This week, Essilor’s inclusive business, 2.5 New Vision Generation (2.5 NVG) announced it has equipped more than 10 million people from underserved populations in India with glasses since 2013, signaling a significant impact in the company’s ambition to eradicate poor vision by 2050.

2.5 NVG’s flagship inclusive business program, Eye Mitra (friend of the eyes) is one of the leading contributors to this milestone accomplishment. To honor this success, Essilor hosted over 1,000 Eye Mitras from across India at its 6th annual Eye Mitra Convention in Jaipur on 8 May.

Uncorrected poor vision affects 550 million Indians and costs the national economy US$37 billion every year in lost productivity. To address this issue, Eye Mitra was launched in 2013. Through training, skills building and livelihood promotion, the program empowers unemployed and underemployed young people to set up micro enterprises in their rural communities. Trained to conduct basic vision screening and dispense affordable eyeglasses, Eye Mitras create access to vision care where it was not available before. Today with nearly 6,000 Eye Mitras across 14 states, it is the world’s largest rural optical network providing over 200 million people with sustainable access to vision care.

Innovation and digitization across the board, from products to service delivery to training of our primary vision care providers, is key to creating scale and impact.

“Uncorrected poor vision is the world’s most widespread disability and affects 1 in 3 people, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries where the biggest barriers are access and awareness. Consumers in these countries need tailor-made solutions and products at affordable prices to satisfy their visual needs and aspirations. The Eye Mitra program is one such unique solution,” said Essilor’s Chief Mission Officer, Jayanth Bhuvaraghan. “Innovation and digitization across the board, from products to service delivery to training of our primary vision care providers, is key to creating scale and impact.”

The annual convention is an important moment for Eye Mitras from across India to come together to celebrate their achievements, share their learnings and stories to help motivate and inspire others to develop and grow. The scale of the event gives the micro entrepreneurs who operate year round in their rural communities, the sense they are part of a bigger movement to eradicate poor vision in India. The theme of this year’s convention looked to the future, showcasing the innovation and digitization that will help equip millions more rural Indians with the vision correction they need.

“Our Eye Mitra program in India is truly a global pioneer of rural vision care. It has been replicated across Asia and Africa and I am honored to welcome some of our international partners to this year’s convention. With their collaboration, I am confident we will create the global network of primary vision care providers needed to eradicate poor vision by 2050,” said Saugata Banerjee, Vice President – Inclusive Business, Philanthropy & Social Impact, Asia, Essilor International.

Essilor aims to create 10,000 Eye Mitras in India by 2020. The success of Eye Mitra in India has also led to its expansion and adaptation to other markets in the world, such as Bangladesh, Kenya and Indonesia.