Omprakash is once again able to read to his grandchildren.

Making Markets Work

Innovating and Iterating

VisionSpring’s early work involved training local people, or vision entrepreneurs, to conduct outreach and sell quality, low cost eyeglasses in their communities. Despite the clear need for basic eye care in these communities, the vision entrepreneur model soon proved unsustainable in isolation, with limited potential for scale. VisionSpring recognized that in order to maximize access to this underappreciated tool for socio-economic development

we needed to create businesses that would eventually scale with a blend of commercial, impact, and philanthropic investment.  Accordingly, VisionSpring refined our interventions to incorporate the successful elements of the vision entrepreneur based model into a hub and spoke approach where VisionSpring optical shops operate as hubs and vision entrepreneurs act like spokes conducting outreach in the communities surrounding the optical shops.

Cross Subsidization: The Sustainable Way to Reach the BoP Consumer

An integral component of this approach is a cross subsidization pricing strategy that addresses the public health need for eyeglasses while creating investable businesses at the same time.  VisionSpring optical shops offer a wide variety of frame options ranging from the most basic, affordable styles, to higher priced frames that appeal to the BoP consumer with a slightly higher spending capacity.  The income generated through the sale of higher margin products at our optical shops enables VisionSpring to conduct the resource-intensive operations required to reach BoP consumers living in more remote locations with limited access to eye care.

High Volume, Low Margin Approach

The global optical industry typically employs a low volume, high margin approach to glasses sales.  Optical shops generally only cater to a small number of individuals that have the capacity to pay for higher priced products. This is as true in Latin America, Asia, and Africa as it is in Europe and the United States.

VisionSpring recognizes the potential to have a dramatic impact in the developing world by engaging the BoP not as a constituency to be served or individuals needing handouts, but as a viable market that can be activated through a high-volume and low-margin approach.

Replicating our Proven Model

El Salvador is one of the smallest, most densely populated countries in Latin America. India is the second most populous country in the world with its population widely dispersed.  Yet the dynamics of the optical markets are remarkably similar with little to no penetration of the BoP market. The successful expansion of the Hub-and-Spoke approach, originally pioneered in El Salvador, and now replicated in India, is proving the viability of our model.  This sets the stage for VisionSpring to prepare new markets in India and in other target countries and eventually take the model to scale.

VisionSpring has also systematized a partner based model where other organizations assume full cost of the training and supplies required to launch a program selling or distributing glasses.  Click here to learn more or to partner with VisionSpring.

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