Aravind Eye Care Systems (Aravind) had started setting up vision centers (VC) in 2006 and 51 VCs were operational by March 2015. The location for each VC was chosen to ensure easy access for about 50,000 people across 15 to 20 villages within a 5-7 km radial distance. Each VC had a target of reaching at least 10% of the population, that is, around 5,000 patients, which served as a benchmark for penetration. Consultations related to eye care were provided at the VC. They also dispensed medicines and spectacles. The VC would facilitate arrangements for patients requiring surgeries at the base hospital, including their transport, food and any other reimbursement. Each VC had three key personnel – coordinator, ophthalmic technician, and field worker. The VC was equipped with basic ophthalmic equipment and internet connectivity. The presence of a permanent establishment, in the form of a VC, motivated people in rural areas to seek earlier treatment for vision problems. This helped in eliminating vision care problems and enabled them to get back to earning their livelihoods. The permanent setup also positively influenced the healthcare seeking behavior of the people.
Most VCs had performed well, however some VCs were not attracting enough patients, thus not enabling Aravind’s classic, volume-driven model, to work and support self-sustainable operations. Thulsiraj, Director of Aravind, was analyzing the performance of all VCs. How should he analyze the performance of VCs from a marketing perspective? Should he change the marketing strategies for those VCs which had attracted a very low number of patients and if yes, how will it be be designed, considering the unique market in which VC operates? Were the VCs innovative in their approach to reach out to patients? Were the VCs self-sustainable? What parameters should he use to evaluate the performance of VCs? How should he increase the number of patients at VCs?
The case is suitable for teaching 7Ps of services marketing mix and for evaluating inclusive business models. It discusses the performance of two VCs at Thirupuvanam and Alanganallur in detail and provides information on their operational performance. After evaluating the performance of these VCs, students can analyze the reasons for divergence in performance, come up with alternatives to increase number of patients at all VCs. The details provided in the case will help students design a marketing strategy for low performing VCs. Students will also learn about the innovations used at VCs to deliver a service to the rural poor in an operationally and financially sustainable manner.