In an exclusive interview, the entrepreneur opens up about discovering his passion and how winning a university competition helped to kick start his career.
In 2015, Dhruvin Patel researched an idea that turned his entire life around.
“It all started with my dissertation project,” Patel says at his offices in Greater London. “I researched how blue light affects the eyes, physiology, and circadian rhythms and realised it’s a huge problem. I was thinking ‘I need to do something about this.’”
The topic in question was OcuShield, a screen protector launched by Patel in 2015. The product reduces the amount of blue light that is emitted on devices such as phones, laptops, and monitors by 30 percent.
After months of research on his dissertation, the entrepreneur says he wanted to create a business around screen protectors because he discovered blue light causes “a lot more issues than people realise”.
“Blue light suppresses melatonin so it makes it harder for you to fall asleep,” he says. “In the long term, it can disturb the quality of your sleep and can contribute towards eye diseases such as macular degeneration.”
However, optometry and business were not always the dream for the OcuShield founder.
Growing up, Patel says he struggled to discover his passion as his parents pushed him towards opportunities that would give him a secure future. Wanting to decide for himself, he admits he experimented with different medical-related work placements.
But, after an enjoyable placement at Specsavers, Patel says he started to consider a career in optometry because he thought it was “interesting and rewarding”. Eventually, he opted to study optometry at City, University of London between 2012 and 2015.
Towards the end of his degree, Patel worked at Vision Express, which played a part in forming his eventual business idea. The company had launched a lens enhancement that helped reduce the amount of eye strain when looking at screens.
“I really wanted a product like this because I don’t wear glasses,” he says. “I was going through the motions and wondered if I could create something similar to it.”
Through his dissertation and work placements, Patel formed OcuShield and entered his idea into CitySparks – a business competition open to all students at his university.
The aspiring entrepreneur was put to the test as he had to advertise and pitch his business idea by himself to 50 experienced entrepreneurs.
“They were given £1,000 in fake notes and they had to judge which businesses they thought had the best chance to succeed,” he says. “They looked at prototypes, branding, the strategy. You had to convince all of these people to believe in you.”
“And for me it was only myself there while other groups had like three or four team members. I was just trying to do the maths and other teams probably spoke to all of the judges.
“I was only able to speak to about 10 of them and I was just thinking ‘Oh, there’s no way I’m going to win this.”
Much to his surprise, OcuShield stood out amongst the rest and won the competition. Also, Patel received £5,000 to support his new business, which proved to be a catalyst for his success.
“We had around 1,000 preorders so the money helped out a lot,” he says. “We were ready to start producing the product officially and we shipped our first product towards the end of January.”
“At first, we were only making for six different devices but now we make our protectors for around 65 different devices.”
Since its launch, OcuShield now caters to 65 different devices and has officially “won over 79,178 customers”.
While other businesses are secretive about their sales, Patel always opted to state this figure on his company’s website to give his customers the confidence they need in his business.
“The trust factor is always so important,” he says. “We’ve changed and grown in so many different ways but we cater to so many people now.”
“Once you build up that relationship with your consumer, they’ll trust you and your service.”