Aravind Eye Care System

give sight to all, see all as one

Sunday 2 June 2013

4 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy was 58 when he founded Aravind Eye Care Hospital, an ophthalmological hospital with several locations in India. He wanted to create a service model like that of McDonalds, a model that could train people to produce the same product in the same way in hundreds of places; he wanted to provide standardized eye care services with efficiency, and his mission was clear: to eradicate needless blindness.

To achieve his goal, he followed an upside-down business model that relied on three commitments: not turn anyone away based on financial need, no compromise on quality and self-reliance. In order to accomplish his objectives, patients choose whether they wanted to pay or not and how much. The reality about this model is that two thirds of Aravind’s services are free, but every patient who can pay covers costs per two who cannot and because of its high efficiency in terms of operations, a surplus is generated. Surplus is reinvested in Aravind, which funds its growth and expansion.

Aravind recruits young women from the villages near the hospitals and trains them, making sure they all share the dream of the hospital; four paramedics help every surgeon, who averages 2000 surgeries a year, against the national average of 400. They do not receive extra payment for their effort, but rather they see this as an opportunity to become the best professionals in the field. To be able to provide services using this upside-down model costs had to be reduced, Aravind decided to start producing their own lenses, given that the ones they used to import cost $200, against their $5 cost, and they currently export them to 85 countries all over the world.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Human welfare has always been Aravind’s main priority. In order to follow his dream and mission with integrity, Doctor Venkataswamy had a twin aspiration. On the one hand he wanted “to give sight to all” by setting up a service that could end one form of curable human suffering. On the other hand, he wanted a collective transformation of the human discipline of mind and heart: “to see all as one”.

Since poverty is so extreme most of the time just going to the medical facilities is too great a cost for the patient, Aravind business model is able to offer not only treatment but also food, lodging, and transport free of charge. It provides high quality eye care available to all – restoring people’s sight and, what is more important, restoring people’s dignity.

Aravind has created a movement which spread the values of humility, compassion and shared humanity. This movement can be extended to any activity concerning social entrepreneurship, global health and moral leadership. Araving has also succeeded in addressing other internal forms of blindness like: anger, fear or jealousy.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

As the New York Time explains Dr. Venkataswamy “persuaded his siblings to join him in mortgaging their houses, pooling their savings and pawning their jewels to build Aravind.” He knew it was a sacrifice he had to take in order to achieve the greater good he fought for and believed in.

Aravind works against the principles of economic “common sense” with its upside-down business model it guarantees that money doesn’t determine if you are attended or not and it doesn’t affect the quality of your treatment. It “sees all as one.”

Aravind’s model is only possible if it has freedom to decide how to run this counterintuitive business model which might be a threat to many, this has been achieved by making it a self-sustainable entity.

When a person loses its sight in many developing countries this implies that your value as a person diminishes you represent a burden on society, Aravind gives you back the ability to see and in a way, also to live. Aravind´s day to day implies a change in individuals and society as a whole by “giving sight to all.”

Full transparency in terms of how they have been able to achieve this standardization and its predisposition to share knowledge with other hospitals and entities shows us its real commitment to creating shared value for all.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

One of the key challenges for Aravind will be to maintain the model of cross-subsidization in the long run. India already suffers from overpopulation and its population is predicted to grow at a tearing pace in the future involving harsher living conditions and increasing poverty.

Furthermore the issue of “brain drain”: Doctors working at Aravind hospitals are known for their excellent formation and skills and consequently are very demanded across the globe. The opportunity of higher salary, prospect of a better life and professional development may be a big incentive to leave their home country since India, compared to western standards, still provides rather poor professional expectations and life quality.

Aravind will also have to be careful in order not to raise economical interest and become pressured by external groups such as for example government authorities, which consequently might be tempted to stipulate certain conditions to their own benefit.

Aravind has managed to create a unique business model, it is a pioneer in its industry. Giving sight to all shouldn’t be consequently limited to the people in India. Therefore, we see a great opportunity for Aravind to expand its business model beyond Indian borders to other underdeveloped countries who also struggle with blindness and insufficient resources for appropriate medical treatment. Moreover, apart from exporting its business model to other developing countries, the largest and most productive eye care facility in the world should use its prestige to help raise awareness in developed countries. We are convinced that its alternative health care model with cross-subsidization should be an inspiration to western society to overthink its current practices, as there inequality still also exists and certain people, due to lack of resources, aren’t able to afford adequate medical treatment.



The New York Times, Tina Rosenberg “A Hospital Network With a Vision”

Sector: Human health and social work activities

Official website:

Key figures:

• 45 million people are blind worldwide, 12 of them living in India
• Over 80% of this blindness is needless
• Aravind’s eye hospitals have seen a total of nearly 32 million patients in 36 years and performed nearly 4 million eye surgeries
• When Aravind started it had 11 beds, nowadays it has 5 working hospitals
• The UK does around 500,000 eye surgeries a year, Aravind does about 300,000 ( 60%). However, it costs the UK £1.6 billion, while it costs Aravind less than 1% of that.

Nbr. visits: 2235

Nbr. inspires: 4