No eye care business is as successful as Optica. The family owned company was founded by Bharat Bhardwaj in 1959. The business current managing director is Bharat’s son Kush Bhardwaj. Optica has grown over the years to become a market leader and its presence is felt in almost every corner of the country. The patriarch of the family who was also a Safari Rally champion passed away in 2019. His son told Nation Sport of his father demise at the time:
“My dad sadly passed away a couple of hours ago while at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. He was such a gentleman and a real legend. We will miss him.”
Bharat Bhardwaj is remembered for working voluntarily at Kenyatta National Hospital as an optometrist for 20 years.
Growth of Business
Bharat started the business 62 years ago with only two staff and a loan of kes6,000. At the time, most of their clients were government officials, business people and generally the wealthy in society who knew some eyesight conditions could be fixed. His son has done a pretty good job since taking over the operations of the biggest optical company in the region. The company showed its intent to become a dominant player in the industry by buying its competitors V M Browse Group and Oskar Walch.
Optica sources its lenses from Essilor, a France-based company renowned for its ophthalmic lenses and attendant equipment. The company sends its technicians to Essilor to up their skills.
In 2010, Optica released its own eyewear known as Oxygene to complement their international brands. This brand is customised to fit the African face. Another innovation, Cactus, came three years later and it was a huge success. The company sells 10,000 plus spectacle annually with some going for as much as kes300,000.
Number of Branches
The company has grown from that one single branch to 41 branches. In 2019, Kush told Businessdaily of their plans: “We are going to be 60 years in 2019 and are hoping by then to have 60 outlets across the country….”
By 2017, the company had a total of 300 employees. This number has grown with the additional branches opened across the country.