Reviving the family doctor

In this special segment with STW, we meet some incredible dreamers, who decided they did not just want to sit around and wait for something to happen to them, but took matters into their own hands. It’s not easy following a passion, it comes with a lot of risk and sacrifice. We hear from some folks, about what makes this all worth it. We speak to young entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals, who made a brave decision to solve a problem. Read on for this ‘Ode to Entrepreneurs’.

‘NationWide brings back your family doctor’. India’s pioneering chain of family physician and paediatric clinics that aims to revolutionise the way primary care is delivered in the community. STW speaks to the extremely motivated founders and management team members – Dr. Santanu Chattopadhyay and Dr. Shantanu Rahman, on their venture. Having had extensive careers, they cultivated the skills and know-how to create an impactful business and solution, that has the potential to cause immense positive change in India.

STW: Tell us about the idea behind NationWide? How did this all begin?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: The idea actually came to me when I was working in the NHS in the UK. Like most doctors out of medical school in India, I went through the usual drill. I did my MD in Internal Medicine from PGIMER, Chandigarh and then moved to the UK to complete my MRCP and training in Gastroenterology at the Barts and London Medical School. Comparing healthcare in the UK with that in India, I realized both places were more or less equal in terms of clinical expertise, infrastructure and technology. What was lacking in India was a strong primary care system. In the West, all those countries that have invested heavily in primary care – Scandinavian countries, UK, a lot of the other European countries – have fantastic health indicators. But countries that have not focused on primary care – the US and India – are lagging behind in health indicators.

I realized that if we have to kick-start world-class primary care in India, we have to bring the family doctor back into business. But before that I had to learn how to start and run a business. I did an MBA at INSEAD in France, took up a marketing position with Johnson & Johnson. Back in India after 10 years abroad, I joined a start-up company called Indegene Lifesystems, set up a completely new business vertical for them, grew it from 2 to 100 people in 3 years – several million dollars’ worth of business and then decided I am now ready to take up the challenge – reviving the family doctor in a new avatar.

Dr Shantanu Rahman: I met Santanu in the first year of our medical school together at Calcutta National Medical College. A few years later, we found ourselves on the same flight to UK. I decided to take up training in General Practice and in the next couple of years moved on to take over as GP Principal and Managing Partner at the Waterfield Practice in Bracknell. But after almost a decade of living and working outside India, I wanted to get back to my roots and incidentally, reached out to Santanu for some friendly advice. He knew I was also looking to apply my learning in the NHS to build something of value here. So when he suggested that we should build a new primary care delivery system and revive the family doctor concept, it was exactly what I wanted to do.

STW: As an organization fulfilling an important need, tells us what your experiences with customers have been?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: Customers have been our biggest champions. Over the last few decades as the Family Doctors have gone out of fashion, customers have very little choice but to go to corporate hospitals even for small and day-to-day illness. Often these lead to unnecessary investigations and over treatment and increase the cost of healthcare by manifold. In our experience we see that customers fully understand this but have little choice. We get a lot of requests from within and outside Bangalore asking us to open a clinic in their neighborhood as they badly feel the need for this service. The demand is huge for such a service.

STW: A business is more a journey than a destination, what is your belief on this? How does one ensure keeping the course and staying on track?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: One should have the end-goal very clear. However, the path to this goal might change depending on the circumstances. It’s like let’s say I am going to Koramangala (a very busy area in Bangalore city) and there is lot of traffic. I might decide to come out of my car and start walking but what you don’t do is change the destination. On the other hand if your end goal was to actually see a movie which is running in a theatre in Koramanagala, you might decide to go to MG road to see the same movie in another theatre. That’s why it is very important to fix you vision and mission early in the business and one should inculcate a culture around them so that you don’t drift away from your goal. However the journey must be enjoyable as well and should allow you to reach your destination within a time-frame.

STW: What do you believe is the most important element of starting a business – the right idea? a good team? Great vision and passion?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: I think all three are equally important.

STW: Your journey’s best moments till date?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: To receive VC funding from a top-tier US venture capital firm, as this is a third-party endorsement of the fact that we are on the right path. As you know VCs do a thorough assessment of a business, so getting them to back you means a lot and it bolsters your confidence.

Brands Academy Award Ceremony 2011

STW: What does the future look like for NationWide?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: Currently, NationWide operates 16 primary care clinics across Bangalore. With the recently closed venture capital funding from Norwest Venture Partners, we plan to open a total of 120 clinics in Bangalore in the next 18 months to 2 years. About 20 of these will be hub clinics, which are full service clinics, while the rest 100 will be satellite clinics operating out of corporate offices and large-gated communities. After consolidating in Bangalore, we then plan to move on to the other tier-1 and tier-2 cities across India.”

Dr Shantanu Rahman: I feel NationWide has a very bright future. The overwhelming support and positive feedback we are getting from our customers clearly reflects the high quality family doctor services we provide. Our goal is to make sure we continue to provide the same high quality, even when we grow beyond Bangalore and become a pan-India primary care provider.

STW: Your advice to young or first generation entrepreneurs?

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay: If you are passionate about an idea which essentially solves problem for a large number of people, go for it. However make sure you have the right team and prepare and plan well before you jump into it.

STW thanks the great folks at NationWide, for making this interview happen! This story is sure to inspire many of us into action.


About Shruti Bharath

Social entrepreneur and developmental writer, passionate about creating workable solutions in the areas of improving employability of youth and women through skill enhancement/training and generation of productive and sustainable employment opportunities.

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