India: 77,139 pairs of glasses sold
Over the course of 2012 VisionSpring determined that our mobile optical stores, while effective in reaching the BoP consumer living in remote and rural regions of India, have proven to be unsustainable in isolation. In response, we have integrated the majority of our mobile optical stores into a broader hub and spoke model targeting urban, peri-urban, and rural communities around district capitals with populations between 1M-1.5M. This strategic shift represents a replication of our current model in El Salvador adapted for the Indian market. With the new approach in India, VisionSpring optical shops serve as hubs and mobile optical store vans function as the spokes conducting outreach in communities surrounding the optical shops. With a fixed location retail presence in India, VisionSpring will be able to reach more school aged children with comprehensive eye care services and prescription glasses, ensuring they have equal opportunity to succeed in school and realize their full potential.
In August, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures made a three-year commitment to our hub and spoke approach with a $585,350 investment in VisionSpring. The partnership with USAID will enable VisionSpring to open 10 optical shops with corresponding outreach Each Hub Store will facilitate outreach work in villages within driving distance from the store and conduct 22 vision campaigns a month. Our first Hub Store opened on September 1st in Karnal, India. The store has an on-site optometrist, offers full primary eye care services, prescription eyewear, and is selling reading glasses starting at 200 rupees (about $4.) An integral component of this hub and spoke approach is a cross subsidization pricing strategy that addresses the public health need for eyeglasses while creating investable businesses. The income generated through the sale of products with higher margins at our optical shops enables VisionSpring to conduct the resource intensive work of reaching BoP consumers living in more remote locations with limited access to eye care.
Outreach efforts conducted as part of the hub and spoke approach will incorporate best practices established through our mobile optical store model that operated in rural India. For example, our vision entrepreneurs working with the mobile optical stores initiated the use of the iTest as part of their demand generation activities. The iTest is a hand held device that instantaneously corrects a potential customer’s vision. Many of our potential customers are not aware they have begun to experience vision loss before using the iTest and, as a result, it proved to be a powerful marketing tool that increased attendance at vision campaigns.
An integral part of VisionSpring's hub and spoke approach in India is our collaboration with local hospitals. VisionSpring's outreach efforts will act as an effective triage point that will connect customers who have had vision screenings and are in need of additional care to our optical shop for optometric services or to our partner hospital for advanced eye care -including cataract treatment. The close partnership with local hospitals will enable VisionSpring to formalize our existing referral system by providing the patient with information on their condition and the care required. In addition, for the first time, VisionSpring will be able to provide the hospitals with the patients' contact information, such as their mobile number, so that the hospital is able to follow up with the patient directly to help schedule an appointment. VisionSpring anticipates an increase in access to treatment as a result of this new initiative.
In late September, VisionSpring formalized our first partnership with a charitable medical facility near Karnal, Arpana Hospital. As part of the partnership Arpana has invited VisionSpring to open an on-site optical shop in the hospital, located next to the eye care wing. Recognizing an opportunity to maximize the benefits of the partnership, Arpana has opted to send representatives from the hospital to our vision campaigns when they are able to do so. The staff from the hospital prepares patients for what to expect during their visit and address any concerns in advance of the appointment. Our partnership with Arpana has proved so effective that in 2013 VisionSpring is exploring the option of utilizing retail locations at hospitals as hub sites and conducting outreach directly from hospitals.
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