Ed – Tell us about your history with Essilor South Africa
NC: Well, I actually come way from the left field and spent all my working life before joining Essilor in the mining environment, spending much of that time in various African Countries. I joined Essilor in December 2014 as Chief Financial Officer and have to admit it was a shock to the system. I do not see myself as an atypical finance guy. I hit the ground running and got fully entrenched in all aspects of the business, not just the lonely finance guy shoved into some back office. In March 2017 I was privileged enough to be given the opportunity to be the Country Manager for Essilor SA and our partner entities and also given the opportunity to change our approach a bit.
Ed – how many locations do you have in SA?
NC: We are lucky enough to currently have 4 locations in SA, with our main Lens Technology Centre being in Johannesburg. Over and above that we have a branch in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, making it easy for us to cover most of SA and provide the necessary back up for our customer quickly and efficiently.
Ed – Are there any exciting developments on the cards for 2019?
NC: Essilor is known for its innovation and we are in the fortunate position to always bring something new to the table when it comes to products. There are so many innovate things coming, but to keep it short I want to mention probably only two. Firstly, we are upgrading our current Online Ordering and Tracking system to something really amazing and user friendly with some incredible features. This is going to make life for our customers so much easier. Then we will also be launching the Vision-RTM 800 which was awarded the Silmo D’Or at this year’s Silmo. It is a state of the art phoropter with continuous power changes. This is a game changer in terms of size and also providing the ability to test a lot quicker with greater accuracy.
Ed – If another major conference/exhibition was announced in the near future, would Essilor participate?
NC: Definitely. Especially if there is a benefit to our customers. Our first priority is generating value for our customers and if something is held that brings value to Optics in SA, we will be part.
Ed -What is your best-selling product and why do you think it is?
NC: I have to say you cannot beat Varilux Comfort. This has to be the go to lens and even our competitors have to admit this is the gold standard. With every upgrade over the years the lens has gotten better and better. In terms of new products, our Crizal Drive coating that was launched this year has been a major success story for us and we cannot keep up with demand on this. I also think that Crizal Sapphire, which we launched now in October will set new records for us and will become the standard when it comes to offer the best in class transparency coating for nearly invisible lenses.
Ed – Give us a summary of your product groups
NC: Well, I do not really want to focus on lenses only, as we do not see ourselves as a lens company in SA anymore. We are a Solution Provider and can provide our customers with more than just lenses. As you know, we have an instruments department as well where we can provide anything an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist would need, from edging equipment, to the most advanced refraction equipment, OCT’s and many more. We provide marketing support where needed and our number one priority is to generate more feet into stores for our customers.
Ed – What is your own personal business philosophy?
NC: My business philosophy is the same as how I would think I live my life in doing the right thing even though nobody is watching. Short cuts don’t work and there is no such thing as easy money – you have to work for what you get. Soos die ou mense se, wat jy saai sal jy maai.
Ed – I know you like the bush – where is your favourate spot?
NC: Anywhere where there is no cellphone signal. I have some very special places that just keeps luring back, being the Kalahari (especially some places just outside Van Zylsrus, the bushveld between Thabazimbi and Ellisras and then Northern Natal towards Ngoma.
Ed – Do you have a new year’s wish for SA Optometry?
NC: Yes. I would like to see more feet through the doors of our customers and that their business and optometry grows exponentially in SA. I also want more awareness to be created so more of the masses can be reached.