Creating and Sustaining a Social Enterprise: The Vittala Story

Cases
S. Ramnarayan, Sunita Mehta. "Creating and Sustaining a Social Enterprise: The Vittala Story", 2019
Abstract:
Discipline: Social Enterprise
Industry: Health care services
Length: 17p
Subjects covered: Organizational behavior, Organizational values, Innovation, Leadership, Social enterprise, Organizational culture, Family businesses, Social responsibility
Publication Date: October 1, 2018
 
Description: 
Vittala International Institute of Ophthalmology (Vittala), a not-for-profit orgnization was involved in providing free/highly subsidized eye care to the rural and the economically underprivileged population in the state of Karnataka, India. The case describes the challenges faced by the founder and his family in building the state-of-the-art institution and sustaining it through its difficult initial years. They had to build awareness of avoidable blindness, make eye care accessible and affordable, and develop the right networks and alliances, all within limited resources. Unlike certain eye care issues such as cataract, Vittala focused on retinal eye care problems that required periodic monitoring and treatment. Diagnosis required sophisticated and expensive equipment, which had to be made available in far-flung small towns and villages, and that posed difficulties. To address the challenges, the organization and its founders executed pioneering innovations in organizational arrangements and processes. The case closes with the dilemma facing Krishna, Director of Vittala, which was to examine how the social enterprise could enhance the revenue streams to increase Vittala's reach in providing eye to the economically disadvantaged citizens. He needs to consider issues like creating the right balance of paying and non-paying patients to ensure sustainable operations, consistent quality of care, keeping technology updated, and attracting and retaining medical staff with right skills and values. The case is significant as it highlights what is required to make healthcare accessible and affordable to the poor, and how policy measures can be executed at the ground level through appropriate organizing efforts. It describes how the founder inculcated a system of values to keep the family members together, thus contributing to the effectiveness and sustainability of the social enterprise.

Learning objective:
To understand the factors influencing the setting up of a not-for-profit enterprise in the health care sector and exposing the students to the realities of present system of health care in India; To explore the process and organizing innovations required to deliver affordable eye care to rural areas; To emphasize the importance of aligning multiple stakeholders to build effective and sustainable operations; To emphasize the importance of values in family run organizations to build togetherness.