Is it possible for a business to put service foremost as its purpose and still remain viable? The story of Aravind is inspiring, and seems to answer the question in the affirmative.
Here is an excerpt from the description in Wikipedia:
The hospital is named after Sri Aurobindo, one of the 20th century’s most revered spiritual leaders
Given the magnitude of blindness and the challenges faced in a developing country, the Government alone cannot meet the health needs of all. Realising this predicament, Dr. Venkataswamy wanted to establish an alternate health care model that would supplement the efforts of the Government and also be self-supporting. Hence, upon his retirement in 1976, he established the GOVEL Trust to initiate eye care work.
Under this Trust, the Aravind Eye Hospitals were founded. Today, Aravind is more than an eye hospital. It is a social organisation committed to the goal of elimination of needless blindness through comprehensive eye care services. It is also an international training centre for ophthalmic professionals and trainees who come from within India and around the world. It is an institute for research that contributes to the development of eye care and to train health-related and managerial personnel in the development and implementation of efficient and sustainable eye care programmes. Aravind also is a manufacturer of world class ophthalmic products available at affordable costs through the Aurolab.
You can read the full Wikipedia description here, and the complete story of Aravind in the new book, Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion (see a preview here).