Sujay Santra’s mission to provide an innovative healthcare service system to rural areas
Friday, October 4, 2013
Would you have the courage to leave behind a comfortable life in big MNC to chase a dream full of uncertainties? That’s exactly what Sujay Santra, the founder of iKure, did. Unhappy with the way his life was going, he resigned from Oracle – one of the biggest software and hardware systems companies – and got into his own business. “Although I had a very decent and satisfying life, I had an identity crisis. I asked ‘Where do I see myself in five, ten years down the line?” and the vision forward was not very satisfying. Then I started to think about how could I change many people’s lives; it triggered something in me and I started to feel I needed to do something”.
The reply came after a short trip from Kharagpur to Habra in 2009, when Sujay was still working for Oracle. Wearing his usual formals, he boarded the vendor’s wagon on a local train, loaded with vegetables, chickens and baskets. The place was full, messed up, and Sujay found himself sandwiched between hundreds of people, trying to stretch his hand just to hold on something. Having reached the station after two hours and taking a taxi to the countryside, he met around 50 locals aiming to introduce a new technology, so they could use it as an interface to connect rural places to the hospital. They said “If you can really do this it would be great”, and Sujay could see tears in their eyes. Going back home that day, he felt as having met a new purpose in life. “Even though I was extremely tired, sweaty and fully messed up, I was satisfied from within. I knew that doing it would be an uphill task, but if we could do this it would be extremely gratifying. It was obviously my destiny and I wasn’t thinking of the consequences”.
In India, nearly 600 million poor in rural and urban areas do not have access to quality health care that is affordable. Overall healthcare expenditure in India is amongst the lowest globally at 4%, less than half of the global average of 9.7%. Furthermore, less than 10% of India’s population has any form of health insurance cover and for those living in remote areas, total healthcare cost is much higher. In case of any primary healthcare requirement, a rural worker has a couple of options: go to a local clinic which have uncertified doctors with limited medicine knowledge; or go to Burdwan District in West Bengal. But having to walk more than 20 km and maybe find that doctors are not available was a gamble.