According to Sandhya Raju, it was a twisted ankle three years ago that gave her the idea to launch Call Health, which is being touted as the Amazon of healthcare. “The amount of time I spent waiting at the hospital to see a doctor and then get an X-ray, really frustrated me,” says Sandhya, daughter-in-law of Satyam Computer’s founder B. Ramalinga Raju.
When you are sick or in pain, it’s frustrating to wait endlessly for medical help. As she was waiting to get help, Sandhya kept thinking that for everything else there was an online option. “My body is an investment for me as I am a classical dancer. Our health is so precious, yet I was thinking there is nothing really in India at least, where medical help is easily accessible at home.
“The things I felt I required the most were privacy, saving time and the experience of calling just one person and having everything taken care of.” Sandhya decided to explore this idea and started talking to her father P.R. Venketrama Raja, the founder of Chennai-based Ramco Systems. She also spoke to an uncle who “created something like a Facebook for patients”.
“If you fall sick in America, you can log in and see your entire history. The doctor, too, can see it and there is no miscommunication and things like that...” While there is no direct or physical involvement of B. Ramalinga Raju in this project, Sandhya admits: “He is there as an inspirational figure to me. My brother-in-law Teja Raju and husband Rama Raju are also very supportive and have been a real influence on me, especially if you look at the 108 ambulance service they founded.”
Bringing healthcare into people’s homes is her dream, but Sandhya was very clear that she didn’t have the time to do the day-to-day work because “I want to remain a dancer. Being fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy family and married into a wealthy family, I didn’t mind investing in something like this. So with the help of my dad, father-in-law, husband and brother-in-law, we put together a professional team who would run it. We have around 900 employees now.”
Call Health’s goal is to give you everything about health, preferably at home. The only instances when you will have to leave home is for surgery. “But we have this process called facilitation where the entire process, from admitting you, getting you discharged and settling insurance payments etc... will be done by us.”
How much will this service cost? “It’s simple e-com logic. Everything will be as much or less than off-line services. “We are not going to set up hospitals, diagnostics etc. The only people we will be having will be mobile health officers. The first thing that happens when someone books Call Health on the website, telephone or app, our mobile health officer comes home, checks your pulse, fever... takes all the parameters into account and passes it on to the specialist doctor. In two hours the reports and tests asked by the doctor are generated, the doctor gets the report and prescribes medicines and they come home.” The waiting period is 45 minutes but Sandhya wants it reduced to 15.
As her team gets ready to kick-start operations, Sandhya is juggling the launch and the shooting for her upcoming movie. Talking about how this happened, she says, “I have dabbled in theatre and I like to do things which compliment my existing career as a classical dancer.
“I was approached by an upcoming director, Revant. This short-film will be released on YouTube. The story is about a dancer who got married and had to give up a lot, including her dance. One day, somebody from her past comes and reminds her about her joy and how good it is to be a dancer. So she takes it upon on herself to restart her old career. After the film, I want to give a performance in Hyderabad.”
Sandhya is living her dreams at the moment, but things were not this easy, especially in 2009, when Ramalinga Raju was accused of accounting fraud. How difficult was it to ride the rough phase? “I isolated myself from the actual problem. Not to say that I am with you when things are good and don’t want to be with you when things are bad. I was not just a housewife or just a daughter-in-law. When I got married I was already a performer, already knew what I wanted to do. So that kept me going.”
Sandhya, who runs the Nishrinkala Dance Academy in Hyderabad, adds, “My dance was my lifeline, my identity as a dancer, my students... kept me going... Because of this I was able to give more strength to my family. So whenever I walked into my in-laws’ home I felt there was this bubble of happiness that I tried to give everybody. I could get that strength from the outside world.”