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Business management

High growth focus: how screen protector technology for smartphones led to business success

As part of our series celebrating innovative UK scale-ups, we meet Ocushield founder Dhruvin Patel, who created his eye-protecting technology for smartphones while at university.

Key takeaways for growth

  • try to be ‘cash-flow positive’ – it means you can forecast longer into the future in order to buy in stock
  • be comfortable about getting uncomfortable by doing things that challenge you
  • every penny matters in the beginning – get stuck in and learn to do it all by yourself
  • don’t look at all business debt as bad – borrowing can help you maintain cash flow

Now his company, Ocushield, has gone from trading out of his halls of residence to selling thousands of screen protectors annually through its e-commerce site and major retailers including Superdrug, Amazon and Costco. Here, he talks about his business journey.

What helped you scale the business after its launch in 2015?

“Our products have been rated as a Class I medical device by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). There are competitors in our market, but they don’t have the same background credentials we have, so that has definitely given us an advantage. 

“We’ve developed an ecosystem of products for smartphones, tablets, monitors, laptops and now lighting products and glasses, too. By doing that, we’ve been able to increase our average order, because customers often have multiple devices.

“Also, we appeared on Dragons’ Den in July 2021, and had two dragons competing for our business. For the UK market, there are immediate trust signals from that, which have really allowed us to scale our marketing.”

How have you overcome barriers to growth?

“We were deactivated from Amazon for 45 days because we didn’t properly verify some information. It was at the same time that we aired on Dragons’ Den, so we missed a massive opportunity to increase our sales. Amazon is one of our key sales channels, so we lost traction and had to build up the sales velocity again. Thankfully, the issue was resolved quickly.

“Navigating the supply chain issues during the pandemic has also been a challenge. We design and develop our products in the UK, but we manufacture them in the Far East. Commercial planes just haven’t been available, so freight costs have increased tenfold in some cases. We’ve weathered the storm, but getting products to our customers in this period was hard.”

Was financing an issue for you?

“We’ve been quite fortunate in that we’ve been profitable from the start – we’ve always been cash-flow positive. We’ve had support from NatWest in the form of an overdraft facility, which has helped us with cash flow. It means we can forecast longer into the future in order to buy in stock.

“We’ve actually just closed a fundraising round – our seed round effectively – of just under £1m, so we can now double the size of our team, and we have the budget to work on product development partnerships and on optimising our digital marketing.”

As a successful entrepreneur, what makes you tick?

“For me, it’s about being comfortable about getting uncomfortable. In other words, doing things that challenge you.

“Also, you have to be relentless in trying to achieve what you want. When you create something, it’s your baby, and you want to see it to do very well. You aren’t necessarily driven by the material aspects of the business. 

“It’s really satisfying being able to grow things to the level of our products being sold in opticians, Superdrug, Costco and Robert Dyas, as well as appearing on Dragons’ Den, and having Sir Richard Branson writing a whole post about Ocushield on LinkedIn.”

What have you learned about how to grow a business?
“In the beginning, every penny matters. You can’t afford to spend hundreds of pounds hiring someone who does a bad job because they’ll just waste your money and time. Instead, you have to get stuck in and learn to do it all by yourself.

It’s about being comfortable about getting uncomfortable. In other words, doing things that challenge you. Also, you have to be relentless in trying to achieve what you want

Dhruvin Patel
Founder, Ocushield
“By doing all the tasks before trying to find someone to do them for you, you’ll understand exactly what you’re looking for and what’s needed to succeed. You’ll understand the time required for each task, the required skill set and the salary you’d expect to pay.”
How do you combine purpose and passion in business?

“Good business is based on purpose, in my opinion. My purpose is to service others by helping their eyes thrive. It’s a natural fit to be passionate about what I do in business because the purpose fuels what I do and is the overarching theme.

“Being passionate for my day-to-day work life is very easy. I’m super-focused on protecting people’s eyes, and the business is a great vehicle to deliver on that.”

What have your learned about access to capital?

“I’ve realised that business debt in some forms is good, not bad. I’m not talking about building up bad debt, where you’re not using the money for cash-flow purposes. 

“Being profitable is the number-one target for us and, when used wisely, some business debt helps us stay that way.”

How can the financial services industry serve SMEs better?

“Newer financing businesses aren’t necessarily using traditional methods. For instance, e-commerce revenue-financing companies will look at how much money you’re making online and give you a cash advance against that.

“If banks delivered some of the newer kinds of solutions, they would have a lot more lending ability – and make more money themselves.”

What’s your proudest achievement to date?
“Well, we’ve served over 150,000 customers since I started the business, and we’ve had over 100 five-star reviews in the last two years. Reading customer comments explaining how they’re now able to do their work without getting headaches, and are able to sleep better, is amazing. It makes me very proud and happy.”

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