I am Harsh, a laboratory technician and eyewear expert with more than 23 years of experience in the eyeglasses industry.
Five years ago, if a guy from India told you that he’s going to change the eyewear industry, you would probably laugh and leave. But Siddharth Sethi, a graduate from the University of Manchester didn’t take no for an answer; he made the impossible happen.
In 2017, Siddharth was only a student in Manchester when he founded Specscart (a changemaker in the industry). The company has created a shift in a monopolistic industry that was overpriced, rigid and controlled by one giant company.
Although Specscart still has a lot to prove, what the company has achieved so far in just a small run of 5 years is truly inspiring.
Reflecting back on these crazy 5 years, Sid can’t believe what Specscart has achieved. But he’s also aware that there’s a long journey ahead to make Specscart a household name all over the world.
The idea, The inception
Specscart was founded in 2017 by an Indian boy who happened to be studying business at the University of Manchester.
How the inception of the idea took place is one to talk about. It was only a day before his semester exams and Siddharth broke his eyeglasses. He didn’t have an extra pair (it’s common) so he had to buy a new one.
When he entered the eyeglasses store, he was amazed to see that the frames were put behind shelves. Also, the price tags on those frames were enough to make your eyes pop.
But, since it was important and an emergency, he decided to buy glasses on credit. So he selected the most basic pair and gave his eye prescription to the store so they could put it in the lenses.
Now you would think that he got his glasses, went in for the exam and passed. Sure, that would make for a good story. But good things take time and so did his eyeglasses. He had to go in without his spectacles but still managed to pass the exam somehow.
Apparently, prescription glasses have a turnaround time where the lenses are made and fit into the frames. This usually takes about 1 to 2 weeks which is absurd cuz what if someone wants eyeglasses urgently like Sid.
But, since Siddharth was studying business, he was only focused on the solution. And interestingly enough, he came up with one.
He decided he will open an eyewear startup where he will try to provide stylish glasses at affordable prices and a quick turnaround time.
How to make it happen?
Even great business ideas fail when they’re not executed properly.
So now the big question for Sid was - How? How to make Specscart happen?
After doing days of research on the industry, Siddharth learned that all the players in the eyewear market were controlled by one goliath of a company that manufactures and supplies frames and lenses.
And with this knowledge in hand, the idea begins to take a shape and the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.
He knew that he had to eliminate the middlemen and take complete control of the production process to create a vertically integrated company. No retailers and no middlemen will mark up glasses what they actually cost and they’ll transfer the cost directly to the customers and save them money.
Now that he knew what he needed to do to make Specscart happen, the only thing left was to get started. But like every other business, Specscart also needed funding.
But how an immigrant student from India who barely had money to pay for new glasses was supposed to have funds for his startup?
But there are places where great business ideas are appreciated and even better, rewarded. I am talking about business competitions.
In 2017, Specscart won the Albert Gubay Enterprise award and got a retail space in Walkden along with prize money as a reward. The Walkden store was everything that the highly-expensive store (where Sid went one day before his exam) was not.
Siddharth launched Specscart’s very own eyewear brand - Tom Archer the very same year. However, even after having a store in one of the busiest streets of Walkden, Specscart wasn’t getting much recognition.
Sid decided to take matters into his own hands. He wanted to disperse the brand beyond Walkden. So he took a few samples of Tom Archer with him and travelled the entire city of Manchester. He went from one optical store to the other trying to convince the opticians to sell Tom Archer in their stores. In almost one month, the brand could be seen in most of Manchester’s eyewear stores.
The efforts of Siddharth did not go to waste as the company bagged a £200,000 turnover in its first year.
Not long after in 2018, Specscart entered another business competition - Venture Further held for the students or graduates at the University of Manchester. And guess what? Specscart won it too.
With the £10,000 cash prize, Sid bought eye test equipment and machines to offer free eye tests for everyone in the UK.
Specscart was making steady progress and soon opened another store in Bury which includes an advanced eyewear lab where the lenses are cut and fit into frames by the lab technician at Specscart - Brian.
The Bury lab was a milestone in Specscart’s journey as it allowed them to make eyeglasses at a high speed and deliver glasses faster than anyone else in the UK.
In 2020, Specscart launched ‘Specscart Rocket’ - an innovative and leading service, one of its kind in the eyewear industry. It manages to offer glasses at a lightning-fast speed and gave Specscart an edge over its competitors.
The events of 2020 were no strangers to any of us. We all knew how businesses suffered to keep their heads above water when Covid shut down markets or the whole economy.
However, Specscart even after being a new brand managed to thrive in the lockdown as well. Since glasses are a necessity for people with poor vision, the company provided contactless deliveries across the UK to those in the need of vision correction.
And in September 2021, Specscart moved its previous Walkden store to a much larger store in the same town. The store doesn’t feel like a typical eyewear store. It has enough room for customers to chill and relax or maybe play a foosball match or two if they want.
All the stylish frames are put in an open display and the store staff is always helping the customers to pick out the best frame.
Not only this, Specsart always has some offers or discounts running which bring down the cost of your glasses even further. The brand thrives on customer satisfaction and the Google reviews speak for the excellent customer service at Specscart.
The company has a no-questions-asked return policy and even let you try out frames at the comfort of your home for free.
Specscart has started to get orders from different parts of the world and dreams of having stores in different countries. The aim is to make stylish and affordable glasses accessible to more people all over the world and turn eyeglasses into a fun accessory.