Essilor Forms New Business Unit Dedicated to Improving Access to Vision Correction in Emerging Countries

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CHARENTON-LE-PONT, France— Essilor International (Reuters: ESSI:PA) announced yesterday that it is launching a new division, “2.5 New Vision Generation,” that will be dedicated to creating profitable business models in emerging countries to bring good vision to people in need. The move is part of Essilor’s social business strategy to improve access to vision correction in these countries.

According to Essilor, there are 2.5 billion people worldwide who need vision correction, 95 percent of whom live in emerging countries such as India and China. This is a consequence of a lack of awareness and poor access to eyecare professionals, Essilor said. If no action is taken, Essilor estimates that this major social and economic issue will affect 3.2 billion people by 2050.

Essilor said the goal of 2.5 New Vision Generation is to reverse the current trend with “innovative, scalable and profitable inclusive business models that aim to add 50 million new spectacle wearers per year by 2020.” The company cited as a benefit its long expertise in product development and supply chain as well as its knowledge of local markets where inclusive business pilot initiatives have already been tested.

Announcing the launch of 2.5 New Vision Generation, Hubert Sagnieres, chairman and CEO of the Essilor Group, said, "Pushing the boundaries of accessibility to good vision is a challenge that our inclusive business strategy aims to meet. It is part of our unique mission to develop pioneering business models that can change the lives of people who need to see better to live better."

As Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, Essilor’s chief corporate mission officer, explained, “Essilor has been running numerous social initiatives to fight poor vision around the world. These include mobile refraction vans in India, vision examinations for children in the USA through the Essilor Vision Foundation, vision screenings in major Chinese towns and the Optique Solidaire association in France. The launch of this new division will give an added impetus to our mission.”

India is one of the first countries to implement Essilor’s new business models on a large scale. Essilor estimates that five hundred fifty million Indians need vision correction, resulting in $37 billion U.S. in lost productivity. The signing last March of a partnership with B-Able, a local skill development agency, marked the launch of the Eye Mitra program in India. The program aims to bring vision care to the doorstep of people in rural and semi urban areas thanks to the development of local micro-enterprises by unemployed villagers. Young entrepreneurs join the program and are trained and equipped so they can start their own business, performing basic vision testing and spectacle dispensing in their outlets. They also conduct mobile “eye-camps” with the support of Essilor and a B-Able. Essilor’s said its goal is to train more than 2,200 Eye Mitra workers in the next three years. This will lead to equipping 2.5 million new spectacle wearers by 2016 and 7 million by 2020, Essilor said.

Essilor said it is currently testing several business models in India, China and Brazil, and the program could soon reach a broader scope. These business models are based on new channels that enable the uncorrected population to meet eyecare practitioners who offer vision testing as well as simple and affordable products.

In China, the models target the rural population as well as the employees of manufacturing companies. In Brazil, the models focus also on urban poor people.

Click here to view the video about Eye Mitra.