Aravind built a sustainable eye care delivery system which actually gave away over 60% of its services free or at a very steeply subsidized rate often taking its services to the doorstep of rural India and yet remaining financially very viable. This model grew an eleven-bed eye clinic in the old temple city of Madurai in South India into one of the largest and most productive eye care facilities in the world. Since its inception in 1976 till March 2018, Aravind has performed over 6.8 million eye surgeries and handled over 56.5 million outpatient visits. Currently each year close to 500,000 surgeries and related procedures are performed and over 4 million outpatient visits are handled. Its patient care network now includes twelve hospitals, six community eye clinics and sixty nine (primary eye care) Vision Centres, all in the State of Tamil Nadu.
Aravind followed two broad strategies to govern its activities. One is relates to “Engaging in direct action” - patient care, outreach, training, research, manufacturing (Aurolab) and eye banking. Aravind recruits and trains several hundred young rural girls each year as eye care technicians thereby giving them a career opportunity and significantly reducing the cost of eye care. Aravind also extensively uses telemedicine and such technologies to create rural access. Aurolab produces and makes available, world-wide high quality, low-cost intraocular lenses and other ophthalmic supplies and equipment. Aurolab now has an estimated 7% of the world market for intraocular lenses.
The other strategy is “Creating Competition”. This very counter-intuitive strategy has proved to be very powerful in moving towards Aravind’s vision of “eliminating needless blindness” and in strengthening the organization. Competition is developed through a proactive and structured capacity building process, by sharing all the lessons learnt, detailed procedures, systems, forms and software used at Aravind. In most instances donor money is raised through grants to support other eye hospitals to participate in this process. Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology (LAICO) has helped replicate best practices in over 350 eye hospitals worldwide through direct hands-on capacity building engagement and many more through training and publications.