Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
Despite the fact that no one in her immediate family is into business, Pune resident Kanchan Naikawadi has turned out into an ace entrepreneur. She founded Indus Health Plus, a preventive healthcare company in India in 2000, against all odds and has been running the company quite efficiently. All this, thanks to her uncle (father’s brother), Sadanand Bapat, who has been her friend, philosopher and guide.
Kanchan Naikawadi, the founder and director of Indus Health Plus, pioneers in Preventive Healthcare in India is a keen businesswoman. Recipient of several national and international awards, Kanchan got the Women Entrepreneur of the Year in healthcare this year by CMO Asia. Apart from this, she has been awarded the Gold Stevie Women in Business Awards for the category of Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 in New York, Women Leadership and Innovation Awards 2013 at International Women Leadership Forum (IWLF) in Mumbai, Asia’s Leading Women in Healthcare for Women in Leadership Award 2013 in Singapore, International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award 2012 in Barcelona and Leading Woman in Healthcare Award in 2011 in Mumbai to name a few.
Through her company, Kanchan promotes awareness about preventive healthcare and how significantly it can reduce any pain or suffering that might arise by ignoring minor health issues that might turn fatal in the future. Challenges were many but we were determined to fight and win, come what may. “My father worked with Bombay Municipal Corporation while mother has been a housewife. But my tauji (father’s elder brother) is an eminent businessman and I always looked upon him as a mentor. I worked with him initially and gained a lot of experience and wisdom from him,” she says.
Though Kanchan always wanted to be a business women, getting into preventive healthcare business was not a planned move. It was one borne out of a tragedy in her personal life. She lost her father due to late detection of cancer, and it hit her hard. “We could have saved him had the cancer been detected in time. After it was detected, we did all we could do to save him. But I realized that neither technology nor money can help you stay away from the lethal grip of lifestyle diseases like cancers, heart attack and diabetes,” she says. It was then that she decided to do something to create awareness about preventive healthcare. “Early Detection through regular preventive health check-ups is the key to lasting health and happiness,” she says. But the going was real tough.
“Though the changing role of women in business is being gradually acknowledged, the journey is still fraught with immense challenges. A woman entrepreneur faces a plethora of problems when it comes to embarking upon her own entrepreneurial venture. Banks and other financial institutions often do not consider women entrepreneurs as “serious” applicants for setting up their projects and are hesitant to provide financial assistance, especially to unmarried women,” she says.
Added to this was the challenge of coming up with an integrated model to combine the strengths of hospitals, diagnostic centers, path labs with holistic approach to deliver an affordable and comprehensive preventive health checkup to masses. Resources were hard to come by; sensitizing people about the nature of non-communicable diseases and making them aware about their faulty lifestyles which could lead to heart attack, cancer or diabetes was an uphill task.
How to go about it? was a big question before her. Believing in the maxim that charity begins at home, Kanchan decided to do begin her journey from home. “We started convincing our own extended family and friends by arranging interactive sessions with doctors,” she says. “But a major challenge for us was the sheer skepticism that people showed towards the importance of preventive health check-ups. It still is, even today,” she adds.
“When we talk of health, we talk about internal health. Most people think if they look healthy, they are healthy. Nothing can be father from truth than this,” says Kanchan. Now that she has developed excellent business acumen she is trying to teach those skills to her younger daughter. “I play cards and business game with her to inculcate business sense into her,” she says. And why her daughter alone, Kanchan says any woman can become an entrepreneur, all she needs to have is immense passion towards the work she is doing. “Taking care of the family should be on her mind but passion for her own venture should also remain. This passion will lead her to success, both personally and professionally. Don’t be afraid of taking risks, and always accept failure with a smile. Learn from the mistakes and move on. Accepting downswings and celebrating upswings should be the mantra,” she adds.
However, she feels saddened by the socialization of girls in our society which continues to have elements of repressive methods of upbringing which impacts their aspirations. “Devoting the required amount of time and energy to start and grow a business is often held against the time spent conducting the duties towards the family. This fosters feelings of guilt and stress in a women entrepreneur and often prevents her from focusing on the activities required for sustaining an entrepreneurial venture,” puts in Kanchan.
The ace businesswoman loves to travel and likes listening to music and sometimes play piano too. And while video games have many detractors, Kanchan is a great advocate of Bakery, a video game. “It is a great stress-buster and has all the nuances of how to run a business. Throughout the day, I am completely occupied with meetings and conversations with my teams and there’s hardly time to do any planning or business strategizing; so all learning happens through this videogame,” she says. “I started playing Bakery a couple of years back and I can see a visible difference in myself now, differences with regards to change in my decision making, approach, planning and strategizing, etc. I have become more patient also. So, in a good way this game has brought a change in way I see, I perceive,” she adds.