Raju Venkataraman, managing director & CEO, Medall Healthcare Private Limited, is telling me that an ultra-sound test is the safest and cheapest diagnostic tool available, but there are not enough people available to do it. In India, only doctors and qualified professionals handle ultra-sound while most other countries train high-school graduates. This is one of the many frustrations the MD of Medall (Medicine for all) faces in his quest to provide premier healthcare services for the diagnostic and radiology imaging requirements of a diverse range of customers. “Would the IT revolution have happened if the government had insisted that only computer engineers can work in the industry?” he asks.
I am meeting Raju for dinner at the Royal Vega restaurant at the ITC Grand Chola, which is next-doors from his office. He is a serial entrepreneur who lived the American dream but never lost sight of his desire to give back to his country. He started two companies in the BPO space, scaled them up and sold them. Now he is all charged up, providing affordable healthcare, particularly in tier-II to tier-VI cities. “It is not a non-profit venture,” he says. We have just been served rasam flavoured with cumin seeds and curry leaves. Royal Vega promises a luxurious vegetarian dining experience. It has a special thali which represents the six flavours of South Indian food. The next round has banana flower vadais and crispy fried okra in yogurt.
Raju graduated from IIT, Madras in 1981 in chemical engineering. He opted not to go the US to pursue further studies, unlike most of his peers did. After getting his MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad, he landed his dream job in Cadbury, recruited as a management trainee. This was when Cadbury was trying to enter the fruit drink market with its apple-based drink, Apela. He created a system for buying apples, which was a seasonal fruit. He learnt about milk distribution as Cadbury had a 1,000-cows farm for its milk needs. “We needed more milk. In trying to source milk, I could see people setting up dairy farms and getting organised. I actually saw the White Revolution coming.”
In 1985, Raju got a US Green Card through his sister living in the US and decided to move there. “The prospect didn’t really excite me. Cadbury had kept me busy. My career was taking off. However, I was disillusioned with the India of the