Read the story of how a local start up is going beyond “disrupting” the contact lens industry. Two of a Kind is putting fresh eyes onto the contact lens market, with iconic branding and user-friendliness at the fore.
Making contact with lenses
Darryn Tan calculates that, as a 25-year long user of contact lenses, he will likely spend around $35,000 on them in his lifetime.
“There aren’t many products like that, that have an age and cost you can plot out like that, in the average life of one consumer,” he says. The issue behind that lies in what pain points can be streamlined in the process; from time spent travelling to pick up replacement lenses when they run out every 3 months to comparing retailer’s fluctuating pricing.
Hence, Darryn runs a start-up that is trying to solve a single user problem – is there a more efficient way to get the right kind of contact lenses for customers like himself, nearly lifelong users?
Luckily, there is, thanks to Two of a Kind.
Put simply, Darryn’s customers go down to the Two of a Kind shop, do an immediate and free - no strings attached – consultation. Then pick up Two of a Kind’s contact lenses on the spot.
Or later, if that’s how you feel – because Two of a Kind will deliver them to you.
“There are a lot of excellent products out there, Johnson and Johnson’s make an excellent product, for example,” Darryn says. There are few competitors to the big name contact lens brands, because the lenses themselves, and the consultation, are pretty bleeding-edge tech.
Two of a Kind is not trying to compete with them, however, because his model is both product owner and retailer.
That part is key to understanding Two of a Kind’s business model – the product is sourced to their brand specifically and they only sell it via their store, online or brick & mortar. Darryn calls lenses a “sticky product” because you tend to stick with the one brand you know for life.
The big producers like Acuvue and Bausch & Lomb are not the direct retailers, letting local optometrists and optics shops do the sales to customers.
The consultation (which again, is reiterated to be absolutely free and no strings attached) is, to Darryn himself, a privilege. “We are privileged for the customer’s time,” he says. His customers are privileged too.
Casey Ng is Two of a Kind’s resident optometrist – that’s serious business. After your (again, free) consultation, you even get a personalised follow-up email from Casey about your prescription requirements.
Casey’s presence means Darryn had to get professional buy-in into his idea.
Darryn says he was inspired by Harry’s and the Dollar Shave Club in the United States. After a lifetime in private equity, his interest lay in the small cadre of start-ups disrupting the consumer industry. He noticed the trend and ask himself, “what other industries are rife for a change?”
When he ran out of contact lenses, and one relatively long process of finding replacements, he questioned how many hands had the lenses he was buying go through. A quick calculation pointed at ‘unnecessary margins’.
He felt the conviction, he recalls. Darryn says, “early on, I came up with the product and the questions I needed answered.” He says there was a lot of talking it out with his business partner, a lot of financial planning and a lot of hypothesizing. Once they had the semblance of a business plan, they had to recruit professionals (enter Casey the optometrist).
Darryn says that Two of a Kind is still putting things together, much like they had to do when they first started sourcing their product. “With us, you get a really good product at price no one can beat, okay maybe the unbranded ones, the unregistered ones from Eastern Europe,” he says. Their lenses, though, they had to “source the hell out of.”
“we couldn’t have picked a harder market to move into,” Darryn says. Singapore, to no one’s surprise, is tightly regulated. “There was a long lead time because of the scrutiny involved – we had to earn the trust of the regulators,” he recalls. Reiterating the earlier point, Darryn says there have been a few “bad actors” who peddled counterfeit products or ran out of money and skipped town.
He had to partner up with the right team, but also have the right product – a reliable one. “You have to know your stuff because it’s a pretty rigorous review with the Health Science Authority,” he says.
As a consumer himself, he knew what customers would appreciate, the licensed product and optometrist, and even the packaging.
The box, which can be described as hipster-inspired, is built with the ‘delivery’ aspect in mind. “It’s designed intentionally to fin into a standard mailbox”. One box holds 60 total lenses in two separate inner boxes. So you get a whole month’s worth, one pack for each eye, in just one package delivery.
The real cherry on top of Two of a Kind’s customer experience (which their Instagram reviews can duly attest to) is the handwritten note you get on your first box with them.