Irony of VisionSpring

13 February, 2009 at 21:27 Leave a comment

For the uninitiated, VisionSpring (formerly SCOJO) is a not-for-profit company (notice, I am not using the word ‘organization’ deliberately) that has an interesting ‘business in a bag’ idea that has spread quite wide selling cheap correction eyeglasses in poor areas. Technically, it is not too different from pyramid schemes (like Amway) sugar-coated of course.
This is a fairly well documented company with many MBA case-studies, social entrepreneurship literature, hyped media coverage, self-congratulatory awards and such. The whole famous-for-being-famous 9 yards.

    Now here is the irony. The office is based in New York. They hire people in New York. Sure they have some other offices in developing countries but still, the top brass, advisors and board primarily operate out of New York paying themselves US salaries. Note that this is a company with a supposed mission to reduce poverty and generate opportunity in the developing world through vision. I have no problems that they are not philanthropic but I have an issue that they are stupid and utterly irresponsible.
    I say that any such company should to be based in a cheaper country, pay themselves 3rd world salaries. This way, they will be more in touch with the ones they are exploiting err… exploiting and pump the money back to where it belongs. After all, they are a not-for-profit which is just an euphimism for a company that is not making any profits. No surprises then that they are always begging for donations from the public, applying for funds and filing for grants from the many currency-laundering foundations and black-to-white money conversion agencies out there. Unsurprisingly, they get substantial monies from these too-many-to-count sources. I would love to see their balance sheets and will file a request.

    Dont get me wrong. They are a smart business. After all, they are managing to fool a lot of people most of the time. That is the hallmark of a clever business. But something about their base of operations, modal structure, non-transparency of accounts, perennial need for money, repeated news et al. just seem wrong to me. Can’t you see?

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    Entry filed under: BoP, Citizen-Journalism, Deesha, Health, India, Life-Theories, MCe2, News-Media, Politics, Poverty, Research, WebXP.

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