Interview with Mr.Ashwani Kanda

MBE: : Mr. Kanda can you please tell me how Kanda Optical and your journey in this industry started?

Kanda: I started my career in this industry 35 years ago. I was hired to work at a lab technician as my first job in Canada when I had come from India. At the time I spent my days in the lab grinding lenses and coloring the lenses. The company I worked at was called Imperial Optical and this is where I started learning and perfecting my trade. During my early years working I worked as hard as possible. I never looked at the time and never rushed home early. I spent as much time as I could working my way up and this hard work and determination is what helped me grow at such a fast pace. Once Imperial Optical shut down I got a great opportunity to work at another company due to my experience at my first job. I became the youngest lab manager at the time and this inspired me to work even harder.

MBE: What role did your family and other mentors play in your early career?

Kanda: My parents were a huge inspiration for me and always supported me throughout my childhood and my later on in my career. One funny story I remember from many years ago took place when I was studying to become an Optician at Seneca University and simultaneously I was still working as a lab manager. I used to get done with my classes at around 11 o clock at night and one day when I came home late at night I decided I needed to go to the lab and prepare the work for the next day. At the time since I was still young my mother was worried that I shouldn’t be going out so late at night so she ended up coming with me to the lab and waited the entire night as I completed my work. This shows the level of support I had from parents who were always there to help me in whatever I did.

MBE:Mr. Kanda how did you transform from an employee at a company to an employer managing people and running your own company?

Kanda: After a few years of working as a lab manager and a dispenser I was given the opportunity to start my own store. A landlord of a plaza in the west end of Toronto approached me to open a store in his plaza. At the time I did not have the finances to open the store but the man believed in me and my abilities and with his help I was able to open the first Kanda Optical store. Even though I felt I might not have had the right finances and experience to run my own store I did not let that hold me back and I jumped on the opportunity. From that one store I am proud to say that there are now 13 Kanda Stores and we have our own state of the art manufacturing lab.

MBE:What are the qualities and requirements you look for when you sell a store that is part of your Kanda Optical franchise?

Kanda: When someone approaches me to buy a Kanda Optical store we do not look at how much money they have but instead we see how willing the person is to work and maintain the standards that we have set at Kanda Optical. We look for qualified licensed individuals who we feel we can trust. Money is not the important factor as lots of people have the money to buy a store but very few people have the ability to produce the same high quality products and service that we set as a standard at Kanda Optical.

MBE: How have things in your industry changed from when you started to the present day?

Kanda: Nowadays the industry has changed a lot. Most of the change has been brought about by newer and newer technology. When I was younger we had to do all the physical work like the shaping and cutting of the lenses by hand. In this day and age the process has become very simplified and can be done at the touch of a button through state of the art machines. Another major change that has taken place is that online shopping has become popular and as a result people no longer need to leave their houses to shop. But thankfully this has not affected our business negatively because we are still known for our high quality products and as long as our products are of the highest quality people will keep returning to our stores.

MBE: Do you have a message for the young generation that is trying to choose their future work industries?

Kanda: I feel the number one mistake the youth make after finishing their studies is that they keep switching their fields and industries they chose to work in. Some younger people start off as engineers, move on to finance and end up in journalism. This is not the right way to go about it in my opinion and my message to this younger generation is that you should do your research, make your decision to get involved in one field or industry and then stick to this industry. Keep working as hard as you can and do not be demotivated and think of switching to another industry just because you come across some hardships and challenges.

MBE:Mr. Kanda what are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Kanda: I like spending my time off from work with my family and friends as much as I can. I also have a longtime interest in cars. I have been blessed that I have been able to purchase the finest luxury cars in the market and frequently switch from one new vehicle to the other. It has been a long time passion of mine and my work has given me the opportunity to buy all sorts of cars ranging from Range Rovers to Bentleys.

MBE:Can you please tell our readers about some of the charity work you have been involved in over the years?

Kanda: I personally feel that giving back to the community and this great country of Canada that has given me so much is a duty that I owed to the community and county. I have been involved in various different charities over the last couple of decades but the one cause I hold most dear is helping the senior citizens. Every year on the 26th of December Kanda Optical has an event where senior citizens can walk into the store and purchase a free pair of glasses. The offer is open to all senior citizens and we do not discriminate in any way possible. This event has been going on for many years and every year we have lines of people at our store. Although we usually expect around 100 people on the day every year around 200 to 300 people come and take up this offer. On the day we make sure there is extra staff and doctors on sight to make sure the process is smooth and fast for every senior that is coming. I have also travelled back to my home country of India and set up medical camps there and helped those people that cannot afford proper eye care.

MBE:Any last message for our readers?

Kanda: My message to the younger generation is that with immense hard work, honesty and determination you can achieve whatever you want to in any field no matter whom you are or where you are from. My message to my fellow businessmen is that those people that have become successful in this country and this community should get together and give back to our community and our country as much as we can because that is what we owe to them.