Monday, May 05, 2008

Aurolab

Part of the systematic Aravind Hospital approach is manufacturing its own supplied through its Aurolab social enterprise affiliate.
Aurolab building sign
I was able to visit the new manufacturing facility just outside Madurai. David Green calls the approach forensic accounting: if you truly want to serve as many people as possible, analyze the most expensive item involved and then figure out how much it really costs to make. Start making it more affordably. Repeat.

I've heard that Aurolab is the second largest maker of intraocular lenses (IOLs)in the world by unit volume (not by revenues). They also make the microsutures that have been traditionally used in cataract operations (although my understanding is that the new foldable IOLs make microsutures obsolete for most operations today). They also make dozens of pharmaceuticals: if it goes into your eye as eyedrops, they probably make it.

Three Fruchtermans (people) in clean-room suits

My wife and daughter, Virginia and Kate, were along for the tour. We had to dress up in clean room garb. Aurolab has several levels of cleanliness, and we weren't able to go into the cleanest clean-rooms, but we were able to look at them through glass windows. There were significant numbers of young women working away at all of these tasks.
apartment building

Another part of Aravind's systematic approach is recruiting rural girls to work at Aurolab (just like they recruit them to work as assistants in the eye hospital). They provide a major financial opportunity to the girl's family, training and housing. Right next to Aurolab's building are the apartment buildings where the employees live.


There's also Aurofarm: a large recreational facility being built, where we enjoyed a spectacular sunset. It reminded me of a company town, but with twists. The company is all about restoring sight and eye care. And, the women who go to work for Aravind and Aurolab don't stay there typically for their lifetimes: they go back to their communities and get married. But, the life experience and prospects of their families and children are likely to be far better because of the empowerment these women have experienced working for a social enterprise.

I left my Aravind visit with a great deal of hope about their plans to expand by a factor of four. And, also hope for the future of social enterprise!

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