Nitesh keeps his entrepreneurial dream alive even as he battles stage IV cancer

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The IIM alumnus newlywed couple, Dimple and Nitesh, have decided to give their startup a break and are now focussing on their immediate goal — ‘Making his life cancer-free.’  

At the age of 27, Nitesh Kumar Prajapat, a graduate of IIT Kanpur (2012) and IIM Calcutta (2017), dreamt of bringing the flavour of authentic Indian delicacies from regional establishments at your doorstop through Appeti, a curated online marketplace.

Accompanied by his wife, Dimple Parmar, he was ready to start a new life after completing his MBA. Nitesh was set to join Development Bank of Singapore through campus placement while Dimple focussed on her startup. However, their dream faced a sudden jolt when he was diagnosed with stage III cancer in 2016. His recent scan reports show the development of 12 tumours in his bilateral lungs, pelvis, and abdomen. Nitesh hopes to defeat this disease and is seeking treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in the US.

An entrepreneurial attitude

At the end of their summer internship in their first year at IIM Calcutta, Dimple noticed a few changes in Nitesh. He seemed tired and complained of pain in his stomach. The duo dismissed these symptoms and thought that this was due to the combined stress of running their startup while pursuing their studies at IIM Calcutta.

Nitesh went to the to the Apollo Clinic in Kolkata alone.

He had to take the blow of this news on his own the first time. When he returned back to the campus and shared the prognosis with me, I was too shocked to even cry, Dimple recalls.

Although his situation is critical, Nitesh maintains an entrepreneurial attitude. He says, “Just as a startup is always ready for a sudden jolt, we too have learnt to function in a hands-on manner. In fact, you could say this is our new startup, where the goal is to get cured. We undertake funding for our cause, have angel investors and mentors (doctors, experienced patients), source raw material (medicines, enzyme supplements, meditation videos), and undergo a monthly report update (share the results of scans and tests with friends and family members).”

The journey so far

The initial chemotherapy treatment took a toll on Nitesh’s body and created a lot of restrictions on his physical movement. Eventually, it became difficult for him to walk to his class, attend long lecture sessions, or even have discussions with his peers. Soon he had to be isolated from the rest of the students on campus to ensure good hygiene.

Lack of funds became a barrier in his treatment. Dimple and Nitesh had already taken a loan of Rs 20 lakh each for their MBA course. “Being budding entrepreneurs, we had invested a majority of our funds in our startups and were unable to afford the cost of treatment when he was diagnosed,” says Dimple.

Nitesh had to meet all his academic requirements, undergo chemotherapy, prepare for campus placements, and till recently he even managed his startup. He refused to be a patient — he attended lectures even in pain and would take just two days off on the days he received chemotherapy to deal with the fatigue.

After undergoing the treatment for 12 months, the couple believed that things were better. But the doctors informed them that Nitesh was now fighting a stage IV cancer.

“It was a nightmare. I tried handling my academic work, my startup, and Nitesh's treatment. Nitesh himself would try focussing on his startup whenever we mustered enough courage to do so. We soon saw our sales go down,” she remembers. Customer requests were not being answered efficiently and financially they could no longer afford to pay their employees’ salaries; hence, they decided to give their startup a break.

It is hard to let go of something you have built from scratch. Something in which you invested so much time, energy, and money. Something for which you fought against your family. But we had no choice. We decided to focus on our immediate goal — Making his life cancer-free, says Dimple.

Nitesh’s zest to move ahead

Nitesh approached his health condition in a logical manner, maintaining that there is a solution to every problem. Like any other entrepreneur, he listed his short-term and long-term goals, organised funding details, on-going academic requirements, treatment options and diet plans using Excel Sheets.

Being the eldest of his siblings, Nitesh is now responsible for taking care of his parents, who are retired school teachers, and putting his younger brother through college. The duo got married after he was diagnosed with cancer. “We had vowed to face it together and I have vowed to heal him back,” Dimple affirms.

After doctors in India gave up hope, they decided to undergo clinical trials options at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Due to the high cost of treatment, they are currently crowdfunding with the help of IIT Kanpur and IIM Calcutta faculty and alumni.

SocialStory hopes for Nitesh’s speedy recovery and wishes the young couple the very best for their future.


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