Meet 5 doctors who turned entrepreneurs to make a difference to the Indian healthcare system
“Medicines cure diseases, but only doctors can cure patients.” - Carl Jung.
Doctors have been revered for centuries, but COVID-19 spotlighted them as superheroes without capes as these healthcare professionals risked their own health to serve patients.
The pandemic also reinforced the importance of doctors, nurses, and the medical forces in our country, serving as a wake-up call that India needed to promptly bridge the healthcare gap and innovate continuously.
However, there have been many instances of medical experts who have chosen to step off the beaten path. This week, SMBStory has curated a list of five doctors who were practising medicine, but decided to turn entrepreneurs to help do their bit for India’s healthcare ecosystem.
Dr S Sajikumar
S Sajikumar spent his childhood watching his grandfather create Ayurvedic formulations and medicines at his clinic in Kayamkulam, Kerala. The boy fell in love with Ayurveda at an early age and decided to become an Ayurvedic doctor.
His grandfather, Parameshwara Vaidyar, was a well-reputed medical practitioner who founded ‘Dhathri’, a tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. His setup and medical practice passed down through generations was eventually handed over to Sajikumar.
“After getting a medical degree from Trivandrum Ayurveda College, I took over the Dhathri Ayurveda Hospital and Panchakarma Centre in Kayamkulam and became the chief physician,” says Sajikumar in an interview with SMBStory.
In 2003, the doctor turned into an entrepreneur. He launched Dhathri Ayurveda as a consumer brand for Ayurvedic products after realising the true potential of Dhathri’s formulations. Today, Dhathri Ayurveda is a popular brand of herbal and natural products in South India and offers more than 100 products in the personal care and beauty segment.
Sajikumar doesn’t disclose the brand’s annual sales figures, but says his business is clocking a monthly GMV of up to Rs 8 crore. Despite the slowdown caused by COVID-19, Dhathri has grown 40 percent in a year and is looking to cross Rs 200 crore turnover in two years.
Dr Arika Bansal and Dr Pradeep Kumar Sethi
Dr Arika Bansal and Dr Pradeep Kumar Sethi completed their post-graduation from AIIMS Delhi in Dermatology and Venerology in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Unable to get the jobs they wanted in the national capital, they decided to move to Rishikesh, which faced an acute shortage of skincare clinics.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Pradeep Kumar Sethi, the 42-year-old hair transplant surgeon, says, “There were not many skincare clinics that catered to the population residing in Rishikesh and the surrounding areas of Badrinath, Kedarnath, and Gangotri, among others. We both didn’t find any suitable jobs, and the gap in the area for skincare specialists forced Dr Arika and me to start something of our own.”
In 2008, the duo started National Skin Clinic in Rishikesh and Dehradun. Within a year, the doctors witnessed a rising trend of hair transplant treatment in the market. The growing concern around baldness and hair fall boosted the duo to research the technology further.
After successful research and training, Pradeep and Arika began with hair transplant treatment consultations for patients in Rishikesh and Dehradun. In 2014, they shifted their base to Gurugram to cater to a wider audience and launched Eugenix Hair Sciences.
At present, Eugenix Hair Sciences rakes in Rs 12 crore annual turnover. The company claims to have treated over 7,000 patients globally, including singer Anup Jalota, Kings 11 Punjab CEO Satish Menon, politicians, and industry leaders. Eugenix competes with the likes of Dermamiracle, Advanced Hair Studios, AKESO, and others.
Dr Sudhanshu Tyagi
When Dr Sudhanshu Tyagi, MD, Ph.D. in Nephrology, and Founder of Porvoo Transition Care, saw an acute lack of adequate transition care in India, he set out to solve the problem himself.
Also the Managing Director of B. Braun Avitum, Russia, a German medical and pharmaceutical company, Sudhanshu tells SMBStory, “My mother was admitted to a hospital due to a neurological disorder for three months. After the discharge, the consultant advised us to take her home as there was no further active intervention that could be performed. We sought out the help of a homecare provider and set up an ICU at home but it caused many troubles later.”
From lack of continuity of care to emergency assistance, emotional and financial stress, and more, there is a lot that is needed when a critically-ill patient is brought back home. It is the family that struggles the most even as the patient undergoes immense trauma.
Having stayed in Europe for the majority of his life, Dr Sudhanshu was aware of transition care facilities, and the service he was looking for, but to his surprise couldn’t find any in India.
This led to him setting up a transitional care facility by himself.
Porvoo Transition Care was started in 2019 in New Delhi. While Sudhanshu refrained from sharing the turnover, he says the company has seen a 3X growth since its inception.
Dr Vinod Kohli
In 1979, Vinod Kohli, who was a doctor with a practice in the UK, came to India for his brother-in-law’s wedding. On his visit, he got an offer from Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital to handle some cases in India. With an option to either stay or go back, Vinod chose to extend his stay and find opportunities upon coming across “good quality cases” and “professional challenges”.
While working as an anesthesiologist, Vinod saw India’s weak medical infrastructure. “I saw that facilities, medical equipment were not adequate. Moreover, most of the equipment was being imported,” he recalls in a conversation with SMBStory.
This got Vinod thinking. Initially, he helped his colleagues, hospitals, and others in the sector to source medical equipment from the right people. He would connect them to manufacturers in Europe, especially the UK. Gradually, he took a deeper dive and started importing and selling some medical equipment items while simultaneously running his medical practice.
Vinod started Allied Medical Limited in 1982. In the 1980s and 1990s, he mostly helped entrepreneurs build hospitals with adequate medical facilities, while manufacturing, importing, and supplying life-saving medical equipment, and consumables.
When the business expanded and started scaling, Vinod left his medical practice to fully concentrate on the business.
Vinod says his family consisting of doctors felt “it was too much of a risk.” He says, “I had a great practice. It was not that I needed a change. But it was a challenge I was willing to take.”
Today, Allied Medical designs and manufactures several life-saving equipment, including anesthesia machines, ventilators, consumables, infusion pumps, ECG machines, etc.
The company has ISO13485, European CE Mark, and BIS Licence certifications.
Dr Ajay Murdia
In 1988, fertility specialist Dr Ajay Murdia started a fertility clinic with Rs 5,000 in his pocket in Udaipur, Rajasthan, to provide personalised assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment, as well as to make people understand that men, too, are responsible for infertility, and should get tested along with women.
Around the same time, he opened one of India’s first sperm banks in Udaipur and trained doctors from across the country. As medical sciences advanced and newer technologies were adapted, Ajay’s two sons — Dr Kshitiz Murdia and Nitiz Murdia — brought these services under the Indira IVF banner.
Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO of Indira IVF, tells SMBStory, “When my father started a fertility clinic, he was not much welcomed by society. The issue of speaking about male infertility was a taboo. But things changed as he counselled and treated people, and, in turn, parents witnessed the positive results.”
At present, Indira IVF is among India’s leading IVF chains, clocking Rs 850 crore turnover.