Powered By:

hsbcinnovationbanking logo

Turning Your Passion Into A Business To Impact Thousands

Dhruvin Patel

Ocushield

Powered By:

hsbcinnovationbanking logo

Turning Your Passion Into A Business To Impact Thousands

Dhruvin Patel

|

Ocushield

Watch this episode on SpotifyWatch onListen on YouTube
Dhruvin Patel Ocushield
Full transcript here

About Dhruvin Patel

The BAE HQ welcomes Dhruvin Patel, the founder and CEO of Ocushield. A company with the mission of preventing eye problems.

Dhruvin studied Optometry but had an eye for business. He made tens of thousands and won a startup pitching competition called City Sparks.

What allows him to accel with Ocushield is that he is in love with what the company is about. This means all the research doesn't feel like work!

After practising optometry for a couple of years, he went full-time on the business and even attracted interest from two investors in Dragon's Den.

Dhruvin Patel

Ocushield

Show Notes

Headline partner message

From the first time founders to the funds that back them, innovation needs different. HSBC Innovation Banking is proud to accelerate growth for tech and life science businesses, creating meaningful connections and opening up a world of opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Discover more at https://www.hsbcinnovationbanking.com/

Full video of episode

Watch this episode on SpotifyWatch onListen on YouTube

Dhruvin Patel Full Transcript

Dhruvin Patel: [00:00:00] Ah, okay, this is a bit too much, got in depth with a topic that I wanted to learn about and somehow managed to get about a thousand customer pre orders. And I was like, oh, okay. I've got the cash now. And then once we got to 100k revenue, I need to go on this full time. There's more impact in me serving and protecting, you know, hundreds or thousands of people's eyes to our products, rather than testing 10 or 20 patients a day.

Dhruvin Patel: After Dragons, then I said, you know, if I can do this, I can do anything. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. If something's giving me those signals where I don't like it. Actually, I need to go more into that. Cause that's probably going to be the area where the business is going to grow. We already sell our physical products to employers like Puma, Barclays and Meta.

Dhruvin Patel: We exist to let us thrive.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ, where we inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians. Today we have with us Dhruvin Patel, who's the founder and CEO of Ocushield. They're a consumer brand that exists to prevent rather than cure eye problems. How are you doing today? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, I'm good. Thank you very much. How are you?

Amardeep Parmar: Good, yeah. So [00:01:00] thank you for coming along and you've got a really interesting story. And it's now like going from strength to strength, but you've obviously had a lot of different problems along the way that you've overcome, which we're going to chat about too. But when you were growing up, did you ever think this is what you'd be doing?

Amardeep Parmar: You'd be starting your own company and building your own brand? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah,  when I was younger, I mean, look, I didn't, I didn't think I'd get to this point. I didn't conceive what my life would really look like at this age. You know, I wanted to obviously to be a success, but I didn't know what that looked like really.

Amardeep Parmar: At university, you studied optometry. What was behind that decision? 

Dhruvin Patel: Well, you know, you've got the typical Brown family thing where, you know, you've got to do something that's in healthcare or professional services which, which did push me in that direction. But, when I was at school, I enjoyed two things.

Dhruvin Patel: One was computers, and one was biology. I went down the road with computer science, and I was doing it at A level. And actually, my teacher told me that... So when we were doing a project, there was a lot of zeros and ones involved and I was like..

Amardeep Parmar: Were those your marks or 

Dhruvin Patel: Might have been but I was doing a push and I was like, I can't see it for the rest of my life inputting [00:02:00] zeros and ones where I suppose I was creating some software and I was like, all right, this might not be for me obviously my teacher or I didn't ask a relevant question, but you can now, you don't need to do that.

Dhruvin Patel: You copy and paste code and you can amend what, et cetera. Anyway, that put me off computer science. I was like, all right, I'm not doing that. Then I looked at biology and I had an interest in helping people. I had an interest in learning about health. So I said, right, let me look at, you know, what's out there in terms of professions.

Dhruvin Patel: I did some work experience at opticians, you know, spent a couple of days there. Spoke to optometrists. I said, Hey, how's the job? They said, look, you get to help people. You don't take any work home. It's well paid and if you want to start a business, you can because you can start your own opticians and I was like, Oh, wonderful because I actually ,I feel like I'd want to start a business.

Dhruvin Patel: So it kind of ticked all the boxes there. And that's how I ended up going down the road to study optometry. 

Amardeep Parmar: And how did you find it when you're actually studying optometry? Was it a similar kind of effect to computer science? Or did you find once you actually started it, you enjoyed it? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah,  no, look, I am more qualitative than [00:03:00] quantitative.

Dhruvin Patel: I enjoy getting immersed in, in information where I can read and understand it. Sometimes numbers, they're not my thing if I'm, if I'm completely honest. So there's modules in there where I was like, Oh, okay, this is a bit, bit too much. But I think there was lots of elements that I really enjoyed.

Dhruvin Patel: And it was one of those things where the more immersed you get in a topic, the more deeper you understand it, the more confident and happy you feel about the topic. So as I was going in that journey, I actually quite enjoyed it. And that's how I obviously came about with the business because I, again, got in depth with the topic that I wanted to learn about myself.

Dhruvin Patel: It wasn't forced upon me, but I was like, right, I want to learn more about this. 

Amardeep Parmar: And like, so at university as well, you started... Like the early stages of something to do a business as well, right? And it was City Sparks. So what was that about? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, so to give you a bit of background So I was working on the weekends in Vision Express to earn a few buck but also get some industry experience and while I was working there the lead up so much at the time she gathered me and teams Hey, we've got this new product innovation for people that wear spectacles and it's something that's called blue control which is a [00:04:00] coating that goes on your glasses and you know, if you explain this to the patients by having this coating, they'll reduce the impacts of eye strain, and I was quite naturally intrigued because I've grown up with my mother telling me, like, don't look at screens.

Dhruvin Patel: They're bad for your eyes, right? But she never had a reason for like, she just like, don't do it. Sit back. All right. And I was like, Okay, I just took that as gospel. But with this, I was like, wow, okay, this is really interesting. So I went away, did a bit of preliminary research. I was like, Okay, there's something here.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was so compelled that I went back to the faculty of the university the week off. And I said, I think I was coming into my second or third year. And I said, I want to do a research project around this topic and somehow I got my way, so I did a research project on how blue light affects the eyes physiology and circadian rhythms.

Dhruvin Patel: So our eye structures and sleep and wake cycle. And after doing that research across 12 months, I found, yes, not only artificial light from screens was causing eye strain and headaches, but also suppressing melatonin, which made it harder for us to fall asleep. Now, this was the iPhone three slash [00:05:00] four era.

Dhruvin Patel: So very early on in the smartphone wave. And I thought, this problem is only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger because screens are getting bigger and brighter. So, with that idea, I said, right, how can we take that technology that's currently in a coating form for glasses and put it onto, let's say, a device in the form of a filter?

Dhruvin Patel: So my idea was that, and there was this competition by Cass Business School, and it's called CitySpark, and it encourages students to submit an idea, pitch on a day with those 29 other businesses, there's tables and you've got like a poster, your business model canvass, and you're speaking to public going around and they've, at the end, they've all got a vote for the ideas that they like the most.

Amardeep Parmar: How did you find that process? Because it's your first business idea, right? And then pitching it, did you, was it something which? Worried you? Were you nervous about it? Was it exciting for you? How did you feel at that point? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, I mean, in, in terms of before that, I, I had, I never had a specific, unique business idea that I took along.

Dhruvin Patel: I did things that I distributed products from overseas. [00:06:00] I'll give you an example. Like I used to break my phone a lot and instead of buying a new one, I thought, let me just try to repair it myself. And I tried, did a really bad job, but then I found there's a there was a magnetic mat where it holds all your screws to get to what was when you when you're disassembling the phone, there's so many little components and if you put them in the wrong place, you've ruined it.

Dhruvin Patel: But there was this map, magnetic mat, which had a outline of where everything goes. And I ordered it and I did it successfully. I was like, well, if I've ordered it, there's going to be other people in the U. K. that want this product. And they were U. S. based company. And I said, look, can I distribute this product in the UK.

Dhruvin Patel:  So I did that the first and second year of university, actually. And, you know, I think sold about 40, 50, 000 pounds worth of product, but then obviously pivoted to this business idea, which was actually a, a bonafide, like pure idea that I'd come up with to, to take forward. But yeah, in terms of the process, it was very

Dhruvin Patel: like I just took it in, you know, took it in my stride. It was almost like, right, I've got this opportunity and I didn't, I didn't think too much about it. And I'm one of those people that [00:07:00] when I'm convinced I have to do something, I don't, I don't think too much about it. And that's almost a blessing in disguise, but it allows me to execute rather than worrying about is it the right move or not.

Dhruvin Patel: So, yeah, in terms of the process, very straightforward. So we had that stage one, which was winning over the public. And, you know, before I went, went to that actual lecture and I went down to the front of the lecture, I said, guys, I'm doing this pitching competition. Can all of you come and vote for me? And there was obviously a hundred students there.

Dhruvin Patel: And actually a lot of them did come. So I won that stage one, I believe, because my peers supported me, right? Even if they liked my idea or not, which gave me 500 pounds, small amount of money. But it allowed me to get through to stage two, which was in three months time where there was 50 tech entrepreneurs from the Silicon Roundabout in, which is the name given to old street tech, et cetera.

Dhruvin Patel: And there was 50 of them and they all had badges again. This time there was 10 businesses a little bit more mature. So by then I had created a brand name, it was called iSleepEasii at the time, really shit name, um, two i's at the end. Had, yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: It's that era isn't it, right? That was [00:08:00] cool back then. What was it?

Amardeep Parmar: I didn't think it was even cool back then to be honest, was it?

Dhruvin Patel: It just, yeah, it just, it probably showed the naivety on what... a brand name needs to be. But yeah, I thought it was cool at that, I had right, how, what is the technology going to be? How do I commercialize it? Why am I going to be the one that can bring it to life?

Dhruvin Patel: What, from an idea to a real product. And then, yeah, I remember being there at that stage, stage two, and all the judges had a badge on them, which said they're a judge or not. And I was the only person, a solo founder. And there was other teams, which are three or four people. And I imagine. They were speaking to all of those 50 tech entrepreneurs who had the fake money to put into our boxes to say, right, I support this idea.

Dhruvin Patel: I believe I switched about 10 of the judges by the end of the hour, which was what we had. And I thought, all right, doing the maths, I don't think I'm going to win here. But somehow I must've convinced those 10 entrepreneurs was I ended up getting the top three spots and I won 5, 000 worth of grant funding from them, which then allowed me to further take forward the business idea.

Amardeep Parmar: So what's interesting as well,  we come back a moment is you're making so much money from selling magnetic mats as like a [00:09:00] first year student. For a lot of people, they'd be like, I'm onto a winner here. Like why even start this other idea? And did you like think about that as well? Were you still continuing this magnetic mats thing on the side while doing OcuShield or the beginning stages of OcuShield or did you like, no, this is the better idea.

Amardeep Parmar: And how did you. Kind of give up that, right? Because sometimes it's easy to hang on to it, which might be a cash cow.

Dhruvin Patel: I did it in parallel for a bit, but then I just, I, something clicked where I understood that as a distributor of a product, I never own, I never own one, the product fully, and I never control the pricing.

Dhruvin Patel: So any day the distributor could come to me and say, right, our prices are 10 times more expensive and you know, therefore the business doesn't work. And then also actually more important at the time I saw cheaper competitors pop up and it was so cheap. It was cheaper than my buy price for the product.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was like, this isn't going to be sustainable. I'm losing sales and I can't really compete. This is not my forte anyway. Whereas with the business idea, I thought, right, this is something I can produce [00:10:00] myself and develop and own the pricing strategy throughout. So I thought it was more of a long term bet rather than trying to live in that short term where I could have kept doing it, couldn't have maxed it out.

Dhruvin Patel: You know, I remember we had a business inquiry from Timpsons. They, they also repair shoes, they do keys, they even do mobile phones now and they wanted the magnet bats. I was with a UK distributor, the order was worth like 80k or something like that. And I was like, well, this, this has legs, right? But yeah, it was kind of just thinking about the long term.

Dhruvin Patel: what, what's going to be best for me and in the future. 

Amardeep Parmar: And so you've got this grant while you're at university, right? Which is quite a significant one for a student. And, but then you went into optometry as a full time for a while before later leaving, becoming Ocushield. So during that time, were you building the business on the side or what was that process like?

Amardeep Parmar: Did it die out for a bit or how, yeah, how did you manage that? 

Dhruvin Patel: In 2015, once I, once I'd done all the research and development while I was working on the business, everyone I spoke to, I managed to get their email addresses when I was somewhere near ready of pressing. [00:11:00] the the button on production, I created a simple Wix website and I sent an email blast out to all the one, everyone that I had an email from and somehow managed to get about a thousand customer pre orders.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was like, Oh, okay, I've got the cash now to place my first production order. That was like summer 2015. And I just remember carrying on doing that while I was working as an optometrist. So I'd work on the business in evenings and lunches. So lunches answering emails and customer service and everything, you know, and the evening shipping goods out like two or three times a week to do it.

Dhruvin Patel: And, you know, the business business, you know, first year did about 40k revenue. Second, 63rd, 100k, you know, when I was working as an optometrist was when I was contractually tied into Specsavers because you have to do a pre registration. But then also uh, work with that company for a year or two after. Uh, so I did the full year.

Dhruvin Patel: Then I negotiated work in three days. And then once we got to a hundred K revenue, I need to, I need to go on this full time. And that really worked for me because one, the profession is so important to [00:12:00] the business because it's all about eyes. So I have to, I have to be that as a trust authority in this space, right?

Dhruvin Patel: You know, it gives credibility to what I'm doing and it's very important if I drop, it's not like a Mark Zuckerberg, we can drop out of university. Right. It wouldn't work with my business. So it had to be, I had to be really conscious that I have to become the best possible optometrist. And I, I, I, I mean, in my eyes, I'd learned as much as I could learn from working in that time.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was happy to then go away and work full time on the business. So yeah, then, then in 2018 went and worked full time on the business because I saw that. There's more impact in me serving and protecting, you know, hundreds or thousands of people's eyes to our products rather than testing 10 or 20 patients a day.

Dhruvin Patel: So it was more of a time versus impact way up.

Amardeep Parmar:  And once you went in  full time, what kind of decisions then flip, right? Because you're also doing well with revenue before you even went full time, which makes life a lot easier, right? Because a lot of people, they've got that bigger risk or jump because they don't know if it's gonna be successful.

Amardeep Parmar: Whereas I guess it must be [00:13:00] a bit easier for you to know, like, okay, look. I've already got 100k coming in. How far can I take this? What shifts did you make mentally once you had like a full time availability?

Dhruvin Patel: I'll also be quite transparent about like revenue doesn't mean you're making money, right? You know, so for it was, it, it showed that we had product market or I had product market fit at the time was it was just me, you know, even after I went full time, I didn't pay myself a sufficient salary for about three years because

Dhruvin Patel: I was so enthusiastic about growing the business, I just wanted to reinvest everything that was made, right? So it's like, right. This is my baby. I need to see it grow and run and, you know, walk, run, et cetera. So I didn't want to take any of that money. So I, I remember I used to locum as an optometrist a couple of days a month and that will get me my minimum, minimum wage to get me through life.

Dhruvin Patel: Right. But everything that the business was doing, I'd reinvest to grow the business. 

Amardeep Parmar: Was  it tough at that point when you're living on the kind of minimum salary? And obviously your friends who are still in optometry earning their full [00:14:00] amount of income. You can see them getting promoted, them earning more each year.

Amardeep Parmar: How was that in this kind of social aspect, right? If you're going out with your mates, they're now earning a lot more than you are because you've given up that role. How, how did you feel about that?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah. I mean, for me, like a lot. A lot of my optometry friends, you know, none of them are flashy as, as I like to say, they're very, very much humble on the same wavelength, you know, we're not, we're not materialistic in that sense.

Dhruvin Patel: And I think at that stage, no one was, no one was making those large life decisions, you know, buying a house, getting married, pregnancy with their partner, whatever else, right? So if those things were happening, then it's obviously difficult. You're kind of thinking, right? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not in the right place?

Dhruvin Patel: But I think everyone was pretty much just kind of enjoying working. I always live below my means. I'm one of those people that as an analogy, have cash stored in the mattress, right? That gives me comfort rather than spending. 

Amardeep Parmar: And  the money you were investing, what, what were you putting into it? Where was that money going?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, multiple things. [00:15:00] So from an early stage business, it's, it's things like product, marketing, and then also team, you know, contractors, so the way I, the way I started the business and grew the team was I'd always hire a contractor in a specific area and then when their, their dependency on their time became too much, it's like, right, we need a full time role here.

Dhruvin Patel: And that's how I did it. And from the start, it's, um, it's, it's worked, it's worked well, and I still kind of do that now.

Amardeep Parmar:  Did you ever, when you're obviously living that paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. Was there ever a time where you maybe invested in something and it didn't work out? So you said the contract has worked out.

Amardeep Parmar: Was there anything that didn't work out? And then how did you react to that?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah. I mean, I think part of the process you, you, you spend money and some stuff doesn't work. I mean, in this game, you have to, the more, the more risks you take, the more failures you have, the more likely you're going to have a winning formula.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, there was money that I'd lost in, in endeavors, you know, I imagine silly marketing things like thinking, right, putting this ad on Reddit [00:16:00] or putting this ad somewhere is going to like really work. Just so you know, you, you know, I very much had a knee jerk approach before where I was like, right, I've seen this.

Dhruvin Patel: I've read this. I've read a blog post that says, right, if you do this, you're going to get X. And I'm like, Right. I've read this blog post. I'm an expert. I'll deploy it. And then like, all right, I don't get the same results. Whereas now I know, well, actually, if you, you have to go quite deep into the topic, make sure that it can work for you rather than just reading one blog post and executing a marketing channel.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, I made many of those failures. And I think now it's having, having a process for those things to make sure, right, is this prioritized above something else? If it is, then go ahead. And if it doesn't work out, that's fine. We made learnings, you know, we made a learning that one, we weren't do it again.

Dhruvin Patel: But also there's some other caveats that come from it that say, right, you should do something else with those funds. 

Amardeep Parmar: And what strategies did work for you in terms of getting more customers, getting more people to find out about Ocushield? 

Dhruvin Patel: It was, it was quite a blessing because a lot of it wasn't forced in the sense of because I'd put that Wix website up like at some [00:17:00] point in 2014 to 15. Google already started seeing us as an expert in that space and the main thing I was doing was generating PR and I did that by contacting journalists who were speaking about the top not blue light necessarily, but Screen time or eyes and leveraging the fact that I'm an optometrist to say, right, I can give you an expert comment on eyes, but also, you know, knowing that they'd hopefully backlinked to my website.

Dhruvin Patel: So after doing that for a certain period, I mean, Google was ranking our website for keywords like blue light screen protector or blue light blocking glasses or whatever it is. And we were getting that organic traffic coming in. So I didn't have to consciously think about that because we were getting those traffic and those hits coming in.

Dhruvin Patel: So that was one element where it was where, you know, we, I planted the seed and then the tree grew and that was just bringing in, uh, the fruits from, from that labor. And then, yeah, moving forward, the market from that grew to, I remember the first thing I started testing was Google PPC [00:18:00] advertising. And so that was the first channel because with that, you have people that have warm intent, you know, they're searching for exactly the thing you want and you want to get eyeballs in front of that.

Dhruvin Patel: And then. There was all the other marketing channels. 

Amardeep Parmar: Youappeared on a couple of TV shows as well, right? There's one in particular that you're quite well known for. How did that go? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, so I went into Dragon's Den in 2020 and it aired 2021. So yeah, Dragon's Den was an incredible experience because I've always loved the program.

Dhruvin Patel: Like I've always watched it since I've been young. And in my back of my head, I've always said to myself, I'll get on this show one day but I've always thought about applying, but I've always put it off. I said, the businesses are good enough. The numbers don't look good. They're going to rip us apart.

Dhruvin Patel: Something's wrong. But then February of 2020, a BBC researcher got in touch and said, Hey, we think you'd be great for Dragons Den. Here's the application form. And I was like, Oh, they've come to me. Like that must be like a stamp of approval. So filled out the application form. I was like, yes, great. And then didn't hear [00:19:00] anything until, until like

Dhruvin Patel: August because the pandemic, so no one was working. And then suddenly August comes and they're like, right, we've seen your application. We can't see you in person, but can you send the video pitch so our producers can see? So me and Asad, we did a video pitch. We sent it across to them. And then within two weeks, they're like, guys, we love it.

Dhruvin Patel: Can you come to, to Manchester in three weeks time to pitch to dragons. So it was like real quick turnaround time. We were like, we've gotta do this and rip for real now. So I, we, I remember then we, me and Asad, we just practicing our pitch, like we look into each other's eyes just there and practicing our parts because it, that's quite, it's quite daunting to look in someone's eyes, right.

Dhruvin Patel: Opposite then practice your pitch and then practice in front of my family or whatever it might be. Right? And then, yeah, we went up to Manchester and went, went to the studios. And a fun fun tip for you is that the lift in Dragon's Den is not real. And I thought it was always real, but it's literally in a studio.

Dhruvin Patel: The doors, the doors are the only real thing. [00:20:00] The money's fake. Um, but yeah, it's just in the studio in a big kind of container. So yeah, we went in, we went. I drove up to Manchester 8 a. m. on the day. We didn't get until get to do the pitch until 1 p. m. So that that time period was a real battle because you're in a dressing room the mirror in front of you And you just got your thoughts and you're you're like, do you practice your pitch?

Dhruvin Patel: Do you not what do you do? Because You're thinking about, you know, there's gonna be millions of people watching this, and it's not also a personal reflection, but also your business could be really impacted. Like, what if the dragons really slate you? So you've got all these things going on in your mind, and you've got to deal with that.

Dhruvin Patel: And then eventually went to pitch and, you know, fortunately, everything came out the way we wanted it to and what's able to execute the pitch. You know, we didn't fall over or anything like that. And, you know, it started off terribly in the sense that we've got three nose from Tuka, Debra, Sarah. I was like, Oh, this isn't going too well.

Dhruvin Patel: And then suddenly Tej and Peter Jones piped up and they started fighting to invest in the business. [00:21:00] So it was great. It was outstanding. Then I was thinking. What do I do? You know, me and Asad just looked at each other and we just stayed quiet and we just let it play out. But yeah, in the end, we were able to negotiate a deal with them on TV.

Dhruvin Patel: So both Ted and Peter were able to secure a deal in the den to come on board of Ocushield. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you have to come  across as very confident, even like speaking now, right? And going on to show again, you came across very well. Is that something you've always had or is it something you've worked on? Or for people now who might be thinking like, there's no way I could gun Dragon's Den and pitch my company.

Amardeep Parmar: What tips would you have for them? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, like definitely, you know, I've not been always confident. I think it's very much in the line of what you do, you just become better at the more you do it. And I said to myself after dragons, and I said, you know, if I can do this, I can do anything. So I, I, I shouldn't be feeling scared if there's a public speaking opportunity or whatever it was, if I can do dragons then, then.

Dhruvin Patel: I should not be able to feel scared about anything else. But yeah, for me, it's been about continuous practice. And, you know, I've done public speaking where I've talked about my business at the universities or talks, whatever it is. But I [00:22:00] remember again, after the pandemic came to a close, I got invited to a speaking gig and because I hadn't done it in so long, I was like really nervous.

Dhruvin Patel: I did a really poor execution of it. And I was like, Oh, crap. I was like, I thought I was good at this, but it's literally just practice when you've just got exercise that muscle. But also with dragons then I think on this business journey, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And the sooner you learn that.

Dhruvin Patel: And for me, I learned, I said, look, right. If something's given, giving me those signals where I don't like it. Actually, I need to go more into that because that's probably going to be the area where the business is going to grow. So that's what's fueled me to push me to do things like going on drugs then.

Amardeep Parmar: And you mentioned  outside there as well. How did that relationship come about? Like, because obviously that's a big thing that many people like they're trying to work out. Is this person right for me to work if we're not right? How did you two come together? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, Asad's a great asset within the business.

Dhruvin Patel: And you know, the way we, the way we met was actually, so I was working in the co working space that City University provides. And one of the team members said, Hey, by the way, there's [00:23:00] this evening, there's an optometrist, also an entrepreneur speaking about his business venture. Do you know him? Have you heard of him?

Dhruvin Patel: I was like, Oh, no, I've never heard of him. I didn't know there was another optometrist entrepreneur. Anyway, I went, I went down was I was free that evening as well. I didn't have any plans, went down, listened to him. And he was talking about one of his ventures where he had a kite optician in Westfield.

Dhruvin Patel: So a successful optical store in Westfield and I'd seen it and learned about it. And yeah, just really understood the story. And I kind of went to speak to him afterwards and to touch base to say, obviously how great the talk was. And I also learned that from his talk that he was also an O2 franchisee.

Dhruvin Patel: So he has. Um, a dozen O2 stores within London. And, you know, I was telling him, I said, look, this is what I do. I'm also an optometrist, but I'm also in the telco space, which you are in, which is the O2 stores. And he really loved what I was doing. And we met up, you know, three, four, five times afterwards. And he just said, look, I want to, I want to join you on this journey.

Dhruvin Patel: Um, you know, I like you, I like the product. I think I can add value, which was the main thing from his side. [00:24:00] So for me, it was a pretty easy decision because one, there was some capital coming in to grow the business, but to also, I had someone that's been there and done it in the business landscape and actually being a solo founder, it's quite difficult, but having someone that then can come on board and they know the business and they're a good sounding board, especially as they've been experienced business person.

Dhruvin Patel: Really helped. 

Amardeep Parmar:  Because obviously  you're very active on LinkedIn as well. Right. Excellent LinkedIn, you've done all of these speaking gigs at the same time. You also got to keep on top of all the latest science coming out, all the latest research coming out too, and like increasing the product range too. So have you gone about that side of the business is working out what's the products we should invest in?

Amardeep Parmar: What's. What have you been doing on that side? 

Dhruvin Patel: It comes down to processes. You know, I'd love to say and take the credit for everything that's happening, but you know, I put processes in place, I put people in place to manage certain areas. So it looks like amplifying, you know, the execution side of you know, maybe me or the business.

Dhruvin Patel: But yeah, you know, all of it [00:25:00] is... really important parts of the business, and you've got to choose what's what's a priority. And, you know, in this moment in time, I prioritize my Linkedin personal brand. I don't do anything on any other social media channels because one, it requires a lot of time and effort.

Dhruvin Patel: But two, I see as you know, with on latest product offering, which is online ice screening where we've created a tool which allows employees to Screen their eyes in under seven minutes because we've realized actually employees spend so much time behind their screen. But when we surveyed SMEs to enterprise level organizations, the adoption rate of eye exams, even though they're free in organization was between 2 to 6%.

Dhruvin Patel: So really, really low. So we said, how can we empower employees to do something about it? So we create a screening test which tells them, right, you've got a problem with your eyes or not. And then if you do, you need to do something about it. And actually for supporting that tool, it's a very much B to B play.

Dhruvin Patel: So for me, actually being a place where certain prospective [00:26:00] partners or employers might be, which is LinkedIn. It's very important for me to also have that brand persona there and be there, right? I could simply do something on instagram, but my customer. I could do it again to make myself look good if I want to talk about business.

Dhruvin Patel: But again, there's no real objective. So it's always for me, it's about what's the objective and what's the channel where I can spend most of my time to make the most impact. Um, so that's how I kind of devise my time and make, make things happen. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you've obviously got quite a few B2C products as well, right?

Amardeep Parmar: And you've expanded that range. How have you made this decision about which products to go to in that space as well?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, so it's a, it's a combination of what I think our customers want. So the beauty for, for me in this business is I am my customer because I wanted the product, uh, initially back in the conception stage where I wanted those blue lights, that prescription glass.

Dhruvin Patel: So I don't wear glasses, so I couldn't use the glass from Vision Express. So I had to go away and create a product that I can put onto my phone and use myself. But knowing [00:27:00] that there's also I know where our customers read and what they look at and what they're interested in. So, for example, give an example of where I sit within our customer personas.

Dhruvin Patel: We have three key personas, one is parents, one is young professionals and the other is health optimizer. So I sit within health optimizers where I like to look at how I can improve elements of my health. And, you know, I look at things like blue light exposure. I look at biohacking. I look at how can I optimize my sleep?

Dhruvin Patel: How can I optimize my life by doing that? I get inkling of what my customers want because I, I also look at it and say, Oh, okay. There's, there's more research coming up that shows that cell phones emit. Electromagnetic radiation. So actually Andrew Huberman, the PhD neuroscientist last week, actually, you know, he did a big thing.

Dhruvin Patel: He's like, I've looked at the research, basically devices, especially if you're male, are affecting sperm motility. And I knew that my type of customer was already looking in this space, you know, six to 12 months ago. So we actually [00:28:00] launched a product, which is an anti-radiation insert, which sits behind your phone and the case and it absorbs 70 percent of the radiation without changing your, your phone signal.

Dhruvin Patel: So some of it is my gut and where I think the customers want to go. And then also is asking our customers, you know, the beauty of having customers is asking them, but also not leaning too much into that. Because sometimes customers do not know what they want and they can lead you in the wrong way. So, uh, first and foremost is my gut and understanding of the market.

Amardeep Parmar: And you mentioned there was like  the B2B play now in terms of going to employee screening. What made you go to that direction? Cause I can imagine, obviously it's a bigger market helped you scale, but what was your thought process ?

Dhruvin Patel: For me,  it was a really compelling project to do and product to deliver because not only can we have the impact of helping employees where, you know, we already sell our physical products to, so to employers like Puma and Barclays and Meta, so we have some relationships there already.

Dhruvin Patel: So it's always like, what else can we give them? [00:29:00] And looking at the macro environment. You know, we're in a recession. I thought to myself, if we're going into a recession, consumers have less money, but generally businesses, especially large enterprise, they still have funds there, right? Which they can deploy.

Dhruvin Patel: So that was one thing I looked at. But also the second was, how does it fit into our consumer business? So as well as creating this tool for the B2B segment, actually, we also launched it to consumers.  But each employee that does our test at the end. On their report, they are also indirectly being exposed to OcuShield, because not only do they see OcuShield, the domain and you know, who's created this tool, they also say, right, you've said from your input from the questionnaire on this tool that you spend more than 12 hours a day on screens.

Dhruvin Patel: Have you thought about your screen time and how blue light might impact your eyes? So actually, it creates a 360 marketing cycle, our own marketing channel. So if I can sign on employers that have tens of thousands of employees and we're getting [00:30:00] thousands of that doing thousands of them doing that a month.

Dhruvin Patel: We've not only got their email address where they're constant, we're sending them reminders to the eye screening test, but we're also telling them, right, we've got these products. So I thought this is a no brainer. Was it not only? Allows us to diversify product range, but it creates a new marketing channel and gets us closer to customers that we might not have.

Dhruvin Patel: So it kind of ticked all the boxes. And I was like, we can do this and we really need to do this because yeah, this is going to provide immense value for, for consumers and employees, but also as business, I think it can also revolutionize what we're doing. 

Amardeep Parmar: And what excites  you most now about what you're doing?

Amardeep Parmar: Cause obviously you've got stuff coming from the future, more launches. What would you say like people should be looking out for or paying attention  to? 

Dhruvin Patel: What I want our business to get a lot stronger on in the future is content generation. We've done a really bad job at it in the last two years. We've almost, we've almost relied on elements of, let's say, dragons den, paid media, etcetera.

Dhruvin Patel: But we again want to become a trust authority and put out great, great content, especially [00:31:00] in environment like now, where content is king and you bring eyeballs to yourself. So I think for people to, you know, look out for, I mean, um, They don't need to look at that. Hopefully they'll see it. If you're within our customer segment, right?

Dhruvin Patel: Our goal is not to reach everyone. It's people that sit within those audiences, but we want to put out content that people can, can really listen to learn from. And if they, they, they like us, then, you know, be a customer of ours. But, um, yeah, what excites me is really, uh, learning. I didn't realize how important I liked the nerdy side of things until actually last week where I went to have a meeting with some clinicians, so a stroke consultant and a retired ophthalmologist.

Dhruvin Patel: We were just discussing how we could be using our eye screening tool for different things. So how can you use it to identify and rehabilitate stroke patients, for example. So there's all these other use cases. And I was like, wow, I went away from it, like really charged up and energized because I forgot how much I missed

Dhruvin Patel: that side of things because I'm so focused on the business side of things. And so yeah, for me, it's excitement comes from learning whether it's in [00:32:00] literature or it's on the business side. Um, and then just seeing it come to life.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. So I've really enjoyed, I think you've said so far, but we're going to have to move on to a quick five questions now.

Amardeep Parmar: So first one is who are three British Asians that you'd love to shout out you think are listening right now, actually paying attention to or following?

Dhruvin Patel: Okay. So the first one I'm going to have to go with my brother. So my brother name is very similar to a famous cricketer. His name is Samit Patel. His marketing agency is called Joopio, but if you have a product idea, he can help you take it from the product idea to create a compelling video and landing page pitch where you can then put it onto a crowdfunding platform and

Dhruvin Patel: entice people toe to back back that idea of dollars. So shout out to him because he's also supported me on this journey with his idea. So second one again, close to home is shouting out Asad, my business partner again, very useful in, you know, in the mentorship on what he's done with the business and taking us from, you know, where we've been from a small business to now growing is quite useful.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, [00:33:00] just just put it out that everyone is also get yourself so on. That's a couple years ahead of you. It's good looking at Richard Branson, but you know, you can't really relate to people that are, you know, that are Elon Musk, Richard Branson level that their advice might not be as executional for you.

Dhruvin Patel: My third person, they might be UK based or they might not be, is Nik Sharma. He's doing some amazing work in the DTC space. And, you know, he's a real beacon of knowledge in the consumer goods and DTC space. So big shout out to him. 

Amardeep Parmar: All right. And then next question is, if people listening right now can come to you for guidance or for help, what should they come to you for?

Dhruvin Patel: Okay. If you  have a If you have an idea and you're serious about it and you can't stop sleeping, um, and you've done some execution around it, then, then come to me and I'll be happy to give you my two pence of advice on, you know, any challenges that you might have. Um, so yeah, that's, that's when they can come to me.

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the  other side, what's something that you're looking for right now? Is there any help you need, whether it's hiring or advice?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, the help I need at the moment is with our new iScreening tool, we're [00:34:00] looking for enterprise businesses. any businesses with over 250 employees. So if you work at one of those and you're listening, then get in touch.

Dhruvin Patel: Please, uh, email me or whatever. And I'd love to put it in front of the organization, the HR team, et cetera. So yeah, get in touch. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then finally, have you got any last words for the audience?

Dhruvin Patel: Thanks for listening. Hopefully I can provide some value. But yeah, just to let you know about Ocushield that we exist to let eyes thrive.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, whenever you're having an eye issue, come and visit us because we might have something for you.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello. Hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It means a huge amount to us and we don't think you realize how important you are because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here, to inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians.

Amardeep Parmar: If you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact. And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests. We can [00:35:00] host more events. We can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.

Dhruvin Patel: [00:00:00] Ah, okay, this is a bit too much, got in depth with a topic that I wanted to learn about and somehow managed to get about a thousand customer pre orders. And I was like, oh, okay. I've got the cash now. And then once we got to 100k revenue, I need to go on this full time. There's more impact in me serving and protecting, you know, hundreds or thousands of people's eyes to our products, rather than testing 10 or 20 patients a day.

Dhruvin Patel: After Dragons, then I said, you know, if I can do this, I can do anything. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. If something's giving me those signals where I don't like it. Actually, I need to go more into that. Cause that's probably going to be the area where the business is going to grow. We already sell our physical products to employers like Puma, Barclays and Meta.

Dhruvin Patel: We exist to let us thrive.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ, where we inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians. Today we have with us Dhruvin Patel, who's the founder and CEO of Ocushield. They're a consumer brand that exists to prevent rather than cure eye problems. How are you doing today? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, I'm good. Thank you very much. How are you?

Amardeep Parmar: Good, yeah. So [00:01:00] thank you for coming along and you've got a really interesting story. And it's now like going from strength to strength, but you've obviously had a lot of different problems along the way that you've overcome, which we're going to chat about too. But when you were growing up, did you ever think this is what you'd be doing?

Amardeep Parmar: You'd be starting your own company and building your own brand? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah,  when I was younger, I mean, look, I didn't, I didn't think I'd get to this point. I didn't conceive what my life would really look like at this age. You know, I wanted to obviously to be a success, but I didn't know what that looked like really.

Amardeep Parmar: At university, you studied optometry. What was behind that decision? 

Dhruvin Patel: Well, you know, you've got the typical Brown family thing where, you know, you've got to do something that's in healthcare or professional services which, which did push me in that direction. But, when I was at school, I enjoyed two things.

Dhruvin Patel: One was computers, and one was biology. I went down the road with computer science, and I was doing it at A level. And actually, my teacher told me that... So when we were doing a project, there was a lot of zeros and ones involved and I was like..

Amardeep Parmar: Were those your marks or 

Dhruvin Patel: Might have been but I was doing a push and I was like, I can't see it for the rest of my life inputting [00:02:00] zeros and ones where I suppose I was creating some software and I was like, all right, this might not be for me obviously my teacher or I didn't ask a relevant question, but you can now, you don't need to do that.

Dhruvin Patel: You copy and paste code and you can amend what, et cetera. Anyway, that put me off computer science. I was like, all right, I'm not doing that. Then I looked at biology and I had an interest in helping people. I had an interest in learning about health. So I said, right, let me look at, you know, what's out there in terms of professions.

Dhruvin Patel: I did some work experience at opticians, you know, spent a couple of days there. Spoke to optometrists. I said, Hey, how's the job? They said, look, you get to help people. You don't take any work home. It's well paid and if you want to start a business, you can because you can start your own opticians and I was like, Oh, wonderful because I actually ,I feel like I'd want to start a business.

Dhruvin Patel: So it kind of ticked all the boxes there. And that's how I ended up going down the road to study optometry. 

Amardeep Parmar: And how did you find it when you're actually studying optometry? Was it a similar kind of effect to computer science? Or did you find once you actually started it, you enjoyed it? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah,  no, look, I am more qualitative than [00:03:00] quantitative.

Dhruvin Patel: I enjoy getting immersed in, in information where I can read and understand it. Sometimes numbers, they're not my thing if I'm, if I'm completely honest. So there's modules in there where I was like, Oh, okay, this is a bit, bit too much. But I think there was lots of elements that I really enjoyed.

Dhruvin Patel: And it was one of those things where the more immersed you get in a topic, the more deeper you understand it, the more confident and happy you feel about the topic. So as I was going in that journey, I actually quite enjoyed it. And that's how I obviously came about with the business because I, again, got in depth with the topic that I wanted to learn about myself.

Dhruvin Patel: It wasn't forced upon me, but I was like, right, I want to learn more about this. 

Amardeep Parmar: And like, so at university as well, you started... Like the early stages of something to do a business as well, right? And it was City Sparks. So what was that about? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, so to give you a bit of background So I was working on the weekends in Vision Express to earn a few buck but also get some industry experience and while I was working there the lead up so much at the time she gathered me and teams Hey, we've got this new product innovation for people that wear spectacles and it's something that's called blue control which is a [00:04:00] coating that goes on your glasses and you know, if you explain this to the patients by having this coating, they'll reduce the impacts of eye strain, and I was quite naturally intrigued because I've grown up with my mother telling me, like, don't look at screens.

Dhruvin Patel: They're bad for your eyes, right? But she never had a reason for like, she just like, don't do it. Sit back. All right. And I was like, Okay, I just took that as gospel. But with this, I was like, wow, okay, this is really interesting. So I went away, did a bit of preliminary research. I was like, Okay, there's something here.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was so compelled that I went back to the faculty of the university the week off. And I said, I think I was coming into my second or third year. And I said, I want to do a research project around this topic and somehow I got my way, so I did a research project on how blue light affects the eyes physiology and circadian rhythms.

Dhruvin Patel: So our eye structures and sleep and wake cycle. And after doing that research across 12 months, I found, yes, not only artificial light from screens was causing eye strain and headaches, but also suppressing melatonin, which made it harder for us to fall asleep. Now, this was the iPhone three slash [00:05:00] four era.

Dhruvin Patel: So very early on in the smartphone wave. And I thought, this problem is only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger because screens are getting bigger and brighter. So, with that idea, I said, right, how can we take that technology that's currently in a coating form for glasses and put it onto, let's say, a device in the form of a filter?

Dhruvin Patel: So my idea was that, and there was this competition by Cass Business School, and it's called CitySpark, and it encourages students to submit an idea, pitch on a day with those 29 other businesses, there's tables and you've got like a poster, your business model canvass, and you're speaking to public going around and they've, at the end, they've all got a vote for the ideas that they like the most.

Amardeep Parmar: How did you find that process? Because it's your first business idea, right? And then pitching it, did you, was it something which? Worried you? Were you nervous about it? Was it exciting for you? How did you feel at that point? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, I mean, in, in terms of before that, I, I had, I never had a specific, unique business idea that I took along.

Dhruvin Patel: I did things that I distributed products from overseas. [00:06:00] I'll give you an example. Like I used to break my phone a lot and instead of buying a new one, I thought, let me just try to repair it myself. And I tried, did a really bad job, but then I found there's a there was a magnetic mat where it holds all your screws to get to what was when you when you're disassembling the phone, there's so many little components and if you put them in the wrong place, you've ruined it.

Dhruvin Patel: But there was this map, magnetic mat, which had a outline of where everything goes. And I ordered it and I did it successfully. I was like, well, if I've ordered it, there's going to be other people in the U. K. that want this product. And they were U. S. based company. And I said, look, can I distribute this product in the UK.

Dhruvin Patel:  So I did that the first and second year of university, actually. And, you know, I think sold about 40, 50, 000 pounds worth of product, but then obviously pivoted to this business idea, which was actually a, a bonafide, like pure idea that I'd come up with to, to take forward. But yeah, in terms of the process, it was very

Dhruvin Patel: like I just took it in, you know, took it in my stride. It was almost like, right, I've got this opportunity and I didn't, I didn't think too much about it. And I'm one of those people that [00:07:00] when I'm convinced I have to do something, I don't, I don't think too much about it. And that's almost a blessing in disguise, but it allows me to execute rather than worrying about is it the right move or not.

Dhruvin Patel: So, yeah, in terms of the process, very straightforward. So we had that stage one, which was winning over the public. And, you know, before I went, went to that actual lecture and I went down to the front of the lecture, I said, guys, I'm doing this pitching competition. Can all of you come and vote for me? And there was obviously a hundred students there.

Dhruvin Patel: And actually a lot of them did come. So I won that stage one, I believe, because my peers supported me, right? Even if they liked my idea or not, which gave me 500 pounds, small amount of money. But it allowed me to get through to stage two, which was in three months time where there was 50 tech entrepreneurs from the Silicon Roundabout in, which is the name given to old street tech, et cetera.

Dhruvin Patel: And there was 50 of them and they all had badges again. This time there was 10 businesses a little bit more mature. So by then I had created a brand name, it was called iSleepEasii at the time, really shit name, um, two i's at the end. Had, yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: It's that era isn't it, right? That was [00:08:00] cool back then. What was it?

Amardeep Parmar: I didn't think it was even cool back then to be honest, was it?

Dhruvin Patel: It just, yeah, it just, it probably showed the naivety on what... a brand name needs to be. But yeah, I thought it was cool at that, I had right, how, what is the technology going to be? How do I commercialize it? Why am I going to be the one that can bring it to life?

Dhruvin Patel: What, from an idea to a real product. And then, yeah, I remember being there at that stage, stage two, and all the judges had a badge on them, which said they're a judge or not. And I was the only person, a solo founder. And there was other teams, which are three or four people. And I imagine. They were speaking to all of those 50 tech entrepreneurs who had the fake money to put into our boxes to say, right, I support this idea.

Dhruvin Patel: I believe I switched about 10 of the judges by the end of the hour, which was what we had. And I thought, all right, doing the maths, I don't think I'm going to win here. But somehow I must've convinced those 10 entrepreneurs was I ended up getting the top three spots and I won 5, 000 worth of grant funding from them, which then allowed me to further take forward the business idea.

Amardeep Parmar: So what's interesting as well,  we come back a moment is you're making so much money from selling magnetic mats as like a [00:09:00] first year student. For a lot of people, they'd be like, I'm onto a winner here. Like why even start this other idea? And did you like think about that as well? Were you still continuing this magnetic mats thing on the side while doing OcuShield or the beginning stages of OcuShield or did you like, no, this is the better idea.

Amardeep Parmar: And how did you. Kind of give up that, right? Because sometimes it's easy to hang on to it, which might be a cash cow.

Dhruvin Patel: I did it in parallel for a bit, but then I just, I, something clicked where I understood that as a distributor of a product, I never own, I never own one, the product fully, and I never control the pricing.

Dhruvin Patel: So any day the distributor could come to me and say, right, our prices are 10 times more expensive and you know, therefore the business doesn't work. And then also actually more important at the time I saw cheaper competitors pop up and it was so cheap. It was cheaper than my buy price for the product.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was like, this isn't going to be sustainable. I'm losing sales and I can't really compete. This is not my forte anyway. Whereas with the business idea, I thought, right, this is something I can produce [00:10:00] myself and develop and own the pricing strategy throughout. So I thought it was more of a long term bet rather than trying to live in that short term where I could have kept doing it, couldn't have maxed it out.

Dhruvin Patel: You know, I remember we had a business inquiry from Timpsons. They, they also repair shoes, they do keys, they even do mobile phones now and they wanted the magnet bats. I was with a UK distributor, the order was worth like 80k or something like that. And I was like, well, this, this has legs, right? But yeah, it was kind of just thinking about the long term.

Dhruvin Patel: what, what's going to be best for me and in the future. 

Amardeep Parmar: And so you've got this grant while you're at university, right? Which is quite a significant one for a student. And, but then you went into optometry as a full time for a while before later leaving, becoming Ocushield. So during that time, were you building the business on the side or what was that process like?

Amardeep Parmar: Did it die out for a bit or how, yeah, how did you manage that? 

Dhruvin Patel: In 2015, once I, once I'd done all the research and development while I was working on the business, everyone I spoke to, I managed to get their email addresses when I was somewhere near ready of pressing. [00:11:00] the the button on production, I created a simple Wix website and I sent an email blast out to all the one, everyone that I had an email from and somehow managed to get about a thousand customer pre orders.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was like, Oh, okay, I've got the cash now to place my first production order. That was like summer 2015. And I just remember carrying on doing that while I was working as an optometrist. So I'd work on the business in evenings and lunches. So lunches answering emails and customer service and everything, you know, and the evening shipping goods out like two or three times a week to do it.

Dhruvin Patel: And, you know, the business business, you know, first year did about 40k revenue. Second, 63rd, 100k, you know, when I was working as an optometrist was when I was contractually tied into Specsavers because you have to do a pre registration. But then also uh, work with that company for a year or two after. Uh, so I did the full year.

Dhruvin Patel: Then I negotiated work in three days. And then once we got to a hundred K revenue, I need to, I need to go on this full time. And that really worked for me because one, the profession is so important to [00:12:00] the business because it's all about eyes. So I have to, I have to be that as a trust authority in this space, right?

Dhruvin Patel: You know, it gives credibility to what I'm doing and it's very important if I drop, it's not like a Mark Zuckerberg, we can drop out of university. Right. It wouldn't work with my business. So it had to be, I had to be really conscious that I have to become the best possible optometrist. And I, I, I, I mean, in my eyes, I'd learned as much as I could learn from working in that time.

Dhruvin Patel: And I was happy to then go away and work full time on the business. So yeah, then, then in 2018 went and worked full time on the business because I saw that. There's more impact in me serving and protecting, you know, hundreds or thousands of people's eyes to our products rather than testing 10 or 20 patients a day.

Dhruvin Patel: So it was more of a time versus impact way up.

Amardeep Parmar:  And once you went in  full time, what kind of decisions then flip, right? Because you're also doing well with revenue before you even went full time, which makes life a lot easier, right? Because a lot of people, they've got that bigger risk or jump because they don't know if it's gonna be successful.

Amardeep Parmar: Whereas I guess it must be [00:13:00] a bit easier for you to know, like, okay, look. I've already got 100k coming in. How far can I take this? What shifts did you make mentally once you had like a full time availability?

Dhruvin Patel: I'll also be quite transparent about like revenue doesn't mean you're making money, right? You know, so for it was, it, it showed that we had product market or I had product market fit at the time was it was just me, you know, even after I went full time, I didn't pay myself a sufficient salary for about three years because

Dhruvin Patel: I was so enthusiastic about growing the business, I just wanted to reinvest everything that was made, right? So it's like, right. This is my baby. I need to see it grow and run and, you know, walk, run, et cetera. So I didn't want to take any of that money. So I, I remember I used to locum as an optometrist a couple of days a month and that will get me my minimum, minimum wage to get me through life.

Dhruvin Patel: Right. But everything that the business was doing, I'd reinvest to grow the business. 

Amardeep Parmar: Was  it tough at that point when you're living on the kind of minimum salary? And obviously your friends who are still in optometry earning their full [00:14:00] amount of income. You can see them getting promoted, them earning more each year.

Amardeep Parmar: How was that in this kind of social aspect, right? If you're going out with your mates, they're now earning a lot more than you are because you've given up that role. How, how did you feel about that?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah. I mean, for me, like a lot. A lot of my optometry friends, you know, none of them are flashy as, as I like to say, they're very, very much humble on the same wavelength, you know, we're not, we're not materialistic in that sense.

Dhruvin Patel: And I think at that stage, no one was, no one was making those large life decisions, you know, buying a house, getting married, pregnancy with their partner, whatever else, right? So if those things were happening, then it's obviously difficult. You're kind of thinking, right? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not in the right place?

Dhruvin Patel: But I think everyone was pretty much just kind of enjoying working. I always live below my means. I'm one of those people that as an analogy, have cash stored in the mattress, right? That gives me comfort rather than spending. 

Amardeep Parmar: And  the money you were investing, what, what were you putting into it? Where was that money going?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, multiple things. [00:15:00] So from an early stage business, it's, it's things like product, marketing, and then also team, you know, contractors, so the way I, the way I started the business and grew the team was I'd always hire a contractor in a specific area and then when their, their dependency on their time became too much, it's like, right, we need a full time role here.

Dhruvin Patel: And that's how I did it. And from the start, it's, um, it's, it's worked, it's worked well, and I still kind of do that now.

Amardeep Parmar:  Did you ever, when you're obviously living that paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. Was there ever a time where you maybe invested in something and it didn't work out? So you said the contract has worked out.

Amardeep Parmar: Was there anything that didn't work out? And then how did you react to that?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah. I mean, I think part of the process you, you, you spend money and some stuff doesn't work. I mean, in this game, you have to, the more, the more risks you take, the more failures you have, the more likely you're going to have a winning formula.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, there was money that I'd lost in, in endeavors, you know, I imagine silly marketing things like thinking, right, putting this ad on Reddit [00:16:00] or putting this ad somewhere is going to like really work. Just so you know, you, you know, I very much had a knee jerk approach before where I was like, right, I've seen this.

Dhruvin Patel: I've read this. I've read a blog post that says, right, if you do this, you're going to get X. And I'm like, Right. I've read this blog post. I'm an expert. I'll deploy it. And then like, all right, I don't get the same results. Whereas now I know, well, actually, if you, you have to go quite deep into the topic, make sure that it can work for you rather than just reading one blog post and executing a marketing channel.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, I made many of those failures. And I think now it's having, having a process for those things to make sure, right, is this prioritized above something else? If it is, then go ahead. And if it doesn't work out, that's fine. We made learnings, you know, we made a learning that one, we weren't do it again.

Dhruvin Patel: But also there's some other caveats that come from it that say, right, you should do something else with those funds. 

Amardeep Parmar: And what strategies did work for you in terms of getting more customers, getting more people to find out about Ocushield? 

Dhruvin Patel: It was, it was quite a blessing because a lot of it wasn't forced in the sense of because I'd put that Wix website up like at some [00:17:00] point in 2014 to 15. Google already started seeing us as an expert in that space and the main thing I was doing was generating PR and I did that by contacting journalists who were speaking about the top not blue light necessarily, but Screen time or eyes and leveraging the fact that I'm an optometrist to say, right, I can give you an expert comment on eyes, but also, you know, knowing that they'd hopefully backlinked to my website.

Dhruvin Patel: So after doing that for a certain period, I mean, Google was ranking our website for keywords like blue light screen protector or blue light blocking glasses or whatever it is. And we were getting that organic traffic coming in. So I didn't have to consciously think about that because we were getting those traffic and those hits coming in.

Dhruvin Patel: So that was one element where it was where, you know, we, I planted the seed and then the tree grew and that was just bringing in, uh, the fruits from, from that labor. And then, yeah, moving forward, the market from that grew to, I remember the first thing I started testing was Google PPC [00:18:00] advertising. And so that was the first channel because with that, you have people that have warm intent, you know, they're searching for exactly the thing you want and you want to get eyeballs in front of that.

Dhruvin Patel: And then. There was all the other marketing channels. 

Amardeep Parmar: Youappeared on a couple of TV shows as well, right? There's one in particular that you're quite well known for. How did that go? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, so I went into Dragon's Den in 2020 and it aired 2021. So yeah, Dragon's Den was an incredible experience because I've always loved the program.

Dhruvin Patel: Like I've always watched it since I've been young. And in my back of my head, I've always said to myself, I'll get on this show one day but I've always thought about applying, but I've always put it off. I said, the businesses are good enough. The numbers don't look good. They're going to rip us apart.

Dhruvin Patel: Something's wrong. But then February of 2020, a BBC researcher got in touch and said, Hey, we think you'd be great for Dragons Den. Here's the application form. And I was like, Oh, they've come to me. Like that must be like a stamp of approval. So filled out the application form. I was like, yes, great. And then didn't hear [00:19:00] anything until, until like

Dhruvin Patel: August because the pandemic, so no one was working. And then suddenly August comes and they're like, right, we've seen your application. We can't see you in person, but can you send the video pitch so our producers can see? So me and Asad, we did a video pitch. We sent it across to them. And then within two weeks, they're like, guys, we love it.

Dhruvin Patel: Can you come to, to Manchester in three weeks time to pitch to dragons. So it was like real quick turnaround time. We were like, we've gotta do this and rip for real now. So I, we, I remember then we, me and Asad, we just practicing our pitch, like we look into each other's eyes just there and practicing our parts because it, that's quite, it's quite daunting to look in someone's eyes, right.

Dhruvin Patel: Opposite then practice your pitch and then practice in front of my family or whatever it might be. Right? And then, yeah, we went up to Manchester and went, went to the studios. And a fun fun tip for you is that the lift in Dragon's Den is not real. And I thought it was always real, but it's literally in a studio.

Dhruvin Patel: The doors, the doors are the only real thing. [00:20:00] The money's fake. Um, but yeah, it's just in the studio in a big kind of container. So yeah, we went in, we went. I drove up to Manchester 8 a. m. on the day. We didn't get until get to do the pitch until 1 p. m. So that that time period was a real battle because you're in a dressing room the mirror in front of you And you just got your thoughts and you're you're like, do you practice your pitch?

Dhruvin Patel: Do you not what do you do? Because You're thinking about, you know, there's gonna be millions of people watching this, and it's not also a personal reflection, but also your business could be really impacted. Like, what if the dragons really slate you? So you've got all these things going on in your mind, and you've got to deal with that.

Dhruvin Patel: And then eventually went to pitch and, you know, fortunately, everything came out the way we wanted it to and what's able to execute the pitch. You know, we didn't fall over or anything like that. And, you know, it started off terribly in the sense that we've got three nose from Tuka, Debra, Sarah. I was like, Oh, this isn't going too well.

Dhruvin Patel: And then suddenly Tej and Peter Jones piped up and they started fighting to invest in the business. [00:21:00] So it was great. It was outstanding. Then I was thinking. What do I do? You know, me and Asad just looked at each other and we just stayed quiet and we just let it play out. But yeah, in the end, we were able to negotiate a deal with them on TV.

Dhruvin Patel: So both Ted and Peter were able to secure a deal in the den to come on board of Ocushield. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you have to come  across as very confident, even like speaking now, right? And going on to show again, you came across very well. Is that something you've always had or is it something you've worked on? Or for people now who might be thinking like, there's no way I could gun Dragon's Den and pitch my company.

Amardeep Parmar: What tips would you have for them? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, like definitely, you know, I've not been always confident. I think it's very much in the line of what you do, you just become better at the more you do it. And I said to myself after dragons, and I said, you know, if I can do this, I can do anything. So I, I, I shouldn't be feeling scared if there's a public speaking opportunity or whatever it was, if I can do dragons then, then.

Dhruvin Patel: I should not be able to feel scared about anything else. But yeah, for me, it's been about continuous practice. And, you know, I've done public speaking where I've talked about my business at the universities or talks, whatever it is. But I [00:22:00] remember again, after the pandemic came to a close, I got invited to a speaking gig and because I hadn't done it in so long, I was like really nervous.

Dhruvin Patel: I did a really poor execution of it. And I was like, Oh, crap. I was like, I thought I was good at this, but it's literally just practice when you've just got exercise that muscle. But also with dragons then I think on this business journey, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And the sooner you learn that.

Dhruvin Patel: And for me, I learned, I said, look, right. If something's given, giving me those signals where I don't like it. Actually, I need to go more into that because that's probably going to be the area where the business is going to grow. So that's what's fueled me to push me to do things like going on drugs then.

Amardeep Parmar: And you mentioned  outside there as well. How did that relationship come about? Like, because obviously that's a big thing that many people like they're trying to work out. Is this person right for me to work if we're not right? How did you two come together? 

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, Asad's a great asset within the business.

Dhruvin Patel: And you know, the way we, the way we met was actually, so I was working in the co working space that City University provides. And one of the team members said, Hey, by the way, there's [00:23:00] this evening, there's an optometrist, also an entrepreneur speaking about his business venture. Do you know him? Have you heard of him?

Dhruvin Patel: I was like, Oh, no, I've never heard of him. I didn't know there was another optometrist entrepreneur. Anyway, I went, I went down was I was free that evening as well. I didn't have any plans, went down, listened to him. And he was talking about one of his ventures where he had a kite optician in Westfield.

Dhruvin Patel: So a successful optical store in Westfield and I'd seen it and learned about it. And yeah, just really understood the story. And I kind of went to speak to him afterwards and to touch base to say, obviously how great the talk was. And I also learned that from his talk that he was also an O2 franchisee.

Dhruvin Patel: So he has. Um, a dozen O2 stores within London. And, you know, I was telling him, I said, look, this is what I do. I'm also an optometrist, but I'm also in the telco space, which you are in, which is the O2 stores. And he really loved what I was doing. And we met up, you know, three, four, five times afterwards. And he just said, look, I want to, I want to join you on this journey.

Dhruvin Patel: Um, you know, I like you, I like the product. I think I can add value, which was the main thing from his side. [00:24:00] So for me, it was a pretty easy decision because one, there was some capital coming in to grow the business, but to also, I had someone that's been there and done it in the business landscape and actually being a solo founder, it's quite difficult, but having someone that then can come on board and they know the business and they're a good sounding board, especially as they've been experienced business person.

Dhruvin Patel: Really helped. 

Amardeep Parmar:  Because obviously  you're very active on LinkedIn as well. Right. Excellent LinkedIn, you've done all of these speaking gigs at the same time. You also got to keep on top of all the latest science coming out, all the latest research coming out too, and like increasing the product range too. So have you gone about that side of the business is working out what's the products we should invest in?

Amardeep Parmar: What's. What have you been doing on that side? 

Dhruvin Patel: It comes down to processes. You know, I'd love to say and take the credit for everything that's happening, but you know, I put processes in place, I put people in place to manage certain areas. So it looks like amplifying, you know, the execution side of you know, maybe me or the business.

Dhruvin Patel: But yeah, you know, all of it [00:25:00] is... really important parts of the business, and you've got to choose what's what's a priority. And, you know, in this moment in time, I prioritize my Linkedin personal brand. I don't do anything on any other social media channels because one, it requires a lot of time and effort.

Dhruvin Patel: But two, I see as you know, with on latest product offering, which is online ice screening where we've created a tool which allows employees to Screen their eyes in under seven minutes because we've realized actually employees spend so much time behind their screen. But when we surveyed SMEs to enterprise level organizations, the adoption rate of eye exams, even though they're free in organization was between 2 to 6%.

Dhruvin Patel: So really, really low. So we said, how can we empower employees to do something about it? So we create a screening test which tells them, right, you've got a problem with your eyes or not. And then if you do, you need to do something about it. And actually for supporting that tool, it's a very much B to B play.

Dhruvin Patel: So for me, actually being a place where certain prospective [00:26:00] partners or employers might be, which is LinkedIn. It's very important for me to also have that brand persona there and be there, right? I could simply do something on instagram, but my customer. I could do it again to make myself look good if I want to talk about business.

Dhruvin Patel: But again, there's no real objective. So it's always for me, it's about what's the objective and what's the channel where I can spend most of my time to make the most impact. Um, so that's how I kind of devise my time and make, make things happen. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you've obviously got quite a few B2C products as well, right?

Amardeep Parmar: And you've expanded that range. How have you made this decision about which products to go to in that space as well?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, so it's a, it's a combination of what I think our customers want. So the beauty for, for me in this business is I am my customer because I wanted the product, uh, initially back in the conception stage where I wanted those blue lights, that prescription glass.

Dhruvin Patel: So I don't wear glasses, so I couldn't use the glass from Vision Express. So I had to go away and create a product that I can put onto my phone and use myself. But knowing [00:27:00] that there's also I know where our customers read and what they look at and what they're interested in. So, for example, give an example of where I sit within our customer personas.

Dhruvin Patel: We have three key personas, one is parents, one is young professionals and the other is health optimizer. So I sit within health optimizers where I like to look at how I can improve elements of my health. And, you know, I look at things like blue light exposure. I look at biohacking. I look at how can I optimize my sleep?

Dhruvin Patel: How can I optimize my life by doing that? I get inkling of what my customers want because I, I also look at it and say, Oh, okay. There's, there's more research coming up that shows that cell phones emit. Electromagnetic radiation. So actually Andrew Huberman, the PhD neuroscientist last week, actually, you know, he did a big thing.

Dhruvin Patel: He's like, I've looked at the research, basically devices, especially if you're male, are affecting sperm motility. And I knew that my type of customer was already looking in this space, you know, six to 12 months ago. So we actually [00:28:00] launched a product, which is an anti-radiation insert, which sits behind your phone and the case and it absorbs 70 percent of the radiation without changing your, your phone signal.

Dhruvin Patel: So some of it is my gut and where I think the customers want to go. And then also is asking our customers, you know, the beauty of having customers is asking them, but also not leaning too much into that. Because sometimes customers do not know what they want and they can lead you in the wrong way. So, uh, first and foremost is my gut and understanding of the market.

Amardeep Parmar: And you mentioned there was like  the B2B play now in terms of going to employee screening. What made you go to that direction? Cause I can imagine, obviously it's a bigger market helped you scale, but what was your thought process ?

Dhruvin Patel: For me,  it was a really compelling project to do and product to deliver because not only can we have the impact of helping employees where, you know, we already sell our physical products to, so to employers like Puma and Barclays and Meta, so we have some relationships there already.

Dhruvin Patel: So it's always like, what else can we give them? [00:29:00] And looking at the macro environment. You know, we're in a recession. I thought to myself, if we're going into a recession, consumers have less money, but generally businesses, especially large enterprise, they still have funds there, right? Which they can deploy.

Dhruvin Patel: So that was one thing I looked at. But also the second was, how does it fit into our consumer business? So as well as creating this tool for the B2B segment, actually, we also launched it to consumers.  But each employee that does our test at the end. On their report, they are also indirectly being exposed to OcuShield, because not only do they see OcuShield, the domain and you know, who's created this tool, they also say, right, you've said from your input from the questionnaire on this tool that you spend more than 12 hours a day on screens.

Dhruvin Patel: Have you thought about your screen time and how blue light might impact your eyes? So actually, it creates a 360 marketing cycle, our own marketing channel. So if I can sign on employers that have tens of thousands of employees and we're getting [00:30:00] thousands of that doing thousands of them doing that a month.

Dhruvin Patel: We've not only got their email address where they're constant, we're sending them reminders to the eye screening test, but we're also telling them, right, we've got these products. So I thought this is a no brainer. Was it not only? Allows us to diversify product range, but it creates a new marketing channel and gets us closer to customers that we might not have.

Dhruvin Patel: So it kind of ticked all the boxes. And I was like, we can do this and we really need to do this because yeah, this is going to provide immense value for, for consumers and employees, but also as business, I think it can also revolutionize what we're doing. 

Amardeep Parmar: And what excites  you most now about what you're doing?

Amardeep Parmar: Cause obviously you've got stuff coming from the future, more launches. What would you say like people should be looking out for or paying attention  to? 

Dhruvin Patel: What I want our business to get a lot stronger on in the future is content generation. We've done a really bad job at it in the last two years. We've almost, we've almost relied on elements of, let's say, dragons den, paid media, etcetera.

Dhruvin Patel: But we again want to become a trust authority and put out great, great content, especially [00:31:00] in environment like now, where content is king and you bring eyeballs to yourself. So I think for people to, you know, look out for, I mean, um, They don't need to look at that. Hopefully they'll see it. If you're within our customer segment, right?

Dhruvin Patel: Our goal is not to reach everyone. It's people that sit within those audiences, but we want to put out content that people can, can really listen to learn from. And if they, they, they like us, then, you know, be a customer of ours. But, um, yeah, what excites me is really, uh, learning. I didn't realize how important I liked the nerdy side of things until actually last week where I went to have a meeting with some clinicians, so a stroke consultant and a retired ophthalmologist.

Dhruvin Patel: We were just discussing how we could be using our eye screening tool for different things. So how can you use it to identify and rehabilitate stroke patients, for example. So there's all these other use cases. And I was like, wow, I went away from it, like really charged up and energized because I forgot how much I missed

Dhruvin Patel: that side of things because I'm so focused on the business side of things. And so yeah, for me, it's excitement comes from learning whether it's in [00:32:00] literature or it's on the business side. Um, and then just seeing it come to life.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. So I've really enjoyed, I think you've said so far, but we're going to have to move on to a quick five questions now.

Amardeep Parmar: So first one is who are three British Asians that you'd love to shout out you think are listening right now, actually paying attention to or following?

Dhruvin Patel: Okay. So the first one I'm going to have to go with my brother. So my brother name is very similar to a famous cricketer. His name is Samit Patel. His marketing agency is called Joopio, but if you have a product idea, he can help you take it from the product idea to create a compelling video and landing page pitch where you can then put it onto a crowdfunding platform and

Dhruvin Patel: entice people toe to back back that idea of dollars. So shout out to him because he's also supported me on this journey with his idea. So second one again, close to home is shouting out Asad, my business partner again, very useful in, you know, in the mentorship on what he's done with the business and taking us from, you know, where we've been from a small business to now growing is quite useful.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, [00:33:00] just just put it out that everyone is also get yourself so on. That's a couple years ahead of you. It's good looking at Richard Branson, but you know, you can't really relate to people that are, you know, that are Elon Musk, Richard Branson level that their advice might not be as executional for you.

Dhruvin Patel: My third person, they might be UK based or they might not be, is Nik Sharma. He's doing some amazing work in the DTC space. And, you know, he's a real beacon of knowledge in the consumer goods and DTC space. So big shout out to him. 

Amardeep Parmar: All right. And then next question is, if people listening right now can come to you for guidance or for help, what should they come to you for?

Dhruvin Patel: Okay. If you  have a If you have an idea and you're serious about it and you can't stop sleeping, um, and you've done some execution around it, then, then come to me and I'll be happy to give you my two pence of advice on, you know, any challenges that you might have. Um, so yeah, that's, that's when they can come to me.

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the  other side, what's something that you're looking for right now? Is there any help you need, whether it's hiring or advice?

Dhruvin Patel: Yeah, the help I need at the moment is with our new iScreening tool, we're [00:34:00] looking for enterprise businesses. any businesses with over 250 employees. So if you work at one of those and you're listening, then get in touch.

Dhruvin Patel: Please, uh, email me or whatever. And I'd love to put it in front of the organization, the HR team, et cetera. So yeah, get in touch. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then finally, have you got any last words for the audience?

Dhruvin Patel: Thanks for listening. Hopefully I can provide some value. But yeah, just to let you know about Ocushield that we exist to let eyes thrive.

Dhruvin Patel: So yeah, whenever you're having an eye issue, come and visit us because we might have something for you.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello. Hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It means a huge amount to us and we don't think you realize how important you are because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here, to inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians.

Amardeep Parmar: If you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact. And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests. We can [00:35:00] host more events. We can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.

Other episodes you may enjoy: