Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion
by Pavithra K. Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy
9781605099798, $19.95, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
This weekend I had the privilege to attend a book event at a friend’s home in Boston. About 15 of us gathered to hear Pavi and Suchi speak about the work of Dr. V, a great Indian visionary whose dream it was to eradicate blindness in the world, particularly needless blindness due to treatable conditions such as cataracts, and his unparalleled success despite an inverse business plan.
After a meditation session, we began by hearing Pavi discuss Dr. V’s life and work – how both his spiritual practice to see the world as a whole directly influenced his actions to begin a small 11-bed hospital in his home, and continued to influence his business model for Aravind, what has become the leading eye care facility in the world. Suchi shared with us details large-and-small about the successes of their business model, why it is a success even when giving away the best eye care in the world for free, and how it is influencing other businesses’ practices even today – in fact, the Aravind business model is a required case study in MBA programs. Such numbers as the fact that Aravind has less complications from surgery than the leading UK hospitals, and the fact that blindness is for the first time holding steady across world populations (as in not increasing), were given for those in need of quantifying Aravind’s success. Pavi then spoke about Dr. V’s spiritual journey, the questions he constantly asked himself, and the way seeing the entire world as interconnected, seeing the inherent value in each and every person, made him able to offer free services to those in need while also utilizing the resources in the people and places around him.
After the initial discussion of the book and Dr. V’s vision, we took turns identifying ourselves and sharing a thought or asking a question we had. During a generous Q&A, Pavi spoke about what it was like to grow up as Dr. V’s family, the Sunday family gatherings where all the children would present on a different topic assigned by Dr. V, discovering Dr. V’s journals spanning from the 1960s to the 2000s, and recognizing there was a story to tell in her own back yard.
At the end of the discussion, we were each gifted with a copy of the book – an incredibly generous act on behalf of the authors, and all shared a meal together. All the proceeds from the book are going directly to Aravind, proving that the authors are just as invested in this vision as Dr. V was.
As someone trying to open my own business in the next 5 years, a business based on selling a product yet one that intends to also be an inclusive community space, I was particularly interested in a business model that was a success while also serving the needs of the community. No matter what your particular vision, dream, or spiritual path might be, Infinite Vision is truly an inspirational story.
Thank you to the authors, to Arathi as the host, and to everyone who came on Sunday to share in that beautiful experience.
To learn more about the book, Dr. V’s vision, and to host your own book event:
Here is the publisher’s marketing copy about the book:
When a crippling disease shattered his lifelong ambition, Dr. V (Venkataswamy) chose an impossible new dream: to cure the world of blindness. The tiny clinic he founded in India defied conventional business logic and is now the largest provider of eye care on the planet.
At Aravind, patients choose whether to pay or not. Millions are treated for free, yet the organization remains stunningly self-reliant. Serving everyone from penniless farmers to the president, it delivers world-class outcomes at less than a hundredth of what similar services cost in advanced nations. Its model is emulated by organizations everywhere from Rwanda to San Francisco.
Infinite Vision uncovers the radical principles behind Aravind’s baffling success. Charged with profound insights and stories, it draws readers to the heart of Dr. V’s selfless vision, proving how choices that seem quixotic can, when executed with compassion and integrity, yield incredible results—results that can light the eyes of millions.