Dhruvin Patel (Optometry, 2015) is City’s very own super hero. His power? Protecting your eyes from harmful blue light. But this isn’t a mission he’s embarking on alone. Enter fellow alumnus, serial entrepreneur and chief supporter Asad Hamir (Optometry, 2007). We spoke to Dhruvin and Asad about what brought them together, and their hopes of become the ‘leader in digital eye health awareness’.
Can you tell me about your time at City?
Dhruvin: I studied Optometry and graduated in 2015 from the School of Health and Sciences. Although I had already been living in London, university at City was a big part of my life with so many great experiences and the chance to meet so many amazing people. I took a lot away from my time at City.
Asad: I did Optometry too and graduated in 2007. It was like a family, everyone knew each other. Everyone congregated in the same place. Secondly there was a lot you could get involved with. That’s how I learnt how to hustle, through the things I got involved with; societies etc.
Dhruvin: I’m happy I chose to stay in London rather than go away to another university. The support for researching and developing Ocushield was great! Ocushield wouldn’t have got off the ground without the help of the Optometry department and the CitySpark team.
How did you meet?
Dhruvin: Towards the end of 2017, a member of the CitySpark team advised me that someone called Asad Hamir was doing a talk at City. He said Asad was an entrepreneur but also did optometry and asked if I knew him. But I didn’t. I didn’t think there were many optometry students or alumni that ventured out of the [optometry] space. So, I went along to see what Asad was presenting. To my surprise, I was already aware of one of his ventures – Kite Eyewear, which at the time was located in Westfield, Stratford. They’ve now moved to Shoreditch.
How did the idea for Ocushield come about?
Dhruvin: I started the business while I was at university. In 2014 the idea came about when I was working in Vision Express on the weekends. They had just released blue light blocking lenses for people that wore glasses. The research showed the lens coatings would be used for people that wear glasses to reduce eye strain. So, Vision Express brought out that product and I was quite intrigued by it, but I didn’t wear glasses. At the time Cass Business School had a competition called CitySpark. You had to submit an idea and I thought the blue light blocking lenses were really cool but wondered how I could make it something that I and others can use. That planted the seed of the idea.
So, I got a brand together, called it iSleepEasii and I launched the concept at CitySpark. Having entered and won the first stage, I went through to the second stage. They invited 50 tech entrepreneurs and asked which business they believed in out of the 10 that were shortlisted, essentially based on whether they thought it was a feasible finished product and if the problem it addressed was big enough. Fortunately, I won and was given about £3,500 to start the business. It was a dream come true.
While completing my undergraduate degree and running the business on the side I’ve sold over 20,000 units, been featured on Forbes, The Telegraph, The Guardian and have both the Welsh Rugby team and West Ham United players are using our products.
What have been some of the challenges?
Dhruvin: Running the business whilst studying and working was a real challenge. Now it’s more about finding new areas for growth and scaling the business.
Asad: Reinvesting cash, thinking about cash flow. And managing Dhruvin to a certain extent. Dhruvin is very ambitious, so I help to make sure the brand is focused and delivering the right message. It’s important that we’re spreading the right message in a market that is just developing.
Dhruvin: Yes, talking to people about an innovative product in an immature market is an interesting challenge. But awareness is growing around blue light and the issues it poses in people’s lives. We’re also showing people that they don’t have to use colour-altering apps to protect their eyes from blue light – they can use Ocushield and see better results without having a clouded or discoloured screen.
What have been some of the rewards?
Dhruvin: Just the whole process of having an idea, researching it, developing it and bringing it to market. The opportunity to help people in their day to day lives is really special. When we receive positive reviews from happy customers it makes it all worthwhile.
Asad: The development of the brand. Making sure it has a warm message, the right art direction and tone of voice. It’s been exciting to see this brand develop into a company which has something fresh to offer, delivering an innovative product which resonates with people.
Asad, why did you want to invest in Ocushield?
Asad: Whilst we are both alumni there are aligned interests. It’s telecoms, I know telecoms. It’s eye health, I know eye health. I’ve built businesses in both of these spaces. When you’re involving yourself with a new business, it’s important to look for ways to bring your expertise into play in the most impactful way possible. I see that opportunity in Ocushield.
Dhruvin: There wasn’t a need to grow the business because it was cash flow positive. Asad saw the vision and it was refreshing to have someone’s input who is in the area. Someone who can add value with their expertise. The investment is smart money because Asad knows the space. When seeking investment, go for smart money.
Asad: For the investor you’ve got to do your research. Immerse yourself. Be passionate. A lot of the entrepreneurs need someone to bounce off of. If you’re investing, think about the return. Don’t be afraid to challenge the person you’re investing in. Don’t throw in your investment and hope for the best.
Dhruvin: I think the person that is investing has to have a proven track record. You should be able to admire and respect what they’ve accomplished. Also, have open ears to feedback when collaborating.
Do you have any advice to someone looking to start their own business?
Dhruvin: As a bootstrapper, I’d say don’t think too long about executing. If an idea is stopping you from sleeping or you can’t get it out of your head for a few weeks, get started. Speak to people, see what they think. Then take it day by day, eventually you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Asad: Identify the problem and solve it. Think about how you are going to bring it to market. Think about the content, the product, the packaging, the purpose and the margins – ultimately you need to make money.
What’s next for Ocushield?
Dhruvin: Turnover has doubled since I went full time on the business after qualifying as an Optometrist, and we’ve spent this year redefining the product, brand and vision. We’ve also developed a computer screen privacy filter which we’ll be targeting towards businesses and individuals who feel a need to maintain privacy in the workplace – especially with recent data protection laws coming into place.
It will be available when we relaunch the Ocushield brand during National Eye Health Week this month. We’ll also be showcasing the brand at Employee Benefits Live at the Excel Centre in early October.
Asad: The focus is now turning Ocushield into a national and then an international company – the leader in digital eye health awareness. No one is leading this conversation, and it’s something people need to be thinking about and addressing. We want to secure big player retailers and work with the medical sector. The aim is to get Ocushield into every household. We really want it to bang!
Ocushield are currently seeking to recruit a Sales & Operations manager. If you would like to find out more about the role, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See their website for further information: ocushield.com