Digitising rural healthcare can be transformational, says Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

In conversation with The New Indian Express, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited, says she does not subscribe to any single political idealogy and prefers to engag

Published: 11th July 2019 06:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2019 04:48 PM   |  A+A-

 Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

Express News Service

BENGALURU: When Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw set up Biocon, the word startup was probably not even coined. While it’s a matter of pride for her to have established perhaps the first one in the country, she says that startups need a lot more help than they get even today.

“It’s not just about giving them access to markets. People need to invest in them so they can access markets. The private sector and venture capitalists haven’t done enough,” Mazumdar-Shaw said during a free-wheeling conversation with The New Indian Express at her office in Electronics City.  

Her ideas are forthright, and she knows well that her ‘calling a spade a spade’ attitude does not go down well with many. But at the heart of it lies the passionate intensity with which she feels about Bengaluru, a city she calls “very cosmopolitan”.  “We’re too strong as citizens. Anyone trying to make it into a conservative city, won’t survive,” she said.

The biotech pioneer, who has championed several infrastructure and civic issues in the city, including the revival of Hebbagodi Lake, is certain that she does not have an interest in entering politics. “I don’t subscribe to any single ideology,” she said, adding that she engages with the political eco-system only in an effort to ensure better governance.

And one of her contributions towards bringing about a change in governance is through the B.PAC Civic Leadership Incubator Program (B.CLIP), an initiative by Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) to create civic leaders. “I am so impressed with the women participants. Some of them have cleaned upwards, are planting trees, creating flower beds, looking for black spots,” said the B.PAC president. 
Re-designing junctions can cut traffic jams

Mention the city’s infrastructure woes, and it becomes evident that Mazumdar-Shaw is brimming with ideas to improve the situation. She, however, expresses disappointment that Church Street did not turn the way it was conceptualised - as a walking street. “BBMP should have never allowed traffic on that road. Church street has only 16 parking spaces. For the sake of that, the pedestrian value of the street is being destroyed,” she said. 

Nonetheless, she’s got several suggestions to solve the city’s traffic problems, especially at hubs like Silk Board, Cauvery junction, Marathalli junction and Adugodi road, which need to be re-designed. “We have found that the jams take place in the peripheral regions. The traffic gridlock happens on Hosur Road, but as soon as you enter CBD, the traffic eases. The elevated roads should be only for peripheral regions coming into CBD, which does not have to be touched. I feel that only the north-south corridor coming into the city needs to be realigned,” she says.  

Decentralise BBMP

To improve efficiency and accountability, Mazumdar-Shaw suggests that the corporators of the 198 wards, forming eight zones, should come together zone-wise to elect their chairman, who would become the chief corporator.

“From the government side, a zonal commissioner can be appointed. If you have a zonal commissioner and a chairman of the council who can work together for that zone, then money can be allocated for all the zones,” she said.

“Autonomy can be granted to use that money for improving the zone. Then we can have the competitive federalism that we are trying at the centre,” she added, talking about the template of how BBMP should be decentralised.

“The BBMP commissioner and mayor can meet the zonal commissioners and council heads twice a year. Let the zonal commissioners hold monthly meetings. That way Bengaluru would be much better governed,” she suggested. 

The digitalisation of rural healthcare 

While she has managed to put her company on the global map, Mazumdar-Shaw points out that the biggest problem in India is not having a health map of the country, since data hasn’t been collected and mined. Which is where she hopes the eLAJ clinics, an effort by Biocon to digitise primary healthcare, would turn the needle. While 25 eLAJ clinics are operational in Karnataka, they are also present in Northeast India. The project also saw major success in Rajasthan under the leadership of Vasundara Raje Scindia, says Mazumdar-Shaw, calling the former chief minister “tech-savvy”. 

“When we adopted government primary healthcare centres, they were defunct, with hardly any doctors coming in. Now, the diagnostics are tech-enabled, with labs having Bluetooth connectivity. We collect real-time data about patients. We used to have 10-20 footfalls a day when we started, and the number has gone up to 200-250 now. Our aim is to demonstrate how technology can be used to change the health care and education paradigm,” she said.

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