August 23

Moses Lee

Seeing Eye to Eye? New Case Study with BoP Critic Aneel Karnani

When you think about critics of the base of the pyramid (BoP) movement, the most notable name that comes to mind is Professor Aneel Karnani at the University of Michigan. Aneel has written a number of articles that are highly critical of the BoP idea. Some of his most prominent articles are “Romanticizing the Poor”, “Microfinance Misses its Mark,” and “The Mirage of Marketing to the Bottom of the Pyramid.”

Now, as many of you know, I have been a very strong supporter of business and its role in addressing societal issues. Over the past two years, I have blogged on this quite extensively. I am even co-teaching a course at the undergrad level here at the University of Michigan on the topic of Social Entrepreneurship this fall.

Since Aneel and I both work in the same building, I decided to stop by his office to talk with him in depth on his perspective of the BoP concept. From that conversation (which went really well), we both decided to put our energy into writing a case study on the topic of vision correction in the developing world. In the case study, we looked at two enterprises – Essilor and VisionSpring – that are trying to address global uncorrected refractive error by selling eyeglasses.

In writing the case study we wrestled with three main questions:

  1. How effective are Essilor and VisionSpring in addressing vision correction in the developing world?
  2. Does either organization have long-term viability and ability to reach significant scale? Why or why not?
  3. What other solutions might work better to solve the problem of vision correction?

Since we plan to use this case in the classroom, and hope that other academics will too, I’m not going to divulge our conclusions. If you are a student, perhaps one of your professors will use this case study in your class. If you are an educator, you can review the case study and the associated teaching note on by logging onto (If you need help registering, you can shoot me an email). If you want to simply read the case study without accessing to the teaching note, you can purchase it here.

Aneel and are I planning to write an article based on this case soon, so be on the lookout!