are going on this roller coaster ride. If you have decided and have belief in the product…If you have faith in your product, if you feel that this thing can lead you and jump up your startup, then Don’t give up. Don’t think about luxury, if you are getting food for two times, phone and internet connection. Then just go behind your passion. And if you are passionate, you will definitely get your success.
So, these were the excerpts from our conversation with Pratik Bhatt, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Zylux Corporation Private Limited.
Watch the podcast video here: