Keshav Kalra sells high-end eyewear along with kindness globally
In a vibrant discussion with us, Keshav Kalra expresses his vision of fashion and kindness, and redefining premium eyewear.
With an air of exclusivity and a dedication to originality, one brand name stands out in the realm of high-end eyewear: THE MONK eyewear. It is a brand that goes above and beyond regular eyeglasses. It was created by the creative minds behind India's most reputable optical house and has a 59-year history in the eyewear business. It symbolizes purity, celebrates uniqueness, and stands for a powerful statement: “Look good while you do good.”
However, The Monk is an initiative to spread kindness rather than merely a line of eyewear. They have urged their consumers to share warmth and love via acts of kindness beginning with their very first collection and its accompanying "random act of kindness" campaign. Through subsequent collections, such as "Adhyantam," continued their advocacy for kindness and transformed it into a spiritual quest.
In our candid conversation with Keshav Kalra, we had a clear insight into how he turned The Monk from a side project into a worldwide sensation. He explains how the company has defied traditional European design parameters by creating eyewear that is specifically shaped to fit the Asian, and especially the Indians.
Read further to delve into Keshav’s success story.
How does your brand redefine the idea of premium eyewear?
Apart from being a brand with a cause attached to it, our designs and quality speak volumes about our expertise. Our main forte however lies in the science behind our design where we stand proud to be the only eyewear to be made as per the Asian primarily Indian nose structure, size, and dimensions. Rather than fitting into the European design dimensions our patrons enjoy eyewear tailored for them.
You were part of such a renowned brand ‘Dayal Opticals’, and then you decided to start a new venture from scratch. How was this journey?
Dayal Opticals still provides massive help where we first hand interact with customers and know what they want and feel. Getting this invaluable feedback helps us always make what the market demands. The journey is still on and is getting more interesting with each day and challenge.
Reaching our 5-year plan in just 2 and now starting to extend our brand portfolio abroad in full flow. The journey has had its challenging moments, especially Covid-19 when the challenge to sustain was felt by all but we fought through it and used the difficult time well, to come out with our new collection Monk The Third which is better than ever.
Wearing eyeglasses all day is often exhausting. How do your products provide comfort to counter this?
Knowing not only the style elements but the science that actually goes behind the process starting from choosing the right material to build a design that provides the right weight and strength required is paramount. Our dedication to providing the latest innovation and quality from around the world to our designs is the major reason a first-time customer becomes a patron of the brand.
Right down to small details like our hinges which are double/triple barrel hinges that are the best and strongest in the world give comfort that makes the shape of the frame stay the same for a full day of everyday wear.
What future trends can we expect from ‘The Monk’ in men's eyewear products?
Fashion always follows innovation we feel, and the past two years have belonged to the Big and Bulky designs that lead to innovation in making the eyewear as light as possible so that people get the Bold look but with no weight discomfort. The trend now is moving towards more metal designs, we feel the minimalist approach is going to make a comeback. We can’t wait to share what is coming next; just that we upped our game even further and what is going to come is something the Indian Market has never seen.
What does being sustainable/ethical mean to you and your brand?
The Monk as a brand from day one followed the philosophy of Kindness, Our launch in 2018 with the concept of #randomactsofkindness catapulted our brand where we had a simple request. In order to buy eyewear from us, one had to get an invite and not only cash can be used to obtain our designs. The way to get an invite was to perform a random act of kindness, be it as small as feeding a stray animal, helping someone in need, or making a sad person smile. We requested for people to share their kindness stories with us through email, social media, or WhatsApp to get their invite in order to obtain our eyewear. We ended up causing a movement of kindness across India where we had famous and well-known individuals who helped us spread our message of Kindness and our brand.
Going forward with our third collection, we thank everyone who supported and helped grow our brand. For our third collection, we decided to repay the kindness by launching “ Dude Cares “,
an initiative under which all our designs carry a paw print on the inside tip end that marks our commitment to donating a % of every design sold towards animal welfare. Our chosen one is K9 healers where dogs are rehabilitated and trained to become healers. Setting in motion the kindness cycle that we propagate.
What's your favorite piece from the collection?
From Monk the Third, I would have to say my favorite is not a design but a new colorway that we have introduced in some of our designs. It’s called The Monk Sea Blue; it’s a light blue transparent-ish acetate color that is stunning, young, and on-trend. It’s for those who are bored with the existing hues out there and want a fresh look. After all one notices the face first and it’s important to style your eyes well.
How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?
Post Covid we have looked to reduce our dependency on one single factory or country.
We now have working with us the best manufacturers from Japan, Italy, and France, making us less reliant on one just in case there is a shortage or an unforeseen circumstance like Covid.
Having proven our might as designers we are now looking to collaborate with other Indian designers who want to step into the eyewear industry but don’t have the right knowledge to design them. We would like to help them by guiding them through the design and distribution model that we have successfully set up.
India now has a growing demand for trendy and fashionable eyewear, how to keep yourself and the brand updated with these?
We have an extensive R&D process where we travel to all the big expos and fairs that happen for eyewear around the world. Constantly keeping updated with the latest technologies that are making headway in our industry. In the age of social media, one is very much aware of the trend which makes it easier than in past times to learn from the best in the business seeing fashion week collections and following their social media to stay updated and learning from them. We try to understand from the consumer first hand what they feel and want which is the best research data we have that guides us to make what is needed.
What is the USP of The Monk?
The USP or the secret sauce for our brand is the value proposition we have. We offer designs made with the best of materials that there is in the industry not losing out on the style and fashion quotient but adding the comfort factor that makes our designs like a once-use then this what you want scenario. All this at a 1/3rd cost, when compared with products that follow and give similar quality design as their offering makes us become a value proposition to our patron who is happy spending less but getting more.
There is a growing population with increasing eye problems today, what do you have to say about increasing eyewear issues?
With the invention of the internet and in the age of the screens it is given that, what is going to suffer Is our eyes. In a country like India, we must lean on education and educating the masses on proper eyecare and precautionary measures one must take. With the growing fast food style fashion eyecare that is coming in the market, the customer, unfortunately, looks to spend less and get a quality that is not right for them. This is why we believe that one should give their eyes a fine dining care experience and quality rather than a fast food approach.
If you had to make a celebrity your brand ambassador, who would it be and why?
In our growing years, we have had the privilege of being worn by great and famous personalities who are style icons like Karan Johar, Viky Kaushal, Tapsee, Aayushman, Raftaar, etc. Humanitarians such as Mr. Kailash Sathyarti have also helped ambassadored our cause and designs.
We would love for humanitarians like Dalai Lama, and Shri Sadhguru to be on top of our dream list. We would love for India’s smartest - Viswanathan Anand to endorse our design and we think it would be interesting to team up. Apart from these, our customers are the main brand ambassadors. We have learned our biggest reason to find our feet stronger is the great patronage we have received from our customers, who have recommended our brands and themselves become our priceless brand ambassadors.
What are your expansion plans? Is the international market your next target?
Yes, we have already set foot in Dubai and plan to follow up and add more international doors to our portfolio. We hope to add more countries to our Monk family soon. Along with great collaborations with talented Indian designers already in the works will add more to our offering and help our brand further.
Our conversation with Keshav Kalra, the brains of The Monk Eyewear, brought to light a company that pushes the limits of what is typically considered to be high-end eyewear. In addition to raising the bar for style and quality, The Monk supports a charitable cause that appeals to its clientele. The Monk continues to be a brilliant example of how a brand can integrate style, ethics, and vision into one exceptional package as it forges ahead into new horizons while embracing innovation and sustainability.
Written By: Shalvi Mishra
Edited By: Chirajita Gupta