After an epic 8500 km journey to explore social entrepreneurship visiting 12 destinations across India, 450 young people on the Jagriti Yatra train arrived home on 8 January this year. A team from Essilor travelled with them to stimulate ideas on how to bring vision care to people in rural and semi-urban India. 

The Jagriti Yatra program aims to inspire and support entrepreneurship among young people from small towns and villages across India, encouraging them to find to new sustainable approaches to development needs in sectors like healthcare, agriculture, water and housing. Over the 15 day journey, the train stopped at 12 locations to meet with social and business entrepreneurs who have created high social impact in their fields. Second stop on the trip was a visit to the Aravind Eye Care, with whom Essilor runs a fleet of mobile refraction vans, to see how this hospital successfully provides vision treatment to all sections of the community, and especially in hard-to-reach locations.

We interact with visionaries who are spearheading solutions to some of India’s biggest crises in healthcare, sanitation, energy and education.

Essilor’s 2.5 NVG (New Vision Generation) inclusive business division sponsored 10 young entrepreneurs on this transformational journey. Three staff members joined them and 40 other Yatris to share insights on innovation to reach bottom of the pyramid customers and to talk about eyecare business models reaching underserved populations such as Eye Mitra Opticians and vision ambassadors working through rural distribution companies.

Andre, an Essilor team member who facilitated one of the 2.5 NVG workshops described the atmosphere on board the train as “a strong spirit of inclusive entrepreneurship”. “Participants, conversations and activities encouraged empathy and community development, yet at the same time intellectual rigour and drive. This feels very aligned to the culture at 2.5 NVG!”

Through workshops, presentations and interactions on-board and in rural communities, the 15 day journey aimed to give insights into transforming challenges and setbacks into solutions to give participants real practical learnings about leading change. Essilor also took this opportunity launch a competition, challenging the 3,000 Jagriti Yatra participants and alumni to suggest ideas to equip people living in rural or semi-urban India with eyeglasses in a scalable and sustainable way.

Saanya Gulati, a 2015 Jagriti Yatra, has been sharing her experiences throughout the trip via social media. “Our journey takes us to Madurai in the South, to Delhi in the North, Orissa in the East, and Tilonia in the West. We interact with visionaries who are spearheading solutions to some of India’s biggest crises in healthcare, sanitation, energy and education. Nothing about this journey is ordinary.”