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Lenskart: Gaining First-Mover Advantage in the Saudi Eyewear Market

Saudi Arabia offers the largest consumer market in the Gulf region, with a population exceeding 32 million. A rapidly expanding economy, paired with population growth and a subsequent rise in consumer demand, lays a sturdy foundation for the growth of the retail and e-commerce markets. The retail sector, in particular, is a significant economic construct, forecast to be worth SAR159 billion ($42 billion) in 2024, with its share of non-oil GDP at 22.8% in the third quarter of 2022.

Vision 2030-driven reform across all sectors and increased focus on localization of the workforce fuel and encourage demand for retail services across a wide range of categories. The eyewear market in Saudi has emerged as a dynamic sector within the healthcare and fashion industries in the Kingdom, expected to generate a revenue of over $881 million in 2024, growing at a 5.4% CAGR over the period from 2024 to 2028, according to Statista.

The Saudi Arabian eyewear market has therefore been a target for Lenskart, a global direct-to-consumer (D2C) eyewear brand that originated from India and one of our key retail Saudi expansion leaders. Breaking into Saudi Arabia represents a key step in the company’s overall growth strategy in light of its thriving retail and e-commerce spheres. Regionally, Saudi Arabia is Lenskart’s second market in the Gulf region after the UAE and the fourth market globally. It currently also has operations in Singapore and plans to increase its footprint in Southeast Asia.

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Establishing a Competitive Edge Amid Rising Demand

Since its founding in 2010, the eyewear brand has dominated the industry back home, pioneering omnichannel methods of selling eyeglasses and other spectacles. It ensures a cohesive, seamless, and personalized customer experience across both digital and brick-and-mortar touchpoints. 

Lenskart currently serves more than 40 million customers across its key markets and boasts a catalog of over 6,000 styles of eyewear. Its app has also garnered over 50 million app downloads so far, according to the company’s LinkedIn page. 

Strengthened by its unique value proposition and growing significance, Lenskart looks to emulate the success of its eyewear brand in the Saudi market as an early mover. To fulfill the increasing demand, and following its launch in Saudi Arabia, the company has been rapidly growing its market coverage to reach six stores: four in Riyadh and two in Jeddah. It just announced the launch of its second store in Jeddah, only a month after its debut store. 

Working with AstroLabs was a key element in fast-tracking its operational existence in the Saudi market and achieving its goal of soft landing, as well as maintaining a bigger market share in Saudi Arabia.

“They [AstroLabs] were instrumental in setting our system in place, banking on a vast experience in Saudi Arabia. For us, they have been partners, not just enablers. Once we started getting through the process and later progressed with AstroLabs, we started moving much faster. Having the right partner helps in gaining more confidence in the market given the fact that we are the first foreign company in the eyewear space,” said Aina Garg, managing director of Lenskart Middle East.

E-commerce As Mainstay of Saudi Digitization Push

Garg further explained that a key factor behind the company’s interest in the Saudi Arabian market is its thriving e-commerce market, a key component of the country’s ongoing digitization push.

“E-commerce plays a crucial role in realizing Vision 2030. Firstly, it helps in building skilled individuals in areas such as digital marketing, logistics, and overall technology, thereby improving the employability of the new workforce. Secondly, it nurtures an entrepreneurial culture and business environment. Lastly, it promotes digitization,” she added.

The e-commerce market in Saudi Arabia is growing massively, accounting for 45% of the market share in the Arab world, demonstrating its role as a key element in achieving economic sustainability. This is mostly due to the new entrants to the market; last year saw a 12% annual rise in e-commerce registrations, placing Saudi Arabia among the top ten countries worldwide in terms of e-commerce growth. There were a total of well over 36,000 registered e-commerce firms in Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of 2023, with Riyadh alone accounting for 14,497 of those registrations.

This fall is in alignment with its broader objective to establish an inclusive, digital economy, which has grown by about 10% since the launch of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and is currently estimated to be valued at more than SAR183 billion ($48.7 billion). 

For Lenskart, the changes witnessed across the e-commerce market pushed the need to further understand big data and take advantage of the digital economy, thereby enabling businesses to create personalized experiences that serve larger sets of customers while satisfying their long-term objectives. The company’s keenness to improve the customer experience through AI has been evidenced by its recent acquisition of its compatriot TangoEye, an AI-based computer vision startup. 

As it transitions into a non-oil-based economy, Saudi Arabia hopes to become a hotbed for innovation and a digital hub, attracting major global companies, including Lenskart, in pursuit of bigger commercial market opportunities. Being in Saudi at this juncture of its ongoing economic transformation strategy further enables Lenskart to forge ahead with its overarching mission: to serve one billion eyes by 2025.

“We are the disruptors. We could not wait any longer, it was a clear decision [to expand into Saudi]. The market is right for getting the right talent. The women in Saudi Arabia, in particular, are going above and beyond,” Garg remarked.