Photos: Red Hill Productions
Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy ("Dr. V.") & David Green
Project: Aravind Eye Hospital and Aurolab
Location: Madurai, India, Nepal and United States
Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy and David Green use what Green terms "compassionate capitalism" to give sight and hearing back to millions of people who would otherwise be blind and deaf.
Dr. V. came to the conclusion as a young man that "intelligence and capability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful." So instead of retiring at the age of 65, Dr. V. mortgaged his home and opened a hospital to perform free or low-cost cataract surgery — if untreated cataracts can lead to blindness — on poor Indians. In his first year, Dr. V. performed 5000 surgeries.
Green was inspired by Dr. V.'s belief that humans were put on Earth not get to rich, but to serve. He noticed that the number of surgeries Dr. V. could perform was limited by the high cost of replacement lenses — $150.00 a pair. When Green discovered that the actual cost of making the lenses could, with a creative approach, be reduced to just $10.00 a pair, he convinced Dr. V. to open a lens factory.
Green is convinced that western capitalism has failed to grasp opportunities in the developing world because of a focus on extracting the highest possible profit from every item sold. He says "compassionate capitalism" extracts a small amount of profit from each item sold, but generates a very high sales volume. In the process, it is possible to make available critical goods and services — like eye care — to billions of people.
What Do Aravind Eye Hospital and Aurolab Do?
Dr. V. and David Green are dedicated to making medical technology and health care services accessible, affordable and financially self-sustaining. More than two million surgeries a year are performed at Aravind Eye Hospital using products made through Aurolab, such as intraocular lenses, spectacle lenses, optical lenses, suture needles, cataract kits and hearing aids.
Aurolab's products are used by eye care institutions and ophthalmologists in more than 120 countries. The factory produces hundreds of thousands of lenses each year — 10 percent of the world supply — at $5.00 a pair. The company turns a profit of thirty percent on its investment. With the revenue stream produced by Aurolab, Dr. V. has been able to open five new eye hospitals in southern India.
Through Aravind Eye Hospital and Aurolab, Dr. V. and David Green have performed what might as well be miracles for elderly Indians living in remote villages. Restoring their sight and hearing has given them back their dignity and allowed them to contribute to their communities again.