An Eye Mitra Optician shop in rural India

Good vision is a force for change – transforming lives and economic futures. The challenge is to find sustainable business models that will continue to support communities as they develop and their vision needs evolve. Essilor’s BoP Innovation Lab and 2.5 New Vision Generation inclusive business division are working hand in hand to help create a world of new wearers who enjoy better vision.

The majority of people suffer from uncorrected poor vision because they can’t afford or access it in the areas where they live, or they are simply unaware that they can’t see properly and that simple solutions exist to correct their vision problems. Reaching individuals with low incomes, otherwise referred to as ‘base of the pyramid’ (BoP) consumers, requires a completely new approach to product development, pricing and distribution.

In line with its mission to improve lives by improving sight, Essilor has created two entities that together with external partners are creating new pathways  to sustainable vision care for underserved populations. The BoP Innovation Lab, supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, evaluates and advises on business models, acting also as an incubator to scale up sustainable projects through building relationships with social enterprises, foundations and development funds.

Reaching individuals with low incomes, otherwise referred to as ‘base of the pyramid’ (BoP) consumers, requires a completely new approach to product development, pricing and distribution.

Deploying and scaling up the most viable new business models on the ground is the role of our inclusive business division – 2. 5 New Vision Generation (NVG). Since its creation in 2013, 2.5 NVG has been gathering momentum with various different business models that are helping to provide access to affordable vision care for people who live on low-incomes.

Empowering vision entrepreneurs through knowledge transfer is key: the 2.5 NVG teams have developed several training modules that range from one day, to acquire basic near vision screening skills, to eight months for certification in vocational training, including a specific focus on the commercial skills required to set up and run a successful small vision care business. These modules are to date being successfully deployed  in India and China, with  Brazil and Togo soon to follow. By involving the local communities in the provision of vision care, 2.5 NVG hopes to create sustainable programs that have a better chance of improving lives, promoting prosperity and continuing into the future.

The second main route to delivering vision care to underserved communities is through partnerships with hospitals, NGOs, foundations and governments who wish to deploy services such as mobile refraction vans, vision clinics or public vision screening camps.  A pioneering public-private-partnership in Malawi is one such example, where only one in 10 of the overall population is equipped with eyeglasses.

In addition to business model innovation, 2.5 NVG has innovated in the design of its Ready to Clip product offering which enables on-the-spot dispensing of affordable eyewear that is comfortable and attractive.

With teams across Asia, Latin America and Africa, 2.5 NVG operations have expanded from 8 to 22 countries since 2013 and the division is set to equip over 1 million people in 2015 alone.