Kamal Shah knows it well what it means to suffer kidney complications. He has been on dialysis for over 15 years. But looking at this 36-year-old energetic man, you will not know about his medical condition. Instead, his enthusiasm will tell you why Shah has been successful in launching a chain of kidney care centres, NephroPlus, which runs across three states. Along with his entrepreneur friends, G Sandeep and Vikram Vuppala, and an initial investment of Rs one crore, this chain was launched in 2010. There was no looking back after that. So far, the start-up has treated 1,000 patients and conducted 50,000 dialysis sessions across its 12 centres.
“We share a passion for shaping and improving dialysis care in India. Right at the beginning, we realised that besides the quality renal care, patients require motivation. Interactions with other patients and sharing notes on coping with the ailment are among the few ways to keep up their morale. And so the Hyderabad Kidney Foundation was formed,” says Vuppala, an IIT-Kharagpur alumnus who holds an MBA degree from Booth School of Business, Chicago. The Hyderabad Kidney Foundation (HKF), a non-profit organisation, serves as a platform for people with kidney disease to come together and support each other.
Dialysis saves the lives of people with advanced kidney disease; without it, the toxins in their blood would quickly overwhelm their organs and kill them. But the treatment comes with a price. The lengthy sessions, lasting three to four hours, to cleanse the blood must be done three times a week and patients must adhere to strict diets while battling fatigue and life-threatening medical problems. “India now accounts for one million kidney failure patients with only five percent of them having access to dialysis,” Vuppala says. From his own experience, Shah had realised that the quality renal care in India is either inaccessible or is not professionally managed. So, the idea to offer a well-managed renal care chain germinated. “Kamal himself requires dialysis, and that makes the idea more effective. He knows exactly what a patient goes through,” adds Vuppala.
Talking about their first centre, Shah says, “Setting up our first centre was quite tough because of various reasons that included patient adoption, doctor adoption, recruiting talent and red tape.” But with their announced plan of setting up 100 units in various states, NephroPlus is “getting better,” he adds. The centre has introduced a Zero Infection Kit that eliminates the possibility of an infection leading to Hepatitis C. “Due to the unprofessional way the treatment is handled, many of them fall prey to deadly cross infections and die,” says Shah.
“NephroPlus focuses only on dialysis care for patients and works on a day-care model, unlike the traditional model of in-hospital dialysis wards,” says Sandeep. “With 12 centres, ours is an amazing growth story for kidney care in India. The company has also raised venture capital from Bessemer Venture Partners,” informs Vuppala. The aim of the chain is to help kidney patients live life normally. So, apart from regular activities, the HKF conducts an annual event called Aashayein–Let’s Celebrate Life, a fun-filled day for dialysis patients which attended by more than 300 people last year.