The most common characteristics of a social entrepreneur are that of a visionary, dreamer or an innovator. This story is about humility. Of an entrepreneur who has worked more than 20 years in the corporate sector, impacted more than 1,000,000 people and got different awards but remains one of the most humble people that I have ever met. This story is about K. Chandrasekhar, CEO and Founder of Forus.
Forus is an innovation led social enterprise that is creating affordable technologies to solve healthcare issues. Currently they mainly focus on fighting preventable blindness through 3nethra, an intelligent pre-screening Ophthalmology device, that is sold to clinics and hospitals. 3nethra is helping to fight an important problem: 12 million people in India are blind (that’s the 25% of the world’s blind) and 80% of these cases are avoidable. But there are very few ophthalmologists in the country to solve this issue: ophthalmologist to patient ratio is 1:60000 and that’s much worse in rural areas. 3nethra is able to detect the 5 major elements of blindness and help solve those problems.
Some years ago, KC was a very successful employee. He worked for over 20 years in business development and operations management for major software companies handling customers and partners in the USA, Europe, Asia and Middle East. He was director of strategy at NXP, and together with Shyam Vasudev, who was director of technology of Philips innovation campus, started to think about a product that could change the Indian preventive healthcare system. They stumbled on the problem of preventable blindness and the negative impact that it was having on the community. “That was the motivation for us to move forward,” says KC.
They focused on getting to know the best way to solve the problem. “Just by understanding the problem very clearly, you can have a perfect solution,” tells KC. Understanding the problem took a few years, but by 2009, KC decided to quit his job to start Forus. One year later, Shyam also quit his job and joined him.
Product Launch and Innovations
After 2 years of product development 3nethra was ready, but the innovation was just beginning. “Once you start a product you need to continuously keep innovating, improving the quality, the user interface, adding more features. It is an on-going project,” says KC. Their product can be used in clinics, in hospitals and in outreach program that’s helping them to bring their product to more and more people every year.Obviously they have different targets and that require different kind of innovation.
Another important aspect of product relates to the service providers that each product has. “The ecosystem is just evolving and there are not great service providers. That’s a challenge and as a country we need to work together to solve it,” says KC.
Their company is a mix of a lot of characteristics like innovation, scalability and social impact. But for KC the most important thing is how you answer the question: how are you solving a social problem. ”We don’t want to be innovative just to be innovative. If this is not solving a problem, it doesn’t have any sense,” says KC. It’s important to have a direction, but in a social enterprise it is way more important to keep in mind the social impact that you are trying to get.
Future and Vision
Forus is still a start up with a lot of new projects ready to be launched, “We will launch two new models, that are expected to come next year, and we are also launching a completely new platform for premature babies,” proudly affirms KC. Moreover the company is looking at other problems and other areas to try to find appropriate solutions for them.
In 5 years, KC dreams that his company is seen by people as a company that is creating innovation, that is implementing healthcare solutions in other countries and that is having a great value among his stakeholders. Most importantly Forus needs to be known for his ethical and integrity approach that brings them to be famous for their social impact.Currently the company is impacting over 1 million people in 10 different countries thanks to 200 installations of their product, but their aim is to reach at least 20 million people in the next 3 years.
Never compromise on integrity
The example of KC’s humility came out when we asked him to give advice to other social entrepreneurs and he said – “I don’t think I have done something great to give advice to people, I’m just a beginner”. And then he adds “The only thing that I can say is: be honest and keep integrity high. It will be important when you will not have money and you will go through tough times. You should never compromise on integrity.” What surprised me was that he said this sentence very naturally, as if impacting 1 million people is something very normal. But maybe, this is his strength. Being able to think that changing the world is something normal. And he goes ahead to change it.