04 November 2016 13:00:33 IST

Malathy Sriram writes poems and short stories for children and adults, as well as book reviews and articles of general interest. She is a post-graduate in English Literature from Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai. Her work has been published in Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Mirror and Femina. She has edited website content and is the editor of The Small Supplement, an online magazine for children with articles on history, science, arts and culture, sports, technology, companies and brands, mythology and short stories. Reading, teaching English, listening to music (all genres) and singing complete her oeuvre.

Having the right vision

The story of what makes GKB Opticals stand out from other players in the market

It was the intriguing ad that first captured my attention: Mona Lisa gazed out pensively at the world — through a pair of spectacles! It was an ad from GKB Opticals celebrating Valentine’s Day. In one masterstroke, it attracted attention, kindled curiosity and interest, demonstrated its dependability and trustworthiness, emphasised its many years in the optical line, and introduced the gifting option! And, like all its products, it caught the eye.

How and where

GKB (Gopal Krishna Brothers) Opticals was founded in 1959 at Agra. Its beginnings were humble, with just four hand-operated machines to grind ophthalmic lenses for the four brothers and a house’s verandah to work from (In 1991, the brothers parted ways. All are respected figures in the optics world today).

In 1968, the company entered the retailing business by opening its flagship store in Kolkata, which remains its headquarters even today. It became one of the first companies in India to progress from making hand-crafted lenses to manufacturing them (with 100 per cent accuracy) with German technology. It was also the first to offer free eye check-ups with frames and sunglasses. Soon, it gained a reputation, both in manufacturing lenses and optical retailing.

The firsts

Today, GKB is India’s leading eyewear store with a presence in 29 cities, operating through about 70 retail stores. Its spectacle lens manufacturing and processing units are located in Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Cochin.

The company was the first to introduce Rx prescription glasses in India. It offers complete visual solutions: it manufactures lenses, frames, and sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection, contact lenses, safety eyewear and related accessories.

Frames and lenses

The product portfolio consists of both national and international brands. Under lenses, it offers brands like Nova, Seiko, Rodenstock, Crizal A2 and others (GKB has a strategic alliance with Japan’s Seiko and Germany’s Rodenstock). The frames and sunglasses list comprises brands such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue, Emporio Armani and the likes. GKB has its own brands in this category, like Sundrive, Activ, Inspira, Legacy, Shades and Lance Bremmer. Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb and Alcon make up the contact lens range.

GKB’s specialty products consist of progressive and digital lenses, prescription sunglasses, computer eyeglasses for software professionals (made specifically to reduce the eye strain associated with computer work), ultralight titanium eye glasses, eye frames for daily use and even prescription swimwear for the eyes.

Awards and recognition

These brands are available in stores that adhere to the highest standards in ambience, appearance, technology, staff and services, and display. No wonder GKB won the ‘Most Admired Retailer’ (2013-14) in Lifestyle Accessories division by IRF, and India’s Most Trusted Brand Award under India’s Best Eyewear Store Category in 2015.

It is also the sole authorised online retailer of more than 60 premium brands. It has an interactive website , which is said to be India’s largest online eyewear store, whose web applications like Virtual Try-on and Face Shape Guide help customers choose from over 4,000 sunglasses and eyewear.

Safety wear

Not just this, GKB Opticals is a pioneer in the field of prescription safety eyewear.

Its safety eyewear programmes emphasise both accuracy of vision and safety of eyes. To this end, GKB has gone out of its way to offer eye testing facilities at industry sites. The safety eyewear is customised to protect the wearers in their particular hazardous environments.

Dangers to the eyes of workers in various industries come from projectiles (stone, wood, fibre, metal, water under high pressure and even electrical arcs), chemical hazards (aerosol liquids, paints, vapour jets, cement dust), and radiation of different types. Even biological agents can harm the eyes of health-care and laboratory workers through ocular exposure.

GKB Opticals recognised that effective safety wear for the eyes should provide not just exact vision and protection for the eyes (in terms of lens strength, durability, wrap, and non-corrosive nature) but also not irritate the skin around the eyes. It also takes into account the atmosphere and working conditions of the wearers. With all this in mind, the safety eyewear is made of impact resistant material like nylon and polycarbonate, and is customised to provide maximum comfort to each individual wearer.

GKB's client list in this category is impressive, featuring names such as Castrol India Limited, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd, Saint Gobain, Ultratech Cement Limited, GE India Group, Unilever Industries Pvt. Ltd, Maruti Udyog Ltd, and Reliance Industries Limited, among others.

Every GKB Opticals store has a digital eye testing and contact lens clinic, an expert team of optometrists and highly trained sales personnel to assist customers. GKB believes that good eye care is not just about providing quality lenses but also giving importance to the cosmetic factor.

CSR side

Customer inputs and suggestions are taken note of. It also looks at how different lifestyles could affect vision in different ways, and gives solutions accordingly. Being constantly in touch with customers has given it the reputation of providing excellent after-sales service.

Naturally, GKB's CSR activities are based on vision correction and comprise free screening and free spectacles (as needed) at the eye camps it organises, along with schools and NGOs. Apart from this, eye-protection camps where free sunglasses are distributed to the poor, are also held.

The eye-care industry is highly competitive with both organised and unorganised players competing to catch the customer's eye. Considering that GKB has consistently kept ahead of the competition through innovations and use of cutting-edge technology, one can understand why it remains the largest lifestyle optical retail chain that offers the best possible eye-care at affordable prices.