It isn’t easy for a hardcore engineer to, drift into healthcare. For Vikram Vuppala it was a long-cherished dream to establish a business and he filtered out numerous options to launch kidney care centres
Every business takes birth from a dream — one that has been nurtured through childhood and pursued relentlessly till it is realised. This is exactly how Vikram Vuppala, co-founder, NephroPlus, a chain of kidney care centres, scripted his success story. For him, it was always about establishing a business and making an impact in the industry.
“I always dreamt of establishing my own business. After I completed my high school, I decided to set up a business. I graduated in Chemical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur and did my MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business to realise my dream,” says Vikram.
The idea to launch this chain of kidney care centres took seed in 2008, while Vikram was serving various hospitals in the health care industry. “Back in the US, kidney care centres are highly organised and consolidated with chains having more than 1500 units. I wanted to bring this same concept to India and make it successful,” he says.
For someone who had lived for more than a decade in the land of million dollar dreams (US), was it easy making the shift back to his homeland? “There are two main reasons I decided to move back to India. First, I am an only child and I want to live with my parents. Second, I want to give something in return to my country which gave me everything. I received quality and subsidised education for Rs 1,000 a year from IIT. I want to serve my homeland by creating jobs and create an impact on the kidney health care sector,” says this passionate businessman.
NephroPlus is co-founded by Kamal Shah and G Sandeep with an initial investment of Rs 1 crore and the first centre was set up in Banjara Hills. “I raised the funds by investing my life time savings. Three other friends in the US also pitched in. The two rounds of angel funding is supported by Prabha Sinha, an IIT Karaghpur alumnus, living in USA. The company also raised venture capital investment from Bessemer Venture Partners to expand to 100 clinics in next three to four years,” says Vikram.
What really sets NephroPlus apart from other health care centres, says Vikram, is the value addition offered to its clients. “NephroPlus offers quality treatment at 30-40 per cent less cost, compared to corporate hospitals. The patient is treated like a friend in the hospital, we even address to them as guests. We
celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries and even give them cards. It’s personalised. It is all about building relationships and trying to create a healthy environment in our health care centres. We also conduct an annual event — Asha — where around 500 patients participate and play games,” he says.
While most people may be obsessed with reaching targets and reaping profits, Vikram believes otherwise. “The group is not looking at margins for the next three years, but to build a brand and increase the volumes. It is working at very thin margins as of now but it will increase in the future. But at any time, the service offered would be 30 per cent cheaper than corporate hospitals,” says Vikram.
Each centre will get a cash break even in a year and the complete breakeven would take three to four years due to lower margins. The group is aiming to launch 100 centres that include 15-20 centres in Andhra Pradesh and 5-10 centres in other states. The company is currently focussing on all major cities and towns in South India.
While his work might be his passion, Vikram also loves his travel. His favourite holiday destinations include Alaska and New Zealand, while back home it is the peaceful backwaters of Alapuzha in Kerala and the azure waters of the Andaman and Nicobar islands that steal his heart.
Although his work takes up most of his time, Vikram makes it a point to catch up with his wife in his free time. “I don’t get to spend too much time with my wife because of my busy travel schedule,” says this businessman who also likes to turn to Facebook during a break at work to catch up with friends.
Unlike most others, Vikram is not too brand conscious. It is quality that wins over labels for this down-to-earth lad.
Age: 35 years
Secondary School: Oxford Grammar School, Himayat Nagar.
Senior Secondary: St. Mary’s Junior College
Graduation: Chemical engineering, IIT, Kharagpur
Post-Graduation: Masters in Computer Science from University of Illinois
MBA, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
Experience: Strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company in US.
Founded an internal management consulting group, Abbott
Business analyst at ZS Associates, USA
Founded: NephroPlus, a chain of Kidney Care Clinics in Dec 2009 It has seven centres in various cities of South India and plans to launch 100 centres across the country
Hobbies: Watches Simpsons on Star World Adventure sports like Sky diving and rollerblading