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Author's profile photo Aparna Kongot

Eye Care Solutions – a Design Thinking Story

Sankara Eye care Institutions in India is a group of 13 eye hospitals working tirelessly towards “Freedom from preventable and curable blindness”.  As their growing network spans across the nation, their vision remains truly secular and has touched many lives through a strong service oriented team. With a mission in providing unmatched eye care, Sankara reached out to SAP to see if they can apply Design Thinking methodology to improve their overall patient experience. SAP and Sankara joined hands in a DT workshop at the Sankara Eye Hospital (SEH) in Bangalore. Working in 3 teams, the focus was on 3 key stakeholders : Patients, Doctors and Management.

This article details 2 solutions our team proposed considering SEH Management as the persona, after elaborate user research, conceptualization and validation sessions.




Design Challenge

How Might We help SEH Management motivate their staff to take pride and ownership in their responsibilities, excel in outpatient management, retain & grow sponsors/donors and increase its visibility ?





The team came up with some solutions out of which two are detailed below.


Solution 01

Sankara Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program

Sankara Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program aims to address SEH’s main challenges and related business opportunities. This program will create a platform for social entrepreneurs/start-ups in Eye Care, SEH and Corporates / PEs / VCs to collaborate, co-innovate and enable communities to derive the benefits.


In this proposed ecosystem:

1.     SEH calls for Innovative ideas in Eye care via start-up communities, hoardings, website and social media.

2.     Individuals, Entrepreneurs and Start-ups with an idea submit an abstract on SEH’s website.

3.     SEH’s jury panel (management & experts) review and shortlist ideas of the candidates.

4.     SEH reaches out to its global corporate contacts to encourage them to invest & gain stake. Corporates also get introduced to relevant new products / early stage start-ups.

5.     SEH supports shortlisted candidates with domain expertise, lab infrastructure and workspace with minimum financial investment.

6.     Selected candidates use their core expertise to co-innovate with SEH to take the idea to reality.

7.     SEH supports validating and testing of solutions in their infrastructure and with patients.

8.     SEH charges a management fee (or an appropriate model) when a solution is implemented / launched into the market.

9.     Doctors and co-innovators could file joint patents.

10.  The innovations could be presented in various international conferences regularly attended by doctors and management, published as articles in journals and shared on social media.


Staff Motivation: Across all SEHs, staffs would be recognized for innovations, patents and experience in entrepreneurship. This recognition and career growth would go a long way in motivating them by instilling a sense of pride and ownership in their responsibilities. The positivity would begin to reflect in daily work of attending to patients, which is now considered a mundane job.  This kind of environment enables the doctors and staff to enhance their skills and challenge themselves constantly in their professional growth. It helps SEH in employee retention.

Visibility: As the innovations reach wider audiences, there is increase in visibility of SEH amongst the eye care community, network of corporate investors and general public. They will also be identified as one of the few eye care hospitals in the country working towards co-innovation.

Finance: Being a trust, SEH cannot hold stake. However, cash in-flow is in the form of Management fee or through an appropriate revenue model.

SEH Feedback

The idea was perceived to be in the right direction. It turned out that SEH had supported a corporate with its domain expertise out of good will. But creating an ecosystem around it had not been considered. Setting up a co-innovation lab and its extended benefits was considered insightful and worth looking into.


Solution 02

Dark Café

Dark Café is an initiative that could help SEH in increasing its donors and also promote team building. It welcomes sponsors, donors and general public to explore and experience the unseen. It is a specially setup Dark room that a person with vision can walk into (blindfolded if needed), to experience textures, sound, scents and temperature by engaging in daily routine activities. They would get audio guidance by an assistant. Some goal oriented activities could range from walking on various textures, identifying objects, eating in the dark, sorting out similar vegetables from an assorted bundle, cooking, cutting fruits, making lemonade/tea etc. This is an initiative Sankara could also implement in its own premises for their staff, patients and general public. Corporates have regular team building outbound activities and Dark Café could be one such corporate engagement where teams do joint tasks without the power of sight.


The power of ‘empathy’ by experiencing the unseen is enabled in this process. This can be a fun experience that takes people out of their familiar environment. Team building activities in the dark fosters leadership skills, trust, confidence and co-operation. It aims to re-instill in people the need to get regular eye check-ups and empathize with the blind. For SEH, this would lead to an increase in donor base (growth and retention) and volunteers for eye donations.

SEH Response

SEH was initially skeptical, as they did not want to put the fear of blindness into people. However, they were open-minded and tried a 3 day pilot test called ‘Beyond Sight’ in their premises by converting a waiting room into the Dark café. Visitors and Patients were encouraged to enter the Dark café. Black charts, curtains and blindfolds ensured complete darkness. An assistant guided the visitor through various walking surfaces and asked them to identify objects, make lemonade and tea. After the experience the visitor’s feedback was collected as a small video and written in a register. The visitor was also given an informative card about corneal blindness and eye donation with their name printed in Braille. The Management wants to extend this as a team building activity for their staff and board members across all their hospitals.

The making of Dark Café


Experience and Feedback of the Dark Café participants


• Scary

• Awesome experience

• Difficult for blind people


When I volunteered to be a part of this workshop, I saw this as an exciting opportunity to impact the experience of a huge volume of patients and to understand the challenges of a work environment very different from my own. It turned out to be quite an insightful journey, thanks to an enthusiastic team from SAP and SEH.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Aparna!
      It's great to see that we use DT principles in the areas of Health care! I absolutely loved the 'eye' representation of the Sankara Eye Co-innovation lab. Very creative and simple! Good job!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great article!

      I specially like the concept of Sankara Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program, it could catapult Sankara as a consulting organization into the niche space of eye care innovations.

      Dark Cafe - BeyondSight was an excellent experience indeed!

      Author's profile photo Anurag Gupta
      Anurag Gupta

      Very humane - is how i would describe the plan and activities. The doctors, the patients and their relatives can know firsthand what blindness actually is to be able to connect with each other and the job better.

      Great work SAP and SEH!

      Author's profile photo Nandeesha M
      Nandeesha M

      Good read 🙂

      I personally liked the idea - "Dark Cafe".... Any chances of getting more info / feedback from the extended testing done by the SEH.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Aparna,

      This is very good Article in concept of Sankara Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program,

      Great Work SAP  and SEH  Team ! Any  type suggestion in SAP Product  and Management , most welcome !



      Author's profile photo Shailaja Ainala
      Shailaja Ainala

      Hi Aparna,

      Very good article.