Seva’s partner in India, Aravind Eye Care System (AECS), is a world leader in high-quality, high-volume, sustainable, community-oriented eye care. Its innovative financial structure allows fees from paying patients to subsidize services for the patients too poor to pay. Aravind’s creative cross-funding model is the standard in all Seva-supported programs. 

To understand how Aravind expanded and achieved financial and market success in Southern India, we must first alter several assumptions about effective business practices and most of what we use to measure success. 

Marketing  Eye Care to People Too Poor to Pay

Male Indian Glasses Patient by Brian Harris

photo by Brian Harris

The dominant marketing model at Aravind focuses on how to ‘sell’ eye care to people too poor to pay for services at all.  

The model includes Aravind spending substantial funds on outreach activities systematically designed to give these services away. 

General population awareness of providing high-quality, respectful, user-friendly eye care to the poor, encouraged those who can pay to pay what they can to ensure everyone, regardless of income, would get care. The result was a substantial net profit for Aravind. This dimension of Aravind’s business practices has been fairly well described and analysed by not only the eye care community but by many businesses worldwide. 

Helping the Competition

The second, equally important and equally counter-intuitive dimension of Aravind’s marketing model, is to provide substantial assistance to competing eye care institutions in their own catchment area and beyond.   

Aravind has successfully helped hundreds of weaker eye programs to increase productivity and efficiency in service-starved settings where need exceeds supply ten to one. Aravind provides the training, free of charge, as well as absorbing the salaries and loss of service income from staff absent often for weeks or months.  

The market effect of investing in improving the quality and overall capacity (i.e. statewide) as opposed to Aravind itself, remains poorly studied in resource poor regions such as India. In theory, making high-quality services more readily available to all and by helping to eliminate poor-quality services, resulted in a net profit for Aravind and other eye institutions. 

red eye line drawing

By increasing the awareness of services and helping to train other organizations to provide high-quality care to all, the standard and availability of care is expanded, benefitting a larger segment of the population.

In short, eye care becomes increasingly popular as a reliable, effective and readily available service that populations can and should use. By increasing the awareness of services and helping to train other organizations to provide high-quality care to all, the standard and availability of care is expanded, benefitting a larger segment of the population.

Sight Stories and News

  • Giving Her Back Her Sight and Her Life!

    76-year-old Punya has had a tough life. Her mother was killed during a violent political conflict and her husband died early in their marriage when she was still a young woman. She relied on her income as a daily wage labourer in the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, to support herself. Her home was destroyed by an earthquake. And then she lost her sight. Find out how you helped restore her sight and life!

    Blog | June 24th, 2022
  • A Father's Blessing For Sight

    Ram always took care of his family and made sure they had food, clothing and shelter even during the toughest times. Then he got older and life got even harder. He had to learn to rely on his wife and his two grown daughters.

    Blog | June 7th, 2022
  • Sight For Generations

    Two years ago Mong in Cambodia began to go blind. She not only lost her sight but her confidence as well. Her granddaughters had to miss school to look after her and the household. And then COVID-19 came to Cambodia.

    Blog | April 20th, 2022