Singapore is ranked high in many areas: cleanliness, low crime rates, a world class airport, etcetera. But, if there is one record we would love to wipe off our achievements list, it is our population’s soaring myopia levels (‘shortsighted’ in laymen’s terms). Globally, Singapore holds the dubious ranking of numero uno in childhood myopia between the ages of seven to nine.
Now, a group of entrepreneurs are working to solve this problem from the ground up.
Remember that scene in Breaking Bad where Walter White is hiding out in a hut and has to shuffle through an assortment of glasses because his liaison doesn’t know his prescription? Well, Singapore-based startup SeeChic wants to provide a similar service, except, well, a heck lot more efficient (and cheaper).
The e-commerce platform lays claim to be the first online eyewear retailer to also provide eye care in Singapore.
It’s actually an incredible fact when after considering it for a moment because Singapore has had a thorny problem with high myopia levels for a long time. Eyewear retailers and online shops — as well as eye care clinics — plaster the city. So, why has it taken this long for an enterprising individual to disrupt this space?
What is also interesting is that SeeChic was not even founded by a local who grew up with the problem, but by an expat named Thomas Brochier.
He has spent more than three years in Singapore, first working as the APAC sales director for global eyewear retailer Luxottica (and the four years before, at the brand’s Middle East and UK operations).
“Part of my role involved looking into an e-commerce opportunity. In the US, 50 per cent of contact lenses are sold online, (30 per cent in Europe). In South East Asia, the online penetration for contact lenses is [in the] low single digits. So it made sense for me to take this market knowledge and apply it to Singapore, which has such a high rate of myopia and yet is lacking an easy solution for eye care product purchase and delivery,” says Brochier in an email interview with e27.
SeeChic not only delivers
glasses [Update: SeeChic currently does not sell glasses but plans to stock reading glasses and computer glasses next month], sunglasses and contact lenses to your address, but it also conducts free eye tests from patients by registered optometrists (at the customers homes or at SeeChic’s premises). Those with a prescription can upload it onto the website or input their own optometrists’ details at checkout, and SeeChic will verify the prescription on the patient’s behalf.
SeeChic also offers eye tests for corporations and companies. Since its founding in May 2015, it has partnered with companies such as LinkedIn and Airbnb.
Brochier says by not having to rent a physical shop, SeeChic is able to price its eyewear at more competitive prices compared to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
“Contact lenses are expensive in Singapore. We manage to transfer savings to consumers by 1. Optimising our supply chain, and 2. Not having an expensive retail shop. Savings are on average 30 per cent vs retail”.
SeeChic has raised US$1 million in seed funding from investors that include Hong Kong-based luxury distributor Bluebell Group. Its board of advisors include board industry experts such Kevin Cornils of My Optique Group and Cyril Charzat of Heineken, as well as e-commerce gurus such as Alexis Horowitz-Burdick of Sephora Digital (formerly known as Luxola) and Thibault Villet of mei.com.
“We hope to convince more people that buying contact lenses online in Singapore is so much better and easier than what they have been used to – walking into a retail store. We also plan to expand in Thailand and potentially in another country in the region,” says Brochier.
So, for e-commerce savvy Singaporeans, you can now book a free optometrist appointment and purchase eye glasses on your phone from the comfort of your bed.
Just don’t do it in pitch black darkness and give your eyes a rest after 30 to 40 minutes of surfing through the catalogue; the eye strain from the intense blue light will really be detrimental otherwise — and certainly, ironic.