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Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World's Greatest Business Case for Compassion (Bk Business) Paperback – November 7, 2011
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(...)"This thought-provoking story of Dr. V and the Aravind Eye Care System should be required reading for current and future business and charity leaders. Only by breaking down the false separation between business practices and community needs will our societies prosper."
-- Dr. Pamela Hartigan, Author, The Power of Unreasonable People
"If you aspire to combine entrepreneurship and innovation with higher life purpose then there can be no better guide than Infinite Vision and the life of Doctor V. But beware. Once ensnared it will be impossible to escape!" - Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO, Author of Change By Design
"(..)Rich with lessons that come to life through the vivid personalities of Aravind's torchbearers -- their insights on leadership and management forge a path forward for the social as well as corporate sectors. An important and compelling read."-- V. Kasturi Rangan, Co-chair of The HBS Social Enterprise Initiative
A stirring account of how one man's faith and pragmatism healed millions. Infinite Vision is a powerful reminder that any of us can overcome the most severe of obstacles, and rise to unparalleled heights of spiritual and practical achievement.
- Huston Smith, Author, "The World's Religions"
Infinite Vision offers a lucid and moving account of the Aravind story, while detailing its greatest lesson to the world: Compassion, when focused with clear goals, thoughtful strategies and sound management practices, can yield incredible results. - Steve Hilton, President and CEO, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
From the Back Cover
THE WISDOM OF AN IMPOSSIBLE ORGANIZATION
"Again, may I say, how profoundly I admire your work and how deeply gratifying it is for me to hear that you appreciate mine."
--PETER F. DRUCKER in a letter to Aravind's founder, Dr.V
When a crippling disease shattered his lifelong ambition, Dr. Venkataswamy (better known as Dr. V) 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 a hundredth of what similar services cost providers 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.
"Reveals the power of a model that combines business discipline with compassion. May the wisdom of Dr. V and Aravind shared here inspire many such initiatives for the wellbeing of future generations." -MUHAMMAD YUNUS, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Founder, Grameen Bank
"A must-read for anyone interested in leadership, service, and the building of institutions that release the best energies of the human spirit." --JACQUELINE NOVOGRATZ, Founder-CEO, Acumen Fund, and author of The Blue Sweater
"Aravind may be a case study for MBA students, and a model social business, but to me this book told a story, with elegance, clarity and intimacy." -FRED DE SAM LAZARO, PBS NewsHour
"In the world of blindness Dr. V has performed a miracle." -RAM DASS, Author, Be Here Now, Co-founder Seva Foundation
100% of the authors' royalties are being gifted to Aravind's sight-restoring work.
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If you ever had cataract surgery, take note. You know what it is like; seeing or not seeing can change everything. In India, some have used a derogatory term for a blind elder, "a mouth without hands." Can you imagine?
Infinite Vision tells how Dr. V helped reverse this tragedy. The book is personal and inspiring, and it also gives operational details and a recipe for success. Dr. V, Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, a surgeon in South India, began, as a post-retirement project, what became the largest eye surgery operation in the world. And where a great many needy people now get eye surgery for free. His is a required case study for Harvard Business School, has been honored by Bill Gates (Award for Global Health) and many others. His Aravind organization has attracted visitors, promoters and collaborators from Seva Foundation to the International Lions Club, from Dr. Brilliant to Ram Dass to Wavy Gravy. Why? Here's a goodhearted doc moving from a clinic for 11 people to a massive medical movement which has brought hope to the 12 million blind people in India. A movement now spreading around the world. And a man who said, whose stated goal in life was, "to give sight for all." Now Aravind, is doing just that! Here is the story.
The recipe: Good person, hard times, a crippling arthritis that changed his career goals, a fundamental desire to help others. Deep spiritual roots, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, in Pondicherry, India, astonishing spiritual leaders. And let it be said, with all respect, that this could also have been another of the World's Great Wisdom Traditions. Here, to be sure, is our True Vision. Our True Creativity.
And an ability to reach out. To involve others. To collaborate, to share and learn--and this includes sharing with groups that might be called "competitors" in other settings. Instead we learn to thrive together. To have a new bottom line of compassion and love, not profit or loss. Yet to find a greater monetary profit in this approach than in that of the so-called competition.
Dr. V never married nor had a family. Yet a fascinating side note is that a full 21, yes twenty-one, of his relatives have now become opthalmologists! And all are helping. Talk about family spirit (and the human spirit).
Best of all--and this is sometimes hard for us Westerners to believe--here is the Gift Economy. This is what can happen when we move from grasping and getting to caring and giving. Those folks weren't fooling in the Bible (or elsewhere) when they said that we who give will receive in turn. (Actually, we may also live longer as well--which is another interesting story! Here is a new world view we need badly today.
As Dr. V. said, "When we grow in spiritual consciousness, we identify with all that is in the world...It is ourselves we are helping....ourselves we are healing."
Is InfiniteVision a religious tract? Not at all; it is a business plan--one set in an engaging personal story. But a business plan with a different bottom line, a different way of operating. A different way of living. No wonder Harvard Business School took note. And so should we.
Do buy this book, by all means! And also give it to your own doctor. I have done so myself. Let me dedicate this review to my ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon, Gary Aguilar, M.D., in San Francisco, who has volunteered his services each summer, in places including Guatemala, Peru, and China, to help people who could never see otherwise. Whose lives have been changed. He too is part of this story. What a gift. What a role model. May each of us, in turn, help this influence to spread.
When my mother's surgey was complete, I remember seeing a big photograph of Dr.V in the main hall and also pictures of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Little did I know the true story behind the institution and the vision of its founder. Now that I know the full story from this brilliant book by Pavitra Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy, it makes me proud that we in India, that too in my home state Tamilnadu, could create something so original, innovative and of such high quality. It makes me inspired to strive for better all the time and also specially, for the right, humane reasons.
The authors show that Aravind is an unconventional model, built on the power of integrating innovation with empathy, sound business principles with service and external change through inner change. Though all this sounds esoteric, the extensive data related to Aravind's performance over the past 30 years shows that it has been achieved in reality and what more, it is a model that can also be duplicated independent of the presence of the eminent personalities of the founding team of Aravind. Dr.V, the founding father of Aravind, believed in the following: "to be of service to others is to serve ourselves. Our limitations do not define us. Embedded in the human spirit is a wisdom and strength that can rise to meet our greatest challenges'. This was enough to make him start at age 58 a 11-bed eye clinic in Madurai with no money, no biz plan or safety net and turn it into the largest eye care provider in the world in three decades. It is difficult to enumerate here all the revolutionary things Aravind has pioneered over the years. That is why one must read this book.
The most important take-away from this book for me is the business model of Aravind. The revolutionary departure points in this model are as follows:
Service to the poor as the primary goal
Maximizing service instead of profit
Patients choosing either to pay or not for the service.
The enterprise built on the principle of 'Do the work first and the money will eventually follow'.
Applying the McDonald's and Burger King's service model to attain consistency, reliability, low costs and clear standards
Training their competition in all the key areas for success in the same business!
It is a real challenge to all the well-intentioned people of this world to try and see if this can be the new business model, especially in areas of fundamental needs of humanity. I believe that another enterprise - Narayana Hrdalaya - in Bangalore has applied many of these principles successfully in the realm of heart surgery. Perhaps, this is the way forward for developing nations in the area of healthcare.
Finally, it is also important to understand the spiritual inspiration from Sri Aurobindo in Dr.V's efforts and how he creatively applied them in Aravind. 'Man is a transitional and not a final being' is central to Aurobindo's Integral Yoga. Since Man is a work in progress, Aurobindo emphasised the ecumenical approach of Aspiration, Rejection and Surrender as a means to achieve transformation. Dr.V creatively applied it as follows: He saw Aspiration as a commitment and determination to move in the direction of one's highest purpose - that is curing needless blindness all over the world. He saw Rejection as not allowing mental prejudices to cloud one's thinking and not limiting oneself to small things but aspiring for higher. He saw Surrender as overcoming the pull of the conscious and rational mind and making crucial decisions through the inexpressicable logic of his deeper awareness of the unconscious.
This book is highly inspiring and is important in the way it integrates the ideas of innovation, creativity, courage and spirituality.