Two mixed-model companies are restoring vision in developing countries

Date Posted: 11/13/2014

Two companies with mixed business models, in Nepal and Mexico, recently made headlines because their successes illustrated that it is possible to create profitable businesses that also provide services to the community. In Nepal, the profits from a line of sunglasses is funding cataract surgeries for the country's poorest citizens. In Mexico, a public health provider has devised a scheme by which high-quality eye care is provided at a sliding scale—those who can afford to pay for the procedures do, and those who cannot receive significantly reduced rates.

The founders of both businesses described the philosophies behind their business models. "The terms profit and social enterprise should [not] be viewed as two opposing ideas. . . ," said Suraj Shrestha, founder of Anthropose; "In the context of Nepal, social entrepreneurship makes much more sense because of the huge disparity between the rich and the poor. We are showing young people who want to leave the country that making profits and benefiting society is possible, even in Nepal." Javier Okhuysen, who was inspired by the Aravind Eye Care System in India to create (along with business partner, Carlos Orellana) salaUno in Mexico, described the company as "a social enterprise dedicated to . . . helping eliminate extreme poverty by giving patients and their families the ability to go back into the workforce and live a fulfilling life."

In both countries, where treatable vision loss from cataract and other diseases affect disproportionate numbers of poor and working-class people, the businesses are changing lives. In Nepal, every 10 pairs of sunglasses sold represents a free cataract surgery. By January 2015, the recently founded Anthropose estimates it will have provided 50 to 70 cataract surgeries. In Mexico, salaUno, which has been in business since 2011, operates one surgical hub and 20 vision centers and has performed over 5,400 cataract surgeries, screened more than 10,000 individuals, and trained numerous medical professionals.

For more information, contact: Anthropose, Kathmandu, Nepal; phone: +977-01-42-22-951; e-mail: info@anthropose.com; website: http://anthropose.com. salaUno, Mérida 204, Roma Norte, Ciudad de Mexico, D.F., Mexico; phone: +52-55-6798-3000; e-mail: info@salauno.com.mx; website: www.salauno.com.mx. [Information for this piece was taken from the October 5, 2014, CCTV-America article, "Entrepreneur Aims to Eliminate Blindness in Mexico," by Elaine Reyes; the September 9, 2014, Shanghai Daily article "Feature: Nepal's Entrepreneurs Healing Blindness among Poor," by Bibbi Abruzzini; the September 29, 2013, Skoll World Forum article, "A Chance to See is a Chance at Life: The Case of salaUno in Mexico," by Javier Okhuysen; and the January 9, 2013, NextBillion Heathcare blog, "From Darth Vader to Social Innovator: SalaUno's Formula for Success," by James Militzer.]

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