Clear vision for small enterprises
Worldwide, 703 million people have impaired vision that could be restored by wearing eyeglasses, of whom 77% need glasses for reading. The cost of uncorrected refractive error to the global economy has been estimated at 202 billion CHF, with low-income people disproportionately affected. Poor visual acuity constrains the ability to work, learn and fully participate in many activities. Despite the potentially enormous benefits of eyeglasses for the working poor, the market has failed to meet the needs of consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
This pilot project by VisionSpring is introducing vision screenings and eyeglasses to female entrepreneurs and self-employed women to increase their productivity, income and years of earning potential. VisionSpring will partner with India’s largest network of self-employed women and a micro-lending institution to increase access to eyeglasses for their members and constituents.
Through community-based vision camps, the project will screen 150 000 low-income micro-entrepreneurs, their employees and/or family members, in rural Maharashtra and the slums of Delhi. VisionSpring will also train 100 self-employed women to become ‘vision entrepreneurs’ who integrate basic vision screening and the sale of reading glasses into their existing businesses.
Eyeglasses will be sold at a subsidised rate to maximise user uptake, particularly among first-time wearers. During the vision camps’ first 18 months, sales proceeds will be invested in a revolving fund to support the activities of vision entrepreneurs in future.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
Based on a 2009 study by the University of Michigan of VisionSpring’s impact in rural India, the vision entrepreneurs’ productivity is projected to increase by an average of 35% per year. In addition, 24 000 low-income individuals are expected gain clear vision within two years owing to use of corrective eyewear. With millions of low-income entrepreneurs in the participating networks, this pilot has the potential to be adopted across India and even in other countries.