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This French Lens Manufacturing Company Has Set Up 3,000 Start-ups In India With focus on grooming rural youth to become successful businessmen, Essilor aims to create 10,000 more start-ups by 2020.

By Komal Nathani

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It has been catering to the needs of the eye-care sector for over 168 years and its leaders rightfully boast of "setting up nearly 3,000 start-ups till date".

Chairman of the board and CEO of the world's largest ophthalmic lens manufacturing company Essilor International Hubert Sagnieres has even said, "we aim to create10,000 more start-ups by 2020."

The France-based company has claimed to have made successful entrepreneurs out of potential, unemployed or underemployed people in India.

Essilor has its operations in more than 100 countries across the world and has come to India 20 years ago to serve people with vision problems. It didn't take the company much time to gauge the country's potential and abundant resources — two important criteria for it to embark on a journey of grooming up successful entrepreneurs in India.

Training Young Entrepreneurs In Rural India

"It's a company of entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs," asserted Sagnieres.

In tandem with the government of India's "Start-up India and Stand Up India' initiative, the company started grooming local entrepreneurs, and set up centres to provide quality eye-care to people.

"In India, people don't have enough eye-care units. We have started a programme called Eye Mitra to create awareness about various vision problems among people," he said.

The company is training young individuals from rural pockets to become successful micro-entrepreneurs. Essilor provides them a small amount of money and today, the company has reportedly created nearly 3000 start-ups.

"We are creating India's future. These young independent entrepreneurs are successfully doing business, making their presence felt in the eye-care industry," asserted Sagnieres.

Inspiration Behind The Operations

"No one is taking care of the vision and that's our inspiration," he said. "It's not painful when you don't see well and so people are unmindful about it. Lack of awareness has actually acted as a catalyst for us to take the plunge in India and meet people's needs," he said.

On the company's expectations from the government of India, Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, Chief Mission Officer, Essilor International SA, said, "The government's support is more towards healthcare, but eye-care sector is still neglected here."

"We Are Where People Are"

When asked what attracted the company to start a business in India, Bhuvaraghan said, "When you have 1.2 billion people in a place, you can't afford to not be there."

"We started as distributors and successfully launched brands like Crizal, Varilux, Eyezen, Xperio," explained Hubert.

How Is One of the Biggest Mergers of 2017 Going to Help India?

Recently, two of the world's largest firms in the eye-care sector—Italy's Luxottica and France's Essilor— agreed to a €46 billion merger deal. The Ray-ban maker, Luxottica, has a huge market in India.

"We have announced a merger with Luxottica, which has a large distribution network in India. This merger will help in creating more awareness, access points and in grooming young entrepreneurs who can open optical centres in rural areas," said Sagnieres.

Komal Nathani

Former Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

A firm believer of hard work and patience. Love to cover stories that hold a potential to change the momentum of business world. Currently, a part of all-women web team of Entrepreneur’s Asia Pacific edition to jig the wheel of business journalism!

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