When Vikram Vuppala stumbled upon Kamal Shah’s blog in 2008, he was amazed. Shah, who had been on dialysis for well over a decade at that point, had mapped out the pain points of the entire dialysis sector in meticulous detail. Both chemical engineers by training, Vuppula, a management consultant with McKinsey in the US at the time, reached out to Shah. In 2009, the two men founded NephroPlus, a dialysis centre chain in Hyderabad.

Nine years and 149 dialysis centres later, their conversations are still the same—how to sustainably grow the business while maintaining quality of care for patients. This is no easy task in India, a fact other players in the dialysis business can attest to. While global leaders in dialysis services like DaVita are quitting on India altogether, others like Germany-headquartered Fresenius Medical Care are not expanding.

NephroPlus is a different story. It has achieved market domination—becoming India’s largest dialysis centre network in the process—while offering low-cost services and still managing profitability.

Of about 5,000 dialysis centres that are run in hospitals, dialysis chains like NephroPlus operate about 5% of them. They offer one important advantage—a highly minimised risk of patients catching infections from each other. This is a differentiator that only dialysis chains acquired by multinational companies or funded by international agencies, and a few corporate hospitals are offering in India, says Saurav Panda, co-founder of dialysis chain Sparsh Nephrocare. Dialysis equipment giant Fresenius acquired an 85% stake in Sparsh Nephrocare in 2016.

In a country without an enforcement body to ensure the Indian Society of Nephrology’s guidelines are followed, this is vital. Especially when nearly a third of patients treated for chronic kidney diseases contract a chronic disease like Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or even HIV.

To the about 100,000 Indians on dialysis—who often have to undergo dialysis three times a week for life and constitute a mere 15 % of the patients who need dialysis—the risk is too high to ignore. Dialysis chains, therefore, are a godsend. While they do not offer a 100% assurance that diseases will not be contracted, their higher standards of care, coupled with the convenience of appointments through text message and access in all major cities gives them a leg up in a sector that is mostly unorganised. And among these chains, NephroPlus stands tallest, with the largest network of centres in the country.

Now, NephroPlus wants to take things to the next level—it wants to more than double in size, going from 149 centres to 300 by 2021. It has already raised Rs 200 crore ($27.7 million) over three funding rounds led by Bessemer Venture Partners, International Finance Corporation, and SeaLink Capital Partners, respectively.

AUTHOR

Ruhi Kandhari

Ruhi writes on the impact of healthcare policies, trends in the healthcare sector and developments on the implementation of Electronic Health Records in India. She has an M. Sc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.