“We focus on improving life by improving vision,” says Yagen Moshe, CEO of Shamir Optical, speaking from Singapore, where he manages the company’s worldwide operations. Shamir Optical, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, has grown from a small factory headquartered at Kibbutz Shamir in Israel’s north into a worldwide operation that has become one of the world’s leading developers of lenses for eyeglasses. Shamir specializes in the development, marketing, and production of spectacle lenses, selling its products to eye care professionals through thirty locations around the world, operating 18 laboratories with a total workforce of 2,500 in 22 countries.
The origins of the company date back to 1972, explains Moshe, when Kibbutz Shamir, like many other kibbutzim at that time, was transitioning from agriculture to industry. Kibbutz members opened a factory for casting molds for spectacle lenses. Over the years, the company and its products grew. Research and development for its products are still conducted on the kibbutz. Today the company is jointly owned by Kibbutz Shamir and EssilorLuxottica SA, an Italian-French multinational corporation.
When the pandemic began, most stores that sold Shamir products were shuttered, and the company’s sales decreased by 90%. After three months, its products were deemed essential, and most of its stores reopened. Shamir representatives couldn’t visit resellers, and the company had to work remotely in its development and marketing for much of the time. The company adapted quickly and provided digital solutions for eye professionals to help support end-users who couldn’t interact directly with customers.
“During the pandemic,” says Yagen Moshe, “people became more aware of their eyes.” With millions of people confined to their homes for weeks and months at a time, computer screens became the window to the world for many. In a nod to the digital circumstances, says Moshe, Shamir is releasing ‘Expression,’ a new lens coating that removes the reflection that people see when conducting video calls. Additionally, Shamir made extensive use of ‘big data’ during the pandemic to develop new products. One outstanding example is the Autograph Intelligence lens, the first progressive lens of its kind that is optimally tailored to individual eyeglass wearers’ needs and visual age (the physiological age of one’s eyes) via artificial intelligence.
While the pandemic accelerated the uses of technology for Shamir, Moshe says that “there are things that we are doing, now that the borders are open, that we could not do digitally. Contracts that need to be finalized need the social touch. In the last few months, we have closed deals over dinners and drinks.” Additionally, he says, some technologies cannot be implemented virtually and require the participation of technicians at the location.
The vital role that Shamir employees play in the company also became apparent during the pandemic, says Moshe. “We learned that they need to be part of decisions, and we shared more information and more decisions with more employees.” During lockdown periods, Shamir provided workers with solutions and support to work from home. “It is most important to show them that there is direction, there is leadership, and that they will be part of the leadership.” He added that providing top-quality service to eye care professionals that sell Shamir products has long been a pillar of the company that sets it apart from the competition. During the pandemic, Shamir Optical improved its customer service even more, notes Moshe, staying in touch with customers and providing them with needed information.
Yagen Moshe says that 2021 was a profitable year for Shamir, as it managed to increase its presence, name, and brand. In 2022, the company will be introducing three new technologies – the Expression coating that decreases reflection, the new MetaForm lens, which Moshe says is stronger, safer, and more cosmetic, and Spark, an instrument developed with Blink Optical in Haifa, that allows eye care professionals to measure lenses to frame remotely.
The organization has a strong social conscience to improve people’s vision and encourages raising awareness of the need for periodic vision tests. In Israel alone, says Moshe, over two million citizens need corrections to their vision. The company has partnered with the Alpine F1 Team Formula 1 auto racing team to improve the visual quality and safety of race members. Ultimately, new technologies that come from this partnership will benefit people everywhere.
Companies such as Apple, Metaverse, and Amazon are looking to use their products in augmented and virtual reality products in the next decade. Moshe says that Shamir, with its hi-tech know-how and understanding of lenses, is uniquely positioned to succeed in this market in the future. “Most important,” says Yagen Moshe, “Shamir is an ambassador for Israel to the world. Our products arrive to the end user all over the world. We are a good voice for Israeli technology.”
This article is taken from The Jerusalem Post Annual Executive Magazine 2021-2022. To read the entire magazine, click here.
This article was written in cooperation with Shamir Optical