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An eye to the future

Equipped with the latest technology, Keshor R Sarsolkar of Mukta Opticians is on a mission to provide quality eye care, especially in the neglected and untapped hinterland villages

By team B&C

When it comes to eye care, there are many who still don’t have access to quality treatment. Various factors such as lack of awareness, inadequate facilities, and above all, rising treatment costs are all adding to the statistics of eye-related incidents. But thankfully, organisations like Mukta Opticians are making a difference with their concerted efforts.

“It’s not just merely doing business. Our aim is to educate customers on eye care and dispensing quality products. Customer retention is our motive. It is not possible to satisfy every customer but one can certainly reduce this percentage by providing a good service,” says Keshor R Sarsolkar, owner of Mukta Opticians.

Sarsolkar firmly believes in doing things with a difference, which is why he has in place a unique system at Mukta Opticians. The company has a customer base of 1.5 lakh across nine outlets that are located at Mapusa, Curchorem, Panaji, Ponda, Mapusa, Sawantwadi and Belgaum. An online software tracks everything in real time –orders, appointments, schedules, deliveries, etc – through a central server that connects all outlets. A database displays detailed information of every customer – be it type of eyewear dispensed, nature of ailments, prior and future appointments, consultations, etc. Customers registered with Mukta receive mobile messages reminding them about future appointments, periodic change of nose pads, glasses, frames, etc. Even doorstep deliveries are also done if customers are busy.

When it comes to quality, there is no compromise for the ISO 9001:2008 company, says Sarsolkar. “For each set of spectacles we make, there is a detailed job card with 36 quality control checks at different stages of production. This makes everyone responsible for their work. All products that go out of the head office are painstakingly bar-coded. That’s how we maintain total transparency in everything that we do,” he points out.

Even the spectacles are made taking the person’s background into consideration. “We focus on ‘need-based’ spectacles. For instance, housewives will need spectacles which will differ from those that a writer uses. One should spend on eyewear as per requirement. We give value for money, so in way, this is beneficial for those who are budget conscious,” he adds.

Sarsolkar says the company’s staff is his strength. “I never boss around. All of us have a very cordial relationship. It’s like a family. Every person is unique and will have a different perception about doing things, so we encourage them to share their ideas. We believe in having this kind of culture in our organisation,” he emphasises.

Although e-commerce is making an impact in the eyewear market, Sarsolkar has a different opinion. “Eye care is something that is service-oriented. You cannot mess with eyes. Sometimes, what you buy online will not fit you. One should have a feel of it and wear it before buying. We design frames that are custom-made for our customers. Lens fitting is also very important and it should be precise. That’s why we also have a lens engraving machine called ‘Lens edger ME1200’. It happens to one of the three machines in India currently. One cannot offer a prescription online. So, we want to dispense not sell. And this is why I feel people will continue to visit the retail stores as after sales is important. People are ready to spend but they want satisfaction,” he informs.

Besides business, Mukta Opticians is very active on the social front. It has partnered with World Health Organisation in Goa to promote ‘Vision 2020’ – a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness. Mukta is also promoting ‘Netradeep’ which is a national programme by Indian Medical Association and has tied-up with a group of NRI Goans who have set up ‘You and Eye’. The company organises eye camps every Sunday, covering 52 panchayats throughout the year. In addition to this, it regularly conducts special eye camps in all schools across the state. It has launched two programmes for children – ‘Bal Netra’ for kids between 1 – 5 years and ‘Vision for Tomorrow’ for children aged 5-10 years. After a thorough examination, a detailed record of every student is maintained which can be accessed anytime in the future. This year, it plans to target 20,000 school children.

Mukta owns two mobile clinics that are equipped with the latest technology in eye care. The expensive eye testing machines that are used are sourced from NIDEK which is a reputed Japanese brand. All the equipment is transported to the free mobile camps held in remote villages. For instance, Mukta uses a ‘Fundus Camera’ for diabetic patients who suffer from diabetes retinopathy. This machine can take a picture of the retina to reveal any internal damage.  During the last year alone, 48,000 people have been screened and 25,000 spectacles were disbursed.

“If you are doing good work then people are ready to help you. So we partner with many NGOs and corporates for such programmes. People often ask me the reason for doing all this. I believe in giving back to society. Whatever I earn is spent on these welfare programmes. We come into this world with nothing and leave with nothing. So I am doing my bit. People don’t remember you as a person; they will only remember what good deeds you have done in your life. Also, I feel everyone should donate both their eyes as it will live through someone else. That’s my basic idea,” he mentions.

According to Sarsolkar, he wants focus in the rural areas as there is a big demand for eye-care in these places. “There are no facilities in the interiors. Therefore, our main objective is to create awareness. With our free camps, people will at least visit the city for their eye care treatments. We also have follow-ups after the camps. During our visits, we have noticed that 65 per cent of the people who come for our camps are women. They do all the housework and end up neglecting themselves, but this is now slowly changing. Today, the ladies will come to the camp even at 11.30 a.m. after finishing all their chores,” he says.

Sarsolkar is a graduate in optometry and got into the eye-care business after taking over his family business that was set up in 1977. His family had jointly set up a manufacturing unit for making spectacle frames at Curchorem. Later, in 1997, Sarsolkar decided to go into retail and opened outlets at Curchorem, Margao, Varca, Mapusa, Calangute, Sawantwadi, Ponda, Panaji and Belgaum.

With each passing year, Sarsolkar sets the bar higher for himself, and has already charted out the company’s future plans. “We are going to manufacture our own lenses, and by 2017 we aim to introduce our own brand of spectacles. In addition to this, more outlets will be added in Mapusa, Panaji, Hubli, Kankavli (Kudal) and Kolhapur, and one more eye mobile clinic will also be operational in April. Soon, our customers will be benefitting from our loyalty card scheme which we plan to introduce in a few months from now,” says Sarsolkar on a concluding note.

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