VisionSpring: Seeing the Way Back to Work
Get vision-impaired people back to work
A micro-franchise supply chain for the sale of glasses to poor people who have lost livelihoods due to uncorrected near and far-sightedness
How it works
- Source high-quality, cheap glasses
- Invest heavily in social marketing campaigns to create “pull markets”
- Sell the glasses through a combination of fixed retail outlets and mobile vision entrepreneurs
- Maximize financial sustainability by improving margins and reaching scale
How it will go to scale
Via NGO’s, including partners (e.g. BRAC) and VisionSpring’s own growth. Earned revenues will offset the donor subsidies needed to expand into new markets and new products. Eventually the market may take over, as glasses become a cheap and available commodity in hard to serve areas.
Progress so far
International scale up: VisionSpring sold 313,000 glasses in 2011 and expects to sell 450,000 in 2012. Their main markets are India, Bangladesh (BRAC), and El Salvador.
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Over 700 million of the world’s poorest people suffer
from uncorrected near and far-sightedness
and lack access to glasses they can afford. Dr. Jordan Kassalow launched VisionSpring in 2002
to make reading glasses available to the millions of people who are losing their livelihoods simply because they cannot see up close. In 2009 they launched a sales partnership with BRAC that will get 3 million pairs of glasses into the hands of customers by 2015. In addition to BRAC, they have scaling distribution channels in India and El Salvador, proving that a $3 pair of reading glasses can boost productivity and income, lengthen careers, and make life much better. In 2010 they expanded their product offerings in El Salvador to include prescription glasses that treat myopia (near-sightedness). In 2011 this hugely successful pilot will be expanded to all of their proprietary vision entrepreneur channels. The prospects for impact have never been clearer.
A compelling problem
Over 700 million of the world’s poorest people suffer from uncorrected presbyopia and myopia – and lack access to glasses they can afford. With affordable glasses, their productivity, incomes and quality of life are dramatically improved.
A scalable solution
Mulago assesses scalability based on five characteristics common to efforts that have taken lasting impact to scale.
Real impact: A recent randomized control trial by the University of Michigan found a 20% increase in income for buyers of VisionSpring reading glasses. For buyers whose incomes are an average of $2/day, this represents an additional $110/year (at 275 days of work) of additional income.
Cost-effective: Using the Mulago metric of additional 3-year income per donor dollar, in 2011 VisionSpring increased 3-year income of its customers by $330/ person at a donor cost of $4.70/person, or $70 of additional income per donor dollar.
Lasting behavior: The market-based approach ensures that customers want and use products and that a profitable value chain remains in place.
Easy replication: VisionSpring’s micro-franchise model is simple, highly structured and broadly adaptable. The product (mostly reading glasses) is already mass- produced at low cost. Expansion plans leverage existing distribution channels of other organizations (e.g. BRAC).
A viable route to scale: Retail and Vision Entrepreneur sales powered by a global network of distribution partners can drive exponential growth of VisionSpring’s impact.
Capacity to deliver
VisionSpring grew their sales from 15,000 units in 2005 to 313,000 units in 2011 and is on track to sell over 400,000 units in 2012. To support and drive this growth, Jordan built an outstanding management team, raised sufficient capital and constructed a cost-effective worldwide supply chain. In early 2010, they completed a rigorous impact evaluation and incorporated the appropriate lessons in their operation and strategy.
updated June 2012