This week Essilor is proud to announce a first-of-its-kind collaboration between its inclusive business, 2.5 New Vision Generation (2.5 NVG) and Alibaba Rural Taobao to eradicate poor vision in China’s rural communities.

Local optometrists travel to rural communities in mobile vans to conduct refraction tests for residents. Once residents have the prescription they need, they can buy glasses online at their local Taobao service center, using Rural Taobao, an ecosystem which enables rural consumers to enjoy the same selection of goods and services available to their urban counterparts.

In China, 600 million people suffer from uncorrected poor vision and many of them live in rural communities without access to eye care. Research shows 78% of people living in China’s rural communities have never had any kind of eye examination and only about 1 in 6 children who need glasses actually have them. This is a severe situation which not only impacts an individual’s health and ability to realize their full potential, but also adversely affects China’s productivity and development – uncorrected poor vision costs the country approximately 650 billion RMB (97 billion dollars) every year.

To kick off the initiative, 2.5 NVG and Rural Taobao ran pilot programs in Anhui and Henan last July. Forty-two optometrists participated in the programs and 14 mobile vans were deployed, five in Anhui and nine in Henan. During this period, the optometrists traveled in the vans to 43 counties and 998 villages to provide free refraction tests to over 13,000 people. Of these, more than 1,600 required vision correction and were able to order their very first pair of glasses from their local Taobao service center. Over the next three to five years, 2.5 NVG and Rural Taobao aim to bring this sustainable inclusive business initiative to benefit all rural communities in China.

Speaking at the launch event, Essilor’s Vice President of BoP Innovation and Market Acceleration, Anurag Hans commented: “Working with like-minded partners is vital to Essilor’s ambition to eradicate poor vision from the world by 2050. No other network in China enables rural consumers to easily and quickly buy eyeglasses. Before Rural Taobao, many would have simply gone without. We are confident that working with Alibaba will help us bring good vision to all of China’s rural communities!”

The biggest draw of this partnership is the sustainable and rapidly deployable business model of the program.

Wang Wei, Director of Social Welfare of Alibaba Group, said: “For Alibaba, the biggest draw of this partnership is the sustainable and rapidly deployable business model of the program. In partnering, we are able to tackle this social problem of poor vision definitively through a simple and direct solution. I look forward to both companies working together to drive widespread awareness of the importance of eye health and encourage more people to participate in our program.”