With over 3 million reported cases of cancer and 1 million new cases per year, no one can deny the need for oncology centers in India. International Oncology was conceived as an answer to this need, designed as a venture that would bring quality and affordably cancer treatment to India using an innovative business model. The idea was to provide quality cancer care without having to deal with the expensive real estate costs that come with setting up new clinics.
To accomplish this, Pradeep Jaisingh, Managing Director and CEO of International Oncology, decided he would approach established hospitals and offer to set up cancer treatment facilities using the existing infrastructure. In exchange for their facilities, Pradeep offered these hospitals top oncology expertise, the best technology from the United States, and American Board Certified Oncologists. Though many were skeptical at first, in 2009 a deal was made with Fortis Healthcare and International Oncology began setting up clinics in Fortis Hospitals around the country.
Today, International Oncology has set up 9 cancer centers and has an additional 5 in the pipeline. For Pradeep, however, the fight is not over. His goal, he explained to us, is to continue to bring down the cost of cancer treatment to make it ubiquitously affordable. In addition to International Oncology, he has set up a nonprofit called OutCancer to educate people on their own health, aid in early stage detection and prevention, and perform screenings for members of local towns and villages. He has also recently launched HealthStart, India’s first Healthcare incubator, to nurture and support the entrepreneurs that are going to shape the healthcare of the future.
In a recent conversation with SocialStory, Pradeep noted, “I am on a mission to make a direct positive impact on healthcare in India.” Excerpts.
Last month you launched India’s first Healthcare incubator. What segment of the healthcare market do you think has shown the most growth potential?
I have seen the specialty health care and super specialty health care segments show a tremendous amount of opportunity and growth. The incubator addresses these opportunities and encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of the need and create enterprises or startup companies. Of course, a wider spectrum is possible as well for people we select, but with our incubator we look not at large healthcare B2B facilities or pharmaceutical companies. Instead our focus is looking for innovative delivery models or people trying to address the Tier 2 segments or underserved markets in smaller cities. People that join our incubator have a well-developed idea, at least 2 if not 3 members in the team, a well-defined prototype or concept, and have completed testing or are close to testing their idea. We take them through every part of the business development process, from mentorship by some of the global leaders of best practices to business model development. We have created a diverse network of mentors that will each bring a unique and complimentary skillset to help progress teams in our incubator.
You established International Oncology Services as an innovative way to run cancer centers in India. Take us through your innovation process, and how you have been able to sustain your business.
When I contemplated moving from the United States to India to build a chain of cancer centers, my biggest challenge was where to locate. My first thought was to set up a stand-alone cancer center, but I quickly found out that in the big cities in India real estate was so high that it was cheaper for me to locate in Texas than it was in Delhi. That was shocking to me. So then I had to think on my feet and look to find an innovative option, and at that time I was flying between the United States and India, and spending 15 days out of every month in both locations. On one of these flights I was thinking, what can I do about this challenge? That’s when I thought of creating my model around establishing a hospital within a hospital. I wanted to create a very synergistic model, which leverages not only the physical infrastructure within the hospitals but also leverages the ICU’s and the patient base as cancer can be detected by many other specialists. My bigger question was how do I convince the larger hospitals to facilitate my idea and let me have the cancer centers in their hospitals?
I then approached the very best hospitals in India, and they were all very skeptical and discouraging to me. I was convinced that we had a very compelling business proposition, so we pitched my idea again to make a compelling proposition and said that we would bring oncology expertise and competence, the very best technology from the US, and also access to my team of highly trained and American Board Certified Oncologists. I initially approached the Tier 1 cities, and that’s how our partnership started with Fortis. So despite the naysayers and the skeptics we did it. In 2009, our first cancer center was operational, and having successfully set up this first center the subsequent centers have been much easier.
Due to the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), member countries of the World Trade Organization are allowed “compulsory licensing, by which a national government can allow somebody to produce a patented drug without the consent of the patent owner.” This has allowed the prices of some cancer drugs in India to drastically decrease and become more affordable. What are your thoughts on this, and how are you integrating affordable cancer care in India?
In comparison to other places such as the United States and other western European countries, cancer care in India is much cheaper. However, the unfortunate part is that given the socioeconomic status of a majority of India, a lot of people find even these ‘affordable’ prices too high. The general perception is that cancer treatment is expensive, and it really is in the sense that it is unaffordable for a large part of the Indian population. Wherever there is a generic version of the cancer medicine available we offer those in order to decrease the prices and make treatment that much more affordable in India, in the sense that’s the goal. Even as an entrepreneur, I’m not in this only as a business opportunity. Oncology is my passion, and therefore my goal is to make cancer care more affordable. I lost my father to cancer when I was only four and a half years old, and so I grew up with this very big vacuum in my life. After coming in contact with some oncologists I knew I wanted to create cancer care treatment centers.
Another part is our effort is to continuously make sure the overall cost of treatment decreases to make care more affordable. The third thing I’ve done is I’ve set up OutCancer, a nonprofit foundation working on health education, early stage detection, and prevention of cancer. Through the foundation, we have also started doing a large number of camps where we invite the local community and our doctors preform screenings for various types of cancer in the small cities, towns, and villages.
How many cancer treatment centers do you have now, and what are your plans for expansion?
We have set up 9 centers in total – 3 main centers and 6 satellite centers, which can perform everything except radiation treatment. We also have 5 more centers in the pipeline. Cancer is a very big disease burden in India, and one of the fastest growing diseases in India. We have over 3 million cases of cancer, and we are detecting over 1 million new cases each year. Also those new cases only encompass people that seek treatment so it’s not an accurate number for all the people in rural villages who don’t seek treatment. Therefore, Oncology is one of the most underserved segments in Indian healthcare, and the need for treatment to keep building cancer centers is very high. I am on a mission to make a direct positive impact on healthcare in India.