‘I had fun’: Dr A Velumani on building Thyrocare, one of India's largest medical diagnostics chains

At TechSparks 2021, Dr A Velumani, Founder of Thyrocare, talks about building one of India’s largest medical diagnostic chains, making a successful exit, and his plans for the future.
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“If you look at the way things are changing, every five years has been a generation. I started in 1996, 25 years back, when the words entrepreneur and VC didn’t exist. So what I thought is: nikal pado aur raasta apne aap ban jata hai,” said Dr A Velumani in a candid conversation at the 12th edition of TechSparks, YourStory’s flagship startup-tech conference.

His company, Thyrocare, needs no introduction. One of India’s leading diagnostics solution providers by volume, it was in the news recently when healthtech unicorn Pharmeasy acquired 66.1 percent stake in it for Rs 4,546 crore. At that time, Dr Velumani said Rs 3,500 crore out of this “will go for creating jobs for young employees”.

“I am exiting the segment when it is exciting. COVID-19 has made sure that healthcare is going to be an exciting space for 20 years but I just wanted to relax. I also didn’t give the business to my children, even though they knew it. And I put in money in the company that acquired my company,” Velumani said.

Speaking of the sector today, Velumani said healthcare was no different from other sectors, including fintech. Both sectors used to be very manual; today, both are completely automated.

He said COVID-19 had acted as a strong fear factor, with survival being a key focus and creating strong awareness.

“I believe that in the last 10 years if healthcare grew at 15 percent CAGR year over year, in the next 15 years it will grow at 30 percent CAGR,” Dr Velumani said.

He explained further: “Whoever has a greater share of the market will grow bigger. There is room for a single unified healthcare ecosystem, instead of fragmented segments. We can consume healthcare much better than other countries.”

Siddharth and Velumani during the Pharmeasy and Thyrocare deal

Creating jobs and entrepreneurship

What next? Dr Velumani said he was simply exploring opportunities. “I will not start a business of my own, but will mentor people to mature, anywhere from Rs 10 crore to Rs 100 crore. I believe in the grey-collar job creation market; that is the opportunity I want to look at.”

Advising young entrepreneurs, he said: “Unclutter yourself, and find a strong focus. I want to energise 300 entrepreneurs to think, ‘why can’t I? If Velumani could do it, anyone can’.”

However, the Thyrocare journey is one that is over a decade long. The company was started in 1996, and it has gone from strength to strength. Years down the line, Dr Velumani said he believes in the business of healthcare and that Thyrocare will do better in the hands of the founders of Pharmeasy, as they have a large appetite.

“The decision was taken in three hours. I have always believed that you need to discuss or decide. If you discuss, you cannot decide, and there is nothing like a good decision. So take a decision, and make it right,” he said.

Nothing to lose

Rewinding to his journey, Dr Velumani said, “I was a scientist and farmer, and had nothing to do with business. We are from a lower middle-class background. But I was a thrill monger. After 15 years of a stable government job, I felt that comfort zones are danger zones. I decided to call it a day and it created Thyrocare.”

He added that everyone believes that business means many ups and downs, but Thyrocare had hardly any downs and two good ups.

“I started my journey at zero. I keep saying success in life is delta = x1-x2. Since my X1 is zero, there was nothing for me to lose. If you look at the graph of Velumani’s journey it was smooth, with hardly any downs. I fortunately didn't borrow, and did not have too many partners. I was in healthcare where there are three kinds of businessmen - one who makes money, another who makes a lot of money, and another who makes a hell of a lot of money,” Dr Velumani said.

He added that since he had nothing to lose there was never any fear. Thyrocare also a zero-debt company, with a stable and strong business model.

“If the business model is good, you do not need a model to sell it. It is simple. I always had fun,” Dr Velumani said.

He said his journey was made possible due to the backing of two women - his late wife and mother.

“My wife was the reason that Thyrocare has seen the success it has. Another strong power has been my mother; I learnt frugality from her. If men are successful, the family prospers, but if women are successful, societies prosper,” Dr Velumani said.


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai