Vijay Ganga Speciality Care (VGSC) is a non-profit medical startup based in Chennai that focuses on affordable nephrology healthcare services.
In her decade-old career in India, Dr. Sarita Dasari noticed that the number of cases related to kidney problems and diabetes were increasing in the country. She thus decided to focus on preventive nephrology, patient education and early recognition. She also wanted to find a way to serve the needs of those unable to afford adequate healthcare.
Her son, Sanjay V Dasari, says, “ I had just started my education at Babson College, which consistently ranks among the top in the world for entrepreneurship, and I was extremely interested in any new opportunities to start a business. My mother brought up the issue at hand, and VGSC was born. From there, we took a number of steps to move towards both bringing quality healthcare to underprivileged patients as well as alleviating some of the stress on the Indian job market.” Sanjay is the MD of VGSC.
Kidney diseases are classified as silent conditions because they manifest themselves as a variety of nonspecific complaints that are often overlooked. Therefore, there are a large number of people who are unaware of their illness, allowing their kidneys to further deteriorate until they finally get treatment.
Indian dialysis cases are increasing by 30% per year and the number is projected to reach over 100 million by 2030, with the market growing at a similarly extraordinary rate from $97 million in 2007 to $152 million in 2012. However, while the occurrence of kidney disease is soaring, only the wealthy can really afford safe, quality treatment. A 2009 study showed that more than 90% of the 230,000 people who develop chronic kidney failure each year die within months because of lack of treatment.
Starting with a small clinic offering dialysis and outpatient consultation, VGSC has today expanded to include a number of other services for patients suffering from kidney disease. Sanjay says, “Observing the market trends, we started a dialysis technologist training academy, dubbed Train4Life for 12+ graduates, nursing attendants, and current practicing dialysis technologists. Upon completing our courses, they will be certified by BONENT, which is the premier international organization for the certification of Nephrology Professionals. Our courses are also complemented by spoken English and professionalism classes, basic computer skills education, and cardiac life support courses. One can highly increase one’s job prospects by becoming a dialysis technologist as the demand for qualified and certified technologists has never been higher, and is only increasing. This international certification also gives them the opportunity to work both in India and abroad given their education and premium status.” He further adds, “Our goal is to ensure that people with kidney disease get access to quality, affordable healthcare at the hands of educated professionals, while those without it get access to the information they need to prevent it and stop the diabetes epidemic in India.”
The market for affordable kidney care is booming. There are several companies already in the dialysis providers space. But the middle to low income market is being underserved, even as it is expanding faster than the others. Sanjay adds, “Being a non-profit, VGSC can tap this market charging break-even prices and ensuring that their nephrology needs are satisfied. In addition, VGSC will have complete quality control through strategic partnerships with hospitals and recruiting our own BONENT certified technologists. Technologists with BONENT certificates from reputable companies are in high demand as it is a given that they are nephrology professionals with an extraordinary amount of experience and education in the field.’
According to Sanjay, “Through VGSC, patients also get access to a revolutionary and holistic approach to kidney care based on the motto that ‘prevention is better than cure’. Dialysis can be a painful, time consuming procedure, so we do everything we can to prevent patients from getting to that stage through preventive nephrology and early recognition. If unfortunately a patient progresses to the next level of kidney malfunction and dialysis becomes necessary, VGSC is able to help there as well. Through a number of services like yoga, physiotherapy and dietitian advice, we offer lifestyle management guidance in order to help the patients enhance the quality of their lives. In addition, we have a very strong support group that meets on a regular basis in order to help each other come to terms with their ailments. These meetings help patients understand that it is possible, through adequate care, to continue living a fruitful, engaging and active life in spite of their kidney problems.”
Along with serving the middle to low income population’s dialysis needs, we are also focused on creating qualified, employable professionals to help meet this demand. Train4Life is one of the only centers across India that can offer the most prestigious level of nephrology professional certification – BONENT. This academy serves two purposes: to create more job opportunities for India’s youth, and to help match the high demand for dialysis technicians to conduct dialysis care.”
Inspired by the cause to make a difference, today the VGSC team has some very specialised professionals.
Besides Dr. Sarita and Sanjay (currently completing his bachelors in the entrepreneurship-centric Babson College), the team has renowned members like Dr. Krishna Murthy (who started and developed the Intensive Care Unit at Apollo Hospitals), Dr. Sivalingam, who has trained and worked in the UK, is a certified medical trainer and is one of the main faculty members for Train4Life.
Dr. Venkatesh has been practicing in Chennai for many years and is known for his teachings and is guiding the Train4Life programme.
American Board certified Physiotherapist Karpagam, owner of Mi Therapy Clinic has also joined them. Elderly diabetic patients have a variety of issues like urinary incontinence that can lower self-confidence and independence, including allowing them to leave the house. Physiotherapy has been proven to play a vital role in preventing such incidents and ensuring that each individual can enhance their quality of life.
“Probably my most exciting moment so far was seeing our first advertisement in the newspaper. It was a small, 2×1 inch graphic with details about Train4Life, our dialysis technologist academy, but it signified much more. It signified progress. It showed that we had successfully started the process of moving forward from being a small dialysis clinic to a holistic nephrological services organization. In addition, that local newspaper gave us the space for free as they had heard about what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it. The most exciting bit was that they had not heard about any of the well-respected doctors working here, but knew about our organization. This showed that not only did we have the support of people around us, but that our marketing efforts were paying off and people had started recognizing our brand,” Sanjay exclaims.
On June 30th, VGSC’s Train4Life will be starting its first round of BONENT certification courses and applications for the same is open until June 23rd.
In addition, VGSC as a whole will be launching supportive services of Fit4Life that focuses on lifestyle management guidance through yoga, dietician and physician support.
According to Sanjay, the drive to work hard comes from just one word — philanthropy. “Our family has a very philanthropic background, especially my mother. Social entrepreneurship is close to our hearts. Through years of hard work, we’ve been able to reach a position where we are comfortable and have the opportunity and ability to give back to the community. That was the intention behind making VGSC a non-profit. In addition, we know so many people with diabetes and kidney related diseases who could not afford regular dialysis, which makes this cause all the more special. We want to make sure that the coming generation has everything they need to combat the onset of kidney disease. Developing high quality, employable technologists whose services will be in constant high demand in today’s job market is an added bonus for both myself personally, and those individuals looking for careers in healthcare,” concludes Sanjay.