Sankara Eye Foundation's Dr RV Ramani: How a man’s vision gave millions their eyesight

Even as congratulations pour for Ramani for being awarded Padma Shri, the story of how he struggled through the initial years and evolved a sustainable business model is a miracle.

Published: 27th January 2019 02:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th January 2019 04:58 AM   |  A+A-


Dr RV Ramani with late former President APJ Abdul Kalam (Photo | Sankara Eye Foundation/ Facebook)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: This eye hospital is today cited as a case study at Harvard Business School. With over 1.8 million free eye surgeries conducted over a span of 40 years, Sankara Eye Foundation runs one of the biggest charitable eye hospitals in India. 

This is all the outcome of one man’s vision — Dr RV Ramani — who was ably supported by his wife Dr Radha Ramani. Even as congratulations pour for Ramani for being awarded Padma Shri, the story of how he struggled through the initial years and evolved a sustainable business model with social cause being its driving force, is nothing short a miracle. 

Sankara Eye hospitals work on 80:20 ratio. While 80 per cent of the beneficiaries are the rural poor who receive totally free eye care, the rest of the 20 per cent are the affordable patients who pay for their treatment, thereby cross subsidising and making the hospital self-sustaining. 

READ: Here is the complete list of Padma awardees 2019

Ramani, who is founder and managing trustee of the Foundation, told Express, “Me and my wife had successful private practices, but we both wanted to do more to help those who could not afford costly medical care. This thought made us open a small clinic in Coimbatore and our actual journey started in May 1977. Today, we conduct over 500 free eye surgeries daily.”  

The group has established its footprint in other states including Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Bengaluru and Shimoga (Karnataka), Anand (Gujarat), Ludhiana (Punjab), Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Kanpur (UP).

The Foundation’s head of operations, Bharat Balasubramaniam, says every year ends in a deficit as the foundation is heavily dependent on funding from State governments and public. “Under National Programme for the Control of Blindness, wherein the Centre allots State government funds, we were getting 1,000 per cataract surgery which is now raised to Rs 2,000. However, the problem is that there is a huge backlog,” he said. 

Murali Krishnamurthy, founder of California-based Sankara Eye Foundation, which raises capital costs to build hospitals in India, told Express: “He and his wife dedicated their entire lives for this cause. This motivates us more in striving towards our goal of eradicating blindness in India.”


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