Putting their lens on success

PATIENCE, perseverance and being consistent are some of the key factors that have helped coloured contact lenses producer Maxvue Vision Sdn Bhd succeed in establishing their brand presence internationally.

Founded by chief executive officer Selvam Kanniah and his wife Viji Ramasamy Pillai in 2004, Maxvue Vision started out as a contact lens trader, sourcing from Asian suppliers and exporting them to European distributors.

The company grew out of a chance business opportunity, when a foreign customer of Viji’s at her old sales job for a perfume company in Singapore asked if she knew where to source for branded contact lenses.

Her resourcefulness in researching the matter eventually led to them attracting the interest of contact lens buyers.

The venture quickly became a serious business and Selvam left his engineering job to help her run the company.

Selvam (left) and Viji with some of the awards their company won at the Star Outstanding Business Awards 2017. The company walked away with the Gold for Best in CSR and the Silver for Best in Marketing and Best Innovation in the up to RM25mil in sales turnover category.

About two years into the business, they made the decision to create their own brand in order to have more control over the products.

Selvam attributes their successful growth in the early years to two particular platforms: international industry trade shows and online trading site Alibaba.

“Without knowing much, we took an exhibition booth next to some of the biggest players in the industry. People just took one look at our booth and ignored us,” Selvam recalled.

“We took the risk and dared to be there without knowing the market. We did not have a big budget or attractive backdrops at the time,” he added.

In its early years, Maxvue Vision was the only Malaysian company with a booth at international eyewear trade shows in Milan, Paris and Hong Kong. A simple booth would cost them a minimum of RM40,000.

“But after a few years, some people stopped and said they recognised us from previous years. Some of those people who took our flyers six years ago are our customers today,” said Selvam.

Selvam said that being patient and consistently present at the trade shows really paid off as the company has since expanded its brand presence to over 60 countries and counting.

The company won at the Star Outstanding Business Awards 2017, taking home the Gold for Best in CSR and Silver for Best in Marketing and Best Innovation in the Up to RM25mil revenue category.

Maxvue Vision’s promotional booth at last year’s Comic Fiesta event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, with cosplayers dressed up as characters from a video game and a Japanese manga and anime series.

Selvam added it was important not to neglect branding. They could not make profits in the first few years because tens of thousands of ringgit had to go back into advertising and marketing their brand which paid off once they had secured a big enough network of buyers.

Maxvue Vision sets itself apart from other industry players by using colourful and eye-catching packaging designs to sell their ColourVue contact lenses.

However, Selvam acknowledged that saturation in the industry is slowly becoming a challenge for them. While Alibaba was very useful in helping to secure business in their early years, he notes that activity on the site has slowed down.

“The Malaysian market is highly competitive now with more than 40 brands here. Despite that, we can see that our brand presence here is still growing,” he said.

Exports still make up about 90 percent of their business, which help fund their expansion in Malaysia.

As Maxvue Vision had focused its efforts on international trade shows, the company naturally expanded overseas much faster than it did in Malaysia.

“But we are confident that by end of 2019, we can secure at least 25 percent of the market share for coloured contact lenses in Malaysia,” said Selvam.

Some Maxvue Vision contact lens designs are based on fictional characters from Japanese anime series, making the product very popular with cosplayers.

He added that Maxvue Vision was currently seeing an annual sales volume growth of 10 to 15%. Their profits have not been growing for the time being as they have been bringing their prices down in order to stay competitive.

Another factor that helped Maxvue Vision to grow in their early years was their focus on coloured contact lenses, which was considered a niche product back then.

With a lack of industry players at the time, the company took the opportunity to fill that niche and generate business out of the growing demand for coloured lenses.

“The unique nature of coloured lenses is that they are more of a fashion product than an optical aid. When it comes to fashion, people will want to keep changing and buying new products,” said Selvam.

Their ColourVue line has some of the largest variety of designs in the market, having expanded from 30 designs to around 200 today.

Their unique Crazy Lens line, under the ColourVue brand, is especially popular among cosplayers and during the Halloween season.

Crazy Lens outperforms all other products during the months of August to October, making up about 30 percent of their annual sales revenue worldwide.

While Crazy Lens hasn’t yet seen the same success in Malaysia as it has overseas, Selvam is hopeful as the response at local anime conventions such as Comic Fiesta and Animangaki is highly encouraging.