Narinder Dhir, an optometrist and contact lens specialist, is the heart of English Optics Co. He strives to provide each of his patients with the type of care he expects for his family. Committed to providing the highest quality eye care, he tailors his services to his client’s needs and lifestyle. His patients appreciate his personal approach and the value he brings to their lives. The Times Kuwait sat down with this family-oriented businessman to discuss his ambitions.
What gave you the idea to start the Optical Co. business?
I have always wanted to be in charge from a young age. My career began when I decided to follow my father’s footsteps and pursued Optometry. I moved to Kuwait in search of greater opportunity. Being new in this business, I decided to work for someone with the prospect of opening my own business someday. Kuwait has been my home for many years and I felt this would be the ideal place to solidify my footing in Optometry. Presently, I have been working as an optometrist in Kuwait for the past 30 years. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the community and all that the community has provided me in return.
Do you have any plans to expand your business or attempt any new ventures?
My first Optometry clinic was started in Hawally in 2001. Gradually, I did well enough to expand my business and open outlets in other areas. Now, I have three outlets in Fahaheel, Salmiya and Hawally. I often think of expanding further but am content with my progress thus far. Fortunately, my plate is full in terms of work and am focused on providing the top quality care that I believe in for my clients. I plan to improve my current stores to their fullest potential.
What were the major challenges that you faced in the process of starting up your business?
The major challenge when working in this profession is the large competition in the market. There are more optometry shops than required, in other words, there is a surplus of shops. But in spite of the challenges, we have been able to establish ourselves in the market by making sure our quality, services and pricing are unmatched.
What kind of products and services do you offer?
To serve our customers, we stock all kinds of branded products from contact lenses to sunglasses. Customers looking for stylish eyewear are offered big brands like Cartier, Fred, Ray Ban and Tag Heuer. For lenses and contact lenses, we have FreshLook, Biomedics and Bausch and Lomb. Finally for spectacle lenses, we offer all major brands like Zeiss, Essilor and Nikon. Most of our stock comes from Europe and our products are carefully quality checked before being offered to our customers. Finally, we also offer a range of affordable brand options.
What characteristics do you possess that help you run your business?
My best character trait is definitely hard work. My first store was my dream child and I worked laboriously to meet our patient’s expectations. Also, I follow stringent procedures in the store; taking care that every part of the store’s dealings from ordering supplies to meeting with customers moves smoothly. I also make sure orders and deliveries are on time. I oversee all aspects of my business, and am constantly in touch with local suppliers on a daily basis.
Who were your biggest influences in your business?
My staff gives me the strength and support to run my business, as well as my wife who is a constant source of encouragement.
Tell me about the charitable side of your business?
I am a member of front liners – Thrissur Association, The Indian Cultural Association, and we do eye camps in collaboration with them. This year, we have conducted two eye camps where we have held visual screenings, refraction tests and used our machinery to help visitors who come to these camps. We are also involved in distributing trial lenses to the needy, and in performing visual screenings for children. We have a program to perform checkups on children from 4 to 15 year age, and if we suspect a problem, we refer them to a hospital or to our store. Our camps are for people who cannot afford to have eye tests, so we provide prescriptions, and assist by giving free tests and glasses. We try to help in the best way we can.
How do you handle the changes in the industry today and evolving market trends?
We update our stock and brands regularly. I also frequently visit exhibitions, for example, this year; I will be visiting two big exhibitions in Milan, Italy. I attend these events every year as well as the one in Paris, called “Silmo, International Optics and Eyewear Exhibition.” Additionally, I stay in touch with manufacturers that visit Kuwait, annually or biannually. Finally, major companies like Bio Medics, Essilor and Nikon frequently organize seminars and inform us about the latest developments. We also send our staff to them for training.
What do you consider to be the strengths of you company?
The major strength of my company is the ability to provide customer satisfaction. Our customers refer us to their family and friends. In fact, several doctors/ophthalmologists recommend their clients to us. Most of my business has been referred to me over the years. Major companies like KOC, Zain, and some banks are also part of our client base. We offer discounts in Bank magazines, brochures and booklets as well as other special offers.
How do you rate your business compared to other businesses?
My business is doing moderately well. My service is so sought after that I have amassed a large base of repeat and return clients. We are always asked about our eye test; customers return specifically for it. We have maintained our client base for the last 20 years.
What are the factors that distinguish your company?
My company is distinguished with our eye tests. Also, we offer product guarantees, if clients come to us with minor problems…we fix it with a special price or sometimes, the items are given to our customers free of charge. When we get a guarantee from suppliers, we give the same to our customers.
How have you grown with the business?
When you have a good business, you feel like doing more, for other people and for the community, as charity. I feel proud of my accomplishments, and receive a lot of respect from my clients.
What has your experience been like in this field?
My experience has been enjoyable; I love my work, my routine and meeting people. It is very satisfying. Our client list also includes some well-known Ambassadors. The former Indian and Nepal ambassadors and the Kenyan Ambassador visited my store. My client base is a good mix of Kuwaiti families, expatriates and Arabs.
Do you specifically target a certain class of customers?
No, all my customers are the same; I don’t differentiate. In order to encourage all patients to get their eyes checked, I offer promotions and discounts to make my products more affordable.
Which factors have contributed to your business success?
One factor is my close relationship with my staff; I feel like I am one of them. I work closely with them and stay back in the office to ensure everything runs like a well oiled machine. My wife is also an integral part of my business, and plays a large role in my success.