The Financial Times is partnering with Sightsavers, the FT’s chosen charity for its 2011-2012 seasonal appeal, to set a challenge for MBA participants:

Develop a business plan to market glasses to children or young people (aged 16 to 25) in one or more developing country in Africa or Asia.

In some developing countries, there is a stigma attached to wearing glasses. A child in need of a pair of spectacles is seen as inferior or badly behaved because they can’t keep up at school. Often, they are shouted at by teachers and their parents who do not understand why the child is struggling.

Although the route of their sight problems can often be solved with a simple pair of glasses, changing social and cultural attitudes to glasses so that children feel comfortable wearing them remains a significant challenge. All too often they are teased and bullied at school and become reluctant and embarrassed to wear their glasses. They might even drop out of education, which has a devastating effect on their futures, fuelling the cycle of illiteracy and poverty and all too often reinforcing their exclusion from society as they become adults.

We are looking for MBA students to find innovative solutions to this problem, which, although sounding simple, has proved difficult to resolve on the ground.

Read some of our case studies here.

The winners of the MBA Challenge have now been announced. Find out more here.

Six teams of students were shortlisted for the challenge. Find out more about them here.

Why should I apply?

Not only will this challenge be a test of your business skills, it will also be an opportunity for you to see how those skills can be applied in the poorest parts of the world.

How does it work?

The challenge will run from January 2012 to September 2012 and there will be three main stages.

Stage one: registered teams submit a short proposal.
Stage two: shortlisted teams submit a comprehensive business plan and are interviewed by the FT.
Stage three: shortlisted teams are invited to an FT Business Education event, where the winner is announced.

The Judging Panel

The winning team will be decided by a judging committee. The judges are:

Read the biographies of our judging panel here.

How do I apply?

Please email to request a unique password to access the team registration form.

The deadline to submit completed registration forms is 31st March 2012.

The deadline to submit a short proposal is 1st June 2012.

Application process:

  • March: deadline for team registration forms
  • June: deadline for short proposal
  • June - August: shortlist published, teams profiled online, FT readers vote
  • September: deadline for final business plan
  • October: winner decided by judging panel and announced at an FT Business Education event
  • November: winner works with Sightsavers to implement their business plan, where possible

Application criteria:

Teams that apply must:

  • Have three to eight members
  • Have at least one student studying at a university of business school in Europe, a second in the Americas and a third in Africa or Asia
  • Have at least one student studying for an MBA at the point of registration, although other participants may be from other disciplines

Contact details:

If you have any questions, please email

Read more information on Sightsavers and the FT’s coverage of the charity.

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