Back To List
Essilor partners with Alibaba Rural Taobao to eradicate poor vision in China’s rural communities
3 min read

Essilor is proud to announce a first of its kind collaboration between its inclusive business, 2.5 New Vision Generation (2.5 NVG) and Alibaba Rural Taobao to eradicate poor vision in China’s rural communities.

As part of the inclusive business initiative, local optometrists travel to rural communities in vans to conduct refraction tests for residents. Once residents have the prescription they need, they can buy 2.5 NVG glasses online at affordable rates at their local Taobao service center. The partnership aims to bring professional optometry services and eye health awareness to more people, enabling them to be equipped with glasses if needed so everyone can enjoy good vision.

Today, 2.5 billion people in the world suffer from uncorrected poor vision, 600 million of them live in China. Research shows 78% of China’s rural communities have never had any kind of eye examination and only about 1 in 6 children who need glasses actually have them. Additionally, the rate of myopia (nearsightedness) occurrence is on the rise, exceeding 70% of the students in senior high schools and universities, and reaching 50% of children in elementary schools. This is a severe situation which not only impacts an individual’s health and ability to realize their full potential, but also adversely affects China’s productivity and development – uncorrected poor vision costs the country approximately 650 billion RMB (97 billion dollars) every year. As such, it is of utmost priority to address the issue to continue driving growth and progress for the country.

To kick off the initiative, 2.5 NVG and Rural Taobao ran pilot programs in Anhui and Henan last July. Forty-two optometrists participated in the programs and 14 mobile vans were deployed, five in Anhui and nine in Henan. During this period, the optometrists traveled in the vans to 43 counties and 998 villages to provide free refraction tests to over 13,000 people (of which, 72% were above the age of 45 and 12% elementary school children). Of these, more than 1,600 required vision correction and were able to order their very first pair of glasses from their local Taobao service center. Over the next three to five years, 2.5 NVG and Rural Taobao aim to bring this sustainable inclusive business initiative to benefit all rural communities in China.

Speaking at the launch event, Essilor’s Vice President of BoP Innovation and Market Acceleration, Anurag Hans commented: “Working with like-minded partners is vital to Essilor’s ambition to eradicate poor vision from the world by 2050. No other network in China enables rural consumers to easily and quickly buy eyeglasses. Before Rural Taobao, many would have simply gone without. We are confident that working with Alibaba will help us bring good vision to all of China’s rural communities!

Wang Wei, Director of Social Welfare of Alibaba Group, said: “For Alibaba, the biggest draw of this partnership is the sustainable and rapidly deployable business model of the program. In partnering, we are able to tackle this social problem of poor vision definitively through a simple and direct solution. I look forward to both companies working together to drive widespread awareness of the importance of eye health and encourage more people to participate in our program.

As the leading ophthalmic optics company, providing innovative solutions for people to have access to eyecare is at the core of Essilor’s mission to improve lives by improving sight. The company created inclusive business 2.5 New Vision Generation in 2013 to find new and sustainable ways to provide vision care to underserved populations without access to conventional distribution channels.

Rural Taobao is a strategic initiative of Alibaba Group. Working closely with local governments, using an e-commerce platform and setting up a network of counties and villages, Alibaba has established an ecosystem which enable villagers to purchase products online and sell their goods to the cities.

Essilor and Alibaba will work in partnership to bring eye care services from village to village, and eventually the whole of China, eradicating poor vision and improving the lives in rural communities.