Patients receive treatment at a Nephroplus center © NephroPlus
Kamal Shah was a 21-year-old software developer in India when doctors diagnosed him with chronic kidney disease (CKD). A transplant failed to cure him, and he was eventually required to perform daily nocturnal home hemodialysis.
Shah’s difficulties obtaining high-quality care from the Indian healthcare system—and his commitment to make the dialysis process better for other patients—ultimately led him to found NephroPlus along with entrepreneurs Vikram Vuppala and Sandeep Gudibanda. The company is devoted to nothing less than transforming the entire dialysis industry in India.
Because Shah was a dialysis patient himself, he knew firsthand what NephroPlus customers needed: services that would allow them to lead full, productive lives, provided at an affordable cost.
From the start, NephroPlus, an IFC client, wanted to do more than offer dialysis: it aimed to be a corporate role model that facilitated improvements throughout the health-care supply chain. When the company was created in 2010, there were few high-quality dialysis service providers in India, and the market was insufficiently regulated. Often, negligent clinical processes and infection protocols caused high rates of cross infection, with more than a third of dialysis recipients at risk of contracting a chronic viral disease such as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, or HIV.
So NephroPlus focused on identifying processes it could implement that would ultimately demonstrate how all providers could raise quality standards. To deliver high-quality and affordable services, ranging from hemodialysis to kidney transplant services, the company started designing, building, and operating low-cost centers established through partnerships with private and public hospitals or as standalone facilities.
It also worked to bring prices down, to serve more low-income people. At roughly $25 per treatment, NephroPlus prices are up to 50 percent lower than those offered by large hospitals in India. The company also began to register its centers with the government, so patients that could not afford treatment even at a reduced price could use public insurance to cover their costs.
Patient-centered care was an equally important goal for NephroPlus. Having undergone lengthy treatment sessions, Shah knew that even incremental changes to service delivery could go a long way toward making a dialysis patient feel better. So NephroPlus developed a care philosophy in which all patients were treated as guests, and offered comfortable dialysis experience with safe and painless treatment. The company offers pick-up and drop-off transport service, to make treatment more affordable and reduce patients’ dependence on family members. It also provides dietary counseling and patient support groups to promote mental health.
NephroPlus is today the largest provider network of dialysis services in India with 75 centers in 50 cities in 15 states across the country. It provides about 50,000 dialysis treatments per month.
All of these ideas were new and much-needed in India, where rates of CKD are rising, especially in rural areas. One research study on CKD in India notes “an urgent need” for strategies to counter the increasing vulnerability of the Indian population, and another report calls CKD India’s “silent epidemic.”
The private sector is increasingly being asked to play a role as health-care provider, and IFC helps facilitate that role. In NephroPlus’ case, in 2014 the company raised $10 million, including $7 million from IFC and an additional $3 million from Bessemer Venture Partners. This was IFC’s first health-care venture capital investment in South Asia and the first from IFC’s $250 million Early Stage Investment Program. IFC was a long-term supporter, investing an additional $3 million in 2016.
The investments in NephroPlus were part of IFC’s broader health-care sector strategy, both globally and in India, which aimed to overcome obstacles to the development of accessible and affordable healthcare facilities. It was Shah’s first desire as a dialysis patient—and with IFC’s support NephroPlus is delivering more comprehensive, comfortable, and affordable dialysis care to millions of others.
Learn more about NephroPlus in the report Built for Change: Inclusive Business Solutions for the Base of the Pyramid
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Published in September 2016