That's the ambitious goal set by Nikon and Essilor International, which formed a strategic worldwide 50-50 partnership for Nikon's line of lenses in January of 2000, and there are indications that the well-balanced high-tech line stands to reach a minimum 1 percent market penetration after 12 months in each country where it is introduced. Nikon already has market shares of 12 percent in Japan and 4 percent in Canada, and it has been building up a strong momentum in the USA since one year ago with its Nikon Eyes venture.

A coordinated European effort began in March of 2000, when Christine Claverie took charge of Novisia, the European subsidiary of the joint venture that moved into new premises in Paris last Apr. 1, after the termination of a major distribution agreement in France with Essor. The 41-year-old French executive had been working on marketing for Essilor on a European scale for 4 years after handling sales and marketing functions for Philips and Thomson over a period of 15 years.

Novisia now has its own wholly-owned operations in France, Spain and Austria and it has distributors in 10 other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That doesn't include the UK and Ireland, where Nikon had already set up its own sales subsidiary for lenses two and half years ago. The new markets established by Novisia sofar are Spain, Morocco, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. Novisia is still looking for suitable distribution in Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

Banking on Nikon's already high image in the photo sector, Claverie is trying to position the brand in the ophthalmic lens sector as a premium high-quality line of organic lenses for 4 different types of lifestyles, including photochromic and polycarbonate models that use Essilor's own technologies. Novisia is introducing Nikon's own high-tech line in Europe, which features a 1.74 index, delivering the products from a laboratory installed in France one year ago, with machinery imported from Japan. It claims the line, called Nikon Zen, is more complete than the one that Seiko is offering in Europe.

Novisia is discussing possible coordination on marketing with Berthet-Bondet, the French company that recently obtained the exclusive distribution of Nikon eyewear frames in certain European markets.