Ramalinga Raju's family gets back into business

Promoted by Sandhya Raju, daughter-in-law of the founder of Satyam Computer, the new venture CallHealth is being positioned as a supermarket of healthcare services.

Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju (Source: Reuters) Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju (Source: Reuters)

For the family of Ramalinga Raju, the last few years have been tough to say the least. But it seems the family is now turning a new leaf, with the launch of a new company. The new venture, CallHealth, is being positioned as a supermarket of healthcare services, a first-of-its-kind healthcare services aggregator. The company is promoted by Sandhya Raju, daughter-in-law of B Ramalinga Raju, the founder of Satyam Computer.

Speaking to Business Today, Hari Thalapalli, the newly appointed CEO, says, "this model is a mix of virtual and real and involving mobility with people actually coming home to a patient with a range of services being offered from e-consultation with a pick up and drop to places where he or she needs to go for a checkup." Asked about the founding of the company and the role of Ramalinga Raju in it, Thalapalli, says, it has been made amply clear to him that Ramalinga Raju "has no money in this and no role or official position in this venture." Incidentally, Thalapalli was among the handful of people who played, what some call, the 'midwife role' in the transition from Satyam Computer to Tech Mahindra following Ramalinga Raju's exit.

The services to be offered by CallHealth at home include doctor consultation, diagnostic tests, delivery of medicines, professional homecare services (like nursing and physiotherapy) and these can be booked through a phone call, website and a mobile app.

Thalapalli says this is a first of its kind in the world because "to our understanding there is no player who does an integrated play-virtual and physical-across all services ever." CallHealth, he says, has so far invested Rs 60 crore and has hired a team of 900 people and is targeted at urban India. "Urban India, with 400 million people, is the target universe we are going after. That would be a population across all the key metros and large towns in India." In terms of roll out, he says, "we intend to launch in Hyderabad by last week of September and in a year from then cover all the metros and within a year thereafter all the spokes around each metro like now in Hyderabad and later taking it to regions like Vijayawada, Vizag and Warangal in Andhra and Telangana. All of these in about 24 months." Regarding the business model, Thalapalli adds, "Our charges to the patient for the specialist or the service will be the same as the rate in the market. The incremental cost of going across and servicing the patient is going to be addressed through volumes that we are bringing in." Explaining the same, he says: "With our partners such as medical diagnostic firms, hospitals, imaging centres and wellness centres we have a back to back arrangement and get a discount because we are doing volumes for them....the way we are positioning ourselves is we are not like others healthcare providers that connect the dots and say get you in touch with a doctor, we are about enhancing the dots."

Thallapalli, known to many within the industry as Hari, has been with Satyam Computer and later with Tech Mahindra for about 17 years. He left Tech Mahindra as its global head, consulting and enterprise solution and chief marketing officer. Earlier, he used to lead the HR function at Satyam.

He says Sandhya Raju, who is the daughter of P. R. Venketrama Raja, the Ramco vice chairman and managing director (she is also Ramalinga Raju's second son Rama Raju's wife), has been quite passionate about this initiative. A Kuchipudi dancer, she fractured her leg about three years ago and during repeated visits to the hospital, she felt the need for a healthcare provider like CallHealth that could offer healthcare services at the doorstep of a patient in times of need other than emergencies. Also, he says, Sudhakar Nukala, who played an important role in the setting up of the 108 ambulance services by Ramalinga Raju, has been taken on board as the president and COO.

Reacting to the launch of CallHealth, Vishal Bali, the co founder and chairman of Medwell Ventures, which offers speciality home healthcare services, tells Business Today:"Initiatives like CallHealth are good for the rise of entrepreneurship in healthcare and for all of us who have created new models, will have to target long term sustainability and consistent improvisation."