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Published on: April 28, 2021, 12:38 p.m.
The Renal Project offers kidney care in the neighbourhood
  • Moddhia: we plan to set up a thousand centres, pan-India

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

A survey published in 2016 by the late Arun Jaitley had estimated a deficiency of about 34 million dialysis sessions in the country. But, sadly, India seems to be waking up to healthcare only when the problem reaches the up-to-the-neck level. And most of the non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and kidney trouble, have been relegated to the backburner during these corona times.

But the fact that, in India, nearly 250,000 people die every year due to kidney-related issues, should have been an eye opener by now. Estimates reveal that about 10 per cent of the population suffer from kidney diseases and this obviously hits productivity. Patients with chronic kidney diseases (CKD) require dialysis, which is not easily accessible in small towns and even the peripheries of big cities. Though big brand hospitals exist in metros, they are out of reach for most of the common people. This category of patients depends on small 15-20 bed hospitals. This is where micro centres such as The Renal Project come into play.

“A majority of the patients have to travel 25-100 km to reach dialysis centres – that too twice or thrice a week,” says Shashank Moddhia, co-founder, The Renal Project. “And, that is criminal, considering the pains involved.” 

Moddhia, who has a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas, had worked for 10 years with various corporate entities, such as GE Healthcare, Philips and finally with Baxter, which makes kidney care products. In his last job at Baxter as Regional Quality Manager, Asia Pacific region, Moddhia realised that, while other countries are modernising kidney patient care, India is still struggling to make enough dialysis centres available to the kidney patient population. So, he quit his lucrative MNC job to launch the start-up.

Accessible kidney care

Incubated by the NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission, The Renal Project was the result of a quest to address the rapidly growing crisis of unavailability of affordable dialysis in the country that claims millions of lives every year. Each micro-centre is a three-bed facility with capacity to treat about 25 patients. “We started with the mission to revolutionise the availability and delivery of dialysis therapy to the ever-increasing population of kidney patients,” informs Moddhia. “Our vision is that no one should need to travel 50 km to get the life-sustaining therapy of dialysis every 2-3 days, spending time and energy travelling and increasing risk of infection, fatigue and stress,” he explains.

“The Renal Project is a unique 2-3 bed micro-centre model that can penetrate into Tiers I, II, III cities and drastically improve the accessibility of dialysis for kidney patients,” adds Moddhia. The project, which started with one centre at Borivali, Mumbai, in May 2019, has now set up units at 20 places in the outskirts of Mumbai-Pune-Nashik-Thane. “Even orthopaedic/gynaecology nursing homes can offer dialysis at their premises, thereby serving patients with accessible kidney care,” he says.

  • The Renal Project is a unique 2-3 bed micro-centre model that can penetrate into Tiers I, II, III cities and drastically improve the accessibility of dialysis for kidney patients

“During the Covid pandemic, between April and September 2020, the start-up chose to forget its bottomline and focussed on opening new centres and expanding, to serve as many kidney patients as possible”, says Jitesh Pednekar, operations head,The Renal Project. That was also the time when most hospitals were being converted into dedicated Covid centres. 

The Renal Project too opened dialysis centres for Covid patients. Gopal Shetty, Lok Sabha member, who visited The Renal Project’s Covid Dialysis Centre at Borivali, appreciated the facility and said this was a much-needed service for kidney patients during these trying times.

During the incubation under Atal Innovation Mission, The Renal Project had raised Rs25 lakh. Subsequently, it raised Rs2.5 crore from angel investors and opened nine dialysis centres during the lockdown – expanding and catching up with the growing need for dialysis. “Remember, each dialysis session gives a patient 10 more days of life,” says Moddhia. 

The project has both direct and indirect economic benefits, as it recruits large number of skilled and semi-skilled local workers. This healthcare and patient care skills can be easily taught, learned and put to effective use. “Going forward, we want to promote female nurse training programme and create pool of certified dialysis technicians,” he says. 

“Today, we have 20 centres and we plan to set up a thousand centres, pan-India,” affirms Moddhia, but he rules out the franchisee model. “It’s not a coffee shop chain,” he quips. “Dialysis requires total care – from patient handling to even the 100 per cent pure water that it consumes.”

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