India’s startups have had a rough couple of years as they’ve navigated the funding winter, but that doesn’t seem to have dampened their international ambitions.
Lenskart has said it plans to open stores in Thailand and Philippines. This will be a part of a broader Southeast Asia expansion, through which the company plans to open 300-400 stores in the region in the next two years. Lenskart already runs 70 stores in Singapore.
“We’re looking at opening 300-400 stores in southeast Asia in the next two years,” Lenskart CEO Peeyush Bansal said at an event. “Initially, we go slow, but we like to go deep. We’ve been in Singapore for the last three years, and are going to Thailand this year, and after a year in Thailand, we’ll go to the Philippines,” he added.
“There’s a lot to do in Asia now,” he said. “In Singapore, we now have 70 stores. One in three people wear Lenskart glasses. It’s a smaller geography but the impact is bigger. Next, we’re looking at Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia,” he continued.
Lenskart has also previously made its international aspirations known — in July, the company had acquired a majority stake in Japanese eyewear brand Owndays at a valuation of $400 million (Rs. 3,200 crore). Owndays runs 460 stores across Asia, while Lenskart runs 1,100 stores across India, Singapore and Dubai.
“We were very persistent about acquiring Owndays…we made five offers that got rejected and the sixth one was accepted,” Bansal now says about the acquisition. “My board said that we support you with this but if you don’t want to do it, there’s no pressure. Ultimately, it was my neck on the line, and we wanted to get it done,” he added.
Lenskart seems pretty set on global aspirations. While the company had slipped back into losses after two consecutive years of reporting profits, it still wants to grow its footprint beyond its home market of India. This is a relatively new phenomenon — until a decade ago, startups were keen on continuing to build in India, but startups in recent times have been keen to go international. Oyo Rooms operates in countries ranging from the US to Europe to Japan, and Redbus operates in Southeast Asia. Practo had once expanded into Brazil, and Urban Company is trying out its services in the US. For much of the last decade, Indian startups were copying business models of the west, but now, they seem confident about taking their products and services to a global audience.