Globally 2.5 billion people do not have the glasses they need to work, learn, be safe on roads, and participate in civic life. Lack of clear vision has socio-economic consequences: uncorrected vision costs the global economy more than $200 billion with low-income individuals most affected by this loss. Nevertheless, optical correction rates in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are as low as 10%.
Vision correcting glasses – whether simple readers or prescription glasses – can solve this 2.5 billion-person problem.
When livelihoods depend on seeing clearly, uncorrected vision can force an otherwise capable person to prematurely stop working. Given that the global population is aging, health strategies that support productive employment and extend working years among older workers are timely.
Uncorrected vision affects worker livelihoods and income earning potential by inhibiting their ability to:
• Maintain their productivity and meet production schedules
• Meet quality standards and produce defect-free products
• Qualify for performance pay and skill upgrades
• Pass skills and aptitude testing associated with hiring processes.
Additionally, a Randomized Trial showed that glasses affect worker productivity. Results showed that providing reading glasses to rural tea pickers in India increased the daily weight of tea picked by over 5 kg/day. This represented a 22% average productivity increase: the largest increase in productivity due to a health intervention ever recorded in a trial.
Blurry vision also:
• impedes participation in the mobile economy and financial services
• reduces quality of life associated with reading, cooking, child care, and civic engagement
• heightens the risk of accidents associated with driving and road safety, as well as other hazards
Despite the opportunity to have a huge impact on the global economy and the working poor, today’s optical market fails to meet the needs of low-income consumers in emerging markets due to both demand and supply issues. 1.1 billion people over 35 years old have age-related, blurry near vision (presbyopia) which can be safely, effectively, and inexpensively treated with glasses available in US drugstores and which VisionSpring can source for $1. Uncorrected refractive error (URE), a major cause of vision impairment that can cause blindness, requires prescription glasses that VS can source for $3.50.
We work to bring vision screening and eyeglasses to all people who are living on less than $4 in lower and middle-income countries and who experience vision loss. While 60% of our eyeglasses sales are of ready-made readers that address age-related presbyopia, with a target population of people aged 35 and above, VisionSpring glasses can be found around the world being worn by people of any age, gender and ethnicity. 20% of our glasses are worn by schoolchildren, 50% of our customers are women and over 50% of our entire customer base received their first-ever pair of glasses from VisionSpring.
Mission and Vision
VisionSpring's Mission is to create access to affordable eyewear, everywhere.
VisionSpring's Vision - the Wonder of eyeglasses for everyone.
Several complementary organizations work to bring eye health services and glasses to poor people across emerging and frontier markets including, but not limited to, the Brien Holden Vision Institute, OneSight, and Vision for a Nation. VisionSpring distinguishes itself, however, by its social enterprise model. As such, social change motivates us first. We treat poor and low-income individuals as consumers rather than beneficiaries. We create access to eyeglasses for them by selling our eyewear for the equivalent of one to two days' wages. By doing so, we can serve four times as many people living in poverty per dollar input than the next alternative of donating recycled ones. What's more, we awaken new demand and seed a viable market.
As a social enterprise, we break out of traditional health and optical store channels and bring eyeglasses to the places where low-income individuals work and study. In India, we conduct vision camps in rural communities, slum neighborhoods, factories, transit hubs, agricultural estates, schools, places of worship, and other community spaces. We partner with India's leading corporations to implement vision access projects across the country to serve employees and stakeholders and fulfill their CSR requirements. We also partner with leading apparel brands and artisan networks to create Clear Vision Workplaces. These corporations engage VisionSpring to implement their worker well-being programs by providing vision screenings and eyeglasses to their supply chain workers.
Our innovation works by employing a high-volume low-margin business model, coupled with philanthropic investments to deliver high-quality, radically affordable and attractive eyeglasses to those earning less than $4 a day across emerging and frontier markets. To reach our target customer we use innovative Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) models. To review our distribution channels, click on this link: http://visionspring.org/distribution-channels.
Like all businesses, we start with our value proposition. In a highly fragmented optical landscape saturated with sub-standard and/or high-cost products, we position ourselves as offering radically affordable, durable, stylish eyeglasses for earners and learners everywhere. Coupled with the product is our service orientation: favorable payment terms; sell-through support; timely, seamless delivery straight from the manufacturer or a local distributor; guaranteed replacement of damaged goods; and consistency in product availability. Our product line currently includes: ready-made readers, optical frames for adults and children, pre-cut prescription lens with matching frames, and UV-rated sunglasses.
Bringing vision screenings and quality glasses to places where people work will bypass these demand and supply barriers. We partnered with leading brands – Williams-Sonoma, Inc., Target, Levi Strauss, and VF Corp. – to develop the Clear Vision Workplace (CVW) model in their India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam supply chains. Scaling the CVW model ensures that workers will have on-going access to glasses after the intervention.
Planned Goals and Milestones
It is our ambition is to reach a cumulative 10m people by the end of 2021. To achieve this, we must:
• Reframe eyeglasses as a livelihoods, education and road safety intervention: We are pushing the economic development sector to adopt eyeglasses as a broadly-applicable livelihoods intervention, as well as a contributor to academic outcomes and road safety. When classified as a health intervention, eyeglasses lose the competition for resources relative to deadly and debilitating diseases. Through the lenses of productivity, income, learning, and safety earning, eyeglasses are evidence-based and scalable, with immediate results.
• Increase awareness, not just among workers, but among brands, employers and finance/labor ministries about uncorrected vision error in their supply chains and workforces: To normalize eyeglasses wearing in industries of strategic importance to frontier and emerging markets – including garment, textile, tea, coffee and other production that particularly require clear near vision and employ >65 million people – we must build broad understanding of the need for and total dearth of eyeglasses.