Aravind in India is a celebrated example of a sizeable social enterprise using the cross-subsidy model. Aravind operates a chain of eye hospitals across India providing eye surgery for all. In India about 5 million people become blind each year due to cataracts. A simple operation to replace diseased lenses changes lives, but is often prohibitively expensive for the typical patient, who earns less than $4 per day. Aravind provides affordable, high quality surgery to all regardless of income levels or ability to pay.
Aravind defines two sets of customers:
- High paying customers: receive eye surgery, offered slightly better after-care services including private room, better food etc.
- Subsidised customers: pay little or nothing, receive eye surgery, more basic outpatient services such as a shared ward
Two thirds of Aravind’s patients fall into the second category and pay little or nothing for their surgery. On the other hand, the high paying customers are charged just enough to cover the costs for themselves, as well as pay the costs for the subsidised group.
All patients of Aravind receive the same service (eye surgery). The only difference between the two customer groups is that the higher paying patients receive a slightly better quality of pre- and post-operative secondary services such as their own private room. Aravind is able to segment its customers from its beneficiaries by distinguishing them according to their income level.