Why India is not selling its Healthcare Assets Under National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) 2021?

National Monetisation Plan 2021


On 23 August 2021 the government announced a National Monetisation Pipeline of INR 6 tn, (~2.6% of GDP), aimed at monetising its brownfield infrastructure to fund greenfield ones. Most of these projects will be concentrated in the roads, railways, and power sectors and no monetisation of India’s healthcare assets. NMP provides the guide to funding the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) announced by the Finance Minister on 31 December 2019. I had written an article on the NIP giving my observations and feedback on the NIP with respect to healthcare (see below).

National Monetisation Plan 2021 Sector Wise
National Monetisation Plan Sector-Wise

Why is Healthcare Assets Monetisation not Under NMP?

It has been clearly apparent from the Covid 19 pandemic the clear shortages in the bed supply whenever there was a spike in the Covid cases. The private sector just did not have the capacity to manage the situation, burdening the Government and its healthcare resources to step up. I had warned about the gross under supply of beds in my critique to the NIP, “As per one of our investment thesis on healthcare infra in India, to meet the global norms of 3 beds per 1000 population India needs an investment of $200 billion by 2025. This is approximately the total NIP projected across all the infra sectors. The current NIP shows a committed pipeline of $2.5 billion which is only through Center and State Governments. A gap of 99% of what needs to be invested for India to meet global norms for healthcare infra supply! Unlike roads which is hogging over 80% of NIP’s committed investments, healthcare infra is gestational. Therefore, there is a weak and lagging healthcare infra investment in India leading to demand gaps.” These concerns that I had voiced have come out to be true during the Covid pandemic. The issue here is not about how much to invest in healthcare infrastructure but the issue of would the Government want a political turmoil now to sell off its healthcare assets out. More importantly, for the monetization of healthcare assets, there are other regulatory and tax issues for the Government to iron out to be ready for this sector’s assets to be monetized.

I believe that it has been a prudent move by the Government to exclude healthcare out from the NMP.


National Infra Pipeline (NIP) – Where is the Healthcare Infra Connectivity like Roads for the Masses? (Published in Jan 2020 in VC Circle)


Over the last few months of 2019, the Government through various Ministries and industry bodies and Political Forum have tried to reach out to investors in healthcare infra to compile the pipeline of investments that are at various stages of implementation. This report was announced by the Finance Minster on 31 Dec 2019. We congratulate the Ministry of Finance in coming forward with the efforts in reaching out various stakeholders and sets the focus and discussions back on the economy.

While the report recognizes the fact that various mechanisms need to be put into place to debottleneck and fast track the investment process into infrastructure to meet our goals of a $5 trillion Indian economy by 2025 and be the second biggest economy in the world by 2050. It also recognizes the issues relating to land reforms, which the Government dropped out in earlier regime due to political opposition, financing, regulations amongst others. As India’s dedicated healthcare infra fund, we point out some of our observations and feedback on the report with respect to developing and funding healthcare infra in India.

Indian Healthcare Infra Economics

As per one of our investment thesis on healthcare infra in India, to meet the global norms of 3 beds per 1000 population India needs an investment of $200 billion by 2025. This is approximately the total NIP projected across all the infra sectors. The current NIP shows a committed pipeline of $2.5 billion which is only through Center and State Governments. A gap of 99% of what needs to be invested for India to meet global norms for healthcare infra supply! Unlike roads which is hogging over 80% of NIP’s committed investments, healthcare infra is gestational. Therefore, there is a weak and lagging healthcare infra investment in India leading to demand gaps.

While there is a further ripple effect of this investment on the wider economy in terms of job creation, healthy and productive population amongst others which we believe will be the second order issues that can be addressed as investment flows in. The key issue here is what measures the Government and Private Sector needs to take to accelerate the pace of investments and delivery of healthcare infra to the masses like road connectivity.

Key Policies and Measures to Attract and Boost Healthcare Infra Investments from Private Sector

GST Bottlenecks on Input Side with No Pass Thrus on Output Side

Any healthcare infra investments structure whether PPP or private with asset-lite models is taxed under GST. While there is no scope for pass thrus of these costs on the output side. Several representations to the Government on correcting this anomaly have been presented at the highest levels. Unless this is corrected, private sector participation investment is only a minor aggregate to the investments.

Interest Rates YoYo Regime

RBI in its efforts to contain the inflation has not directionally provided a proper guidance of interest rates over the last few years. These changes in interest rates are difficult to model and predict for our investors both Indian and foreign. Healthcare infra investments require a stable interest rates regime.

Bank Leverage for Healthcare Infra

Over the last few years of liquidity crisis with the banking sector, healthcare infra financing like other infra financing has been deprioritized by the banking system as a whole as very high risk. Our discussions with senior leadership with various top banks does not give any confidence that the worst is over for the healthcare infra sector bank financing with many still negative with the burden of NPAs of the past. A policy to establish healthcare infra as a priority sector for bank would be in positive direction.  

Pivoting Infra Models for Delivery of Ayushman Bharat

Ayushman Bharat is a positive step in Nation’s healthcare financing and delivery. However, the last report of Niti Aayug states that around 90% of all players in India owning healthcare infra employ less than 10 employees! Seriously, are these really hospitals delivering quality care? Given the current reimbursement rates, private sector participation in the whole scheme can only be marginal or absent in their current healthcare infra operating cost base. A more innovative low-cost infra investment model needs to be developed which some players are working towards to pivot towards the requirements of Ayushman Bharat.

Monetising Existing Gun Powder of Healthcare Infra

There is an approximately $45 billion of healthcare infra assets which are sitting on the books of Central and State Governments and Private and Social Sectors. Many of these require funding for upgrading and expanding their infra. Various archaic regulations and other operations bottlenecks are preventing investments flows into these existing healthcare infra from Indian and foreign investors.

Nine Men Cannot Produce a Baby in a Month (even in a test tube)

While healthcare infra is a highly gestational business, it is dependent on supply of adequate clinical and operational manpower from the investments in the education sector. The NIP duplicates the investments in AIIMs under health and education. A similar push is required in the education sector for private sector participation.

Social Stock Exchange – A Black Swan for Healthcare Social Infra

While working on the regulations for the Social Stock Exchange (SSE) with SEBI. There are several regulations that govern the social sector in terms of ownership of land and infra that need to be streamlined for a healthy investments in social health infra. We estimate that the addressable social ventures that would qualify to be listed on the SSE would potentially deliver an annual turnover to be around $5 bn on a conservative basis from various impact investors. If the regulations are streamlined, our expectations is that this would be increased by a multiple of 3X.

In Conclusion – Our Forward Looking and Safe Harbour Statements

While the NIP is a great exercise for setting the vision and strategy for the way forward. We believe that investor confidence is still muted and the dialogue between the Government and Healthcare Infra Investors and Operators need to be urgently set up for strategizing how the current estimates in NIP for healthcare infra can be boosted 100X to meet the current deficit to Healthcare Infra Connectivity like Roads for the Masses to meet the global norms.

Covid Apartheid-Complete State-level Nationalisation of Hospitals?

Covid Apartheid

Covid Apartheid-Complete State-level Nationalisation of Hospitals?


There has been news floating on the WhatsApp on complete takeover of private and charitable hospitals by the Maharashtra Government. MAHARASHTRA TAKES CONTROL OF PRIVATE COVID HOSPITALS, FIXES DAILY RATES – The Daily Guardian. The article was published on May 7, 2021 and quotes Sudhakar Shinde, CEO, State Health Guarantee Society saying, “We have issued this order as per the suggestion of both the ministers.” This maybe a fake news as Sudhakar Shinde succumbed to Covid on Oct 10, 2020. IAS officer Sudhakar Shinde passes away in Pune due to Covid-19 | Hindustan Times

However the issue here is for debate is: Should the State Governments Nationalise Hospitals? Second issue here is the alleged hospitals charges being imposed by the private hospitals and how do we deal with it?

Private Hospitals Take Over in 2020 Wave one of Covid by State Government

As per the announcement last year in April 2020, 80% of the beds of the private and charitable hospitals in the state were taken over by the State Government for managing the first wave of Covid. As per the arrangement, the private and charitable hospital owners were free to charge their prices for the remaining as per their operating costs and charge masters. The citizens had the choice of going for treatment to the private sector on their own or request the State Government to allocate a bed in any of the hospitals in the state whether Government or Private as per the rates announced by the State Government.

Covid Apartheid-The Consumer Right of Treatment if They Choose

Last year a famous Indian Celebrity and Film star tested Covid Positive and was admitted himself and his family members to a private hospital in Mumbai. Amitabh Bachchan tests Covid-19 positive, admitted to Nanavati hospital (indiatimes.com). He had not approached the State Government for bearing his treatment costs. There was no negative media outbreak on how exorbitantly the celebrity was charged for his treatment and whether the private hospital in question chose to offer their services on their quota of beds under their management to the said celebrity free of cost, or at subsidized costs or at full price. Had the said celebrity in question chosen to request for his treatment to the State Government, he may have been admitted to Cooper Hospital or any other hospital facility that the State Health Officer (SHO) deems fit to allocate. But the said celebrity choose to deal the situation on his own and contract with the private hospital at a price which is agreed between the two parties and is mutually binding upon between the two parties. Similarly, if citizens opt for private hospitals on their own will, why should there be a hue and cry that there is a differential of prices between the State Government mandate prices for the beds being managed by the State Government in the private hospitals leveraging their infrastructure and staff and the prices being charged to the celebrities and those who can afford to pay the full price and exercise their right to treatment at a certain private hospital exercising their option to pay out of pocket or through their health insurance.

I call this Covid Apartheid. Therefore there should not be fake news escalations about the exorbitant charges. Covid emergency situation is like an SOS as like a heart attack. You have to either treat the person or if let untreated without medical intervention the person dies. So it is catastrophic. If a certain private hospital charges INR 10 lakhs for an open heart surgery and the State-level prices under various healthcare schemes is as low as INR 60,000 (in Karnataka), the real cost of which is much higher as the State Government is cross subsidizing through the tax payer’s money and budgetary support, the media should not make a mole out of nothing. It’s the choice exercised by the individual punting on his health and wealth. There cannot be an apartheid comparing the prices and the quality of services delivered. So is the Covid. The media should stop amplifying negative news about the pricing of services in the private hospitals. They are comparing apples and oranges and want an apartheid on the ability to pay and enjoy different standards and services between different classes and masses.

Dealing with Exorbitant Prices by Private Hospitals

There have been mechanisms in place for any adverse and or exorbitant prices being charged and how to escalate and settle these issues whether it is out of pocket or through a Third-Party Administrator (TPA) of the Healthcare Insurers. Let us understand that no private sector hospital in this country wants to profiteer. I agree with the media that there are rogue private hospitals who may have out of greed charged exorbitant prices playing on the situation. I too was a victim of such a private hospital when I was suffering life and death situation on a Covid like symptoms way back in 2012. However, I settled the issues through various redressal mechanisms in place including the malpractice by one of the treating doctor of the private hospital.

State Nationalisation of Private and Charitable Hospitals

Let us understand it cost over INR 1 crore to set up a hospital bed. If the State Government takes over 80% of that capacity and assuming that the state reimburses INR 10000 per day for those beds it has taken over, it would take around 6-years for the hospital to break even on their capital and operating costs. The hospital operator has bank loans and other liabilities to settle for the risk they have taken to set up the facility to treat their out of pocket and insurance customers. To offset these liabilities and daily losses on the State managed beds in their hospital, the private operator has to offset that from the remaining 20% of the beds it is free to charge whatever prices. The State Government has not taken over the proportionate liability of 80% of beds taken over. If you do the maths, it would require the private operator to charge anywhere from INR 45,000 to INR 90,000 per bed per day just to cover their costs.

We know the healthcare outcome of private sector hospitals and government hospitals. Therefore, there is a price differential. Let me give you an analogy here which is a bit far-fetched. From tomorrow the State Government says that 80% of your private wealth management will be under the Private Sector Bank will be managed like Public Sector Banks (PSU). PSU banks deliver Hindu rate of return of say 3%pa while the Private Banks deliver 15%pa on your money charging 3% fees for the wealth under management. So now you will get 3% pa return on 80% of your wealth banked while 20% of will deliver 15%pa. Will the media start writing that Private Sector Banks are earning exorbitant returns of 15%pa for the rich and the poor laborer who is banking and saving with PSU Banks is just getting 3%pa. Would you allow your personal wealth to be managed like a PSU Bank? Similarly will you allow your health to be put into PSU Hospital hands if you value it? Its your call and there is a price to pay.

We know the outcomes of Bank Nationalisation of the earlier era. Do we need to subject the healthcare sector to state nationalization?

Should We Impose Complete Lockdown Now?

Should We Impose Complete Lockdown Now?


Our Supreme Court has directed the Central and state governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events. “We would seriously urge the Central and State governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events. They may also consider imposing a lockdown to curb the virus in the second wave in the interest of public welfare,” the SC said.

Let us understand that the national lockdown in the first Chinese Wuhan Virus Wave was to create the requisite infrastructure and capacity to ensure that the country does not go into a crisis and the 7-day moving average (7DMA) of infection does not increase the stipulated doubling rate of 1 day. Moreover, the cost of lockdown to the economy for a single day of lockdown is around USD 6.0 billion (INR 45,000 crores approx).  

In the second wave, the issues are different. We have our 7DMA of infections is much lower and the doubling rate is much higher. Moreover, as the immunization drive picks up, we will see the two parameters of 7DMA and doubling rate become even more manageable.

So the issue in front of us is, should we impose a complete lockdown and for how long taking cognizance of the Supreme Court directives.

How Far Are We From the Peak in this Second Wave?

In order to arrive at a predictable view of how long should India and its states go into a lockdown and even out the daily economic losses to the country, there are several parameters which we need to consider:

  • Second Covid Wave in 12 countries before India
  • Second Covid Wave Peaks in Different States and Cities in India
  • Covid Immunisation strategy

Second Covid Wave in 12 Countries before India

we can learn from the other countries which have gone through the second wave before India. Based on the learnings from these countries, our Central and State Governments can work out a formula to impose lockdowns and unlockdowns without hurting the economic activity in the country. The table below gives out the duration of the second wave (in days) and % of population that was infected during the Second Wave:

While it is pretty apparent that each country reacted to the second wave differently. The chart below shows how effectively did each of the 12 countries manage the second wave.

Spread of the Second Wave of Chinese Wuhan Virus
Spread of the Second Wave of Chinese Wuhan Virus

 Mexico, Turkey, Israel has the second wave duration of less than 100-days, while Germany and Canada had a duration of over 200 days. The peak of the Second Wave was around 120 days (ie 4 months) as an average). The average population that was infected in these 12 countries was around 2.5%.

Second Wave
Analysis of Second Wave of Chinese Wuhan Virus Infections in the 12-Countries

This is valuable information and analysis for us to predict where India is in the second wave.

Second Covid Wave Peaks in Different States and Cities in India

Maharashtra including Mumbai was the first state to begin with the Second Wave in India. It has already seen the peak and is around the global average of around mid-point of the 120 days wave (ie. 60 days). We will see India as a country peaking by mid-June 2021, unless we solve all the infrastructure and logistical nightmares which some cities like Delhi is undergoing.

WhatsApp Image 2021 05 04 at 08.40.09
Analysis by IIT Kanpur Prof Manindra Agrawal

The other silverlining is that many other Indian cities are already in their peaks. An interesting analysis by IIT Kanpur Prof Manindra Agrawal shows.  

Covid Immunisation Strategy

As I have already written, our Covid immunisation strategy needs to be reworked. It’s not the political compulsions and broad headlines. We need to immunize over 15% of our population by Mid-May 2021 which we have not yet achieved and most likely going to miss the target for the total duration of the second wave and the imposition of nation wide lockdown durations to recede.

Therefore, the opportunity costs for the country in reducing the duration of the lockdown in the second wave is huge provided we implement our covid vaccine immunization strategy and coverage astutely. Invest, invest, invest in immunizations and make it free for all as an incentive. The rest the statistics at the end to the lockdown will reveal.

No Courts in the World Bear the Economic Outcomes of the Country based on their Judgement!


Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan, Saab Hain Covid Se Paresaan!

Mumbai Covid Second Wave


Earlier in the last decade I was part of the Healthcare Committee of Bombay First which was assisting the Maharashtra Government in the Mumbai Masterplan 2045. One of the key concerns and recommendations made by the Committee was building the healthcare infrastructure for the city, Mumbai lags behind in beds per 1000 population with several key peer Indian cities such as Gurgaon, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Alongside the shortfalls in hospital beds, there is also a shortage of healthcare professionals, equipment and infrastructure needed at various levels in the healthcare delivery supply chain. The second wave of Covid in the city has once again proved that the healthcare delivery to the Mumbai residents is again in short supply, be it beds, healthcare workers or vaccines. With the crisis looming large, the city is on the brink of a long second lockdown. Without delving into the politics and finger pointing, I want to point out the gaps.    

The Gaps in Healthcare Delivery and Covid Response in the City

Hospital Beds Shortage in Skewed Distribution Geographically

In Early 2000s, Mumbai has around as per the Bombay First report, 24,984 beds. As per the recent Mumbai Municipality report, there are 24,039 beds in 2021 in Mumbai. In other words, hospital beds have actually reduced over the last 20 years in Mumbai. It is obvious that many nursing homes have shut down as the doctor/owner have found it lucrative to monetise their nursing homes to commercial real estate. As a result, Mumbai is amongst the worst cities in India with a bed to population ratio of 1.17 beds per 1000 (as against the WHO norm of 3 beds 1000). It was 1.63 beds per 1000 in 2000. Moreover, these beds have been unevenly distributed in Mumbai. South Mumbai has around three-fourths of the total beds in the city which was the case in 2000. This means as the city expands to the suburbs, no additional bed capacity has been augmented in the last 20 years in Mumbai.

Map highlighting the Geographical Coverage of Prominent Hospitals in Mumbai

Second Covid Wave in Mumbai and Skew in Spread

As per the recent Mumbai Municipality Report on Covid, the highest increase of positive Covid Cases in the Western and Central Suburbs of the City in the last 7 days. (See the chart below). While the alarming rate of growth of covid positive cases in these wards would take less than 28 days to double the cases. As compared to 35 days as an average for Mumbai city. While the response to Covid is in the Western and Central Suburbs, the concentration of healthcare facilities is predominantly in South Mumbai. While this is leading to a lot to movement of people seeking admissions to hospitals for Covid treatment.

Spread of Covid Positive Cases in Second Wave till 8 April 2021

Action Plan for the Future

The cost of real estate in Mumbai very prohibitive for private healthcare operators to set up greenfield hospitals unless there are regulations to incentivise them. Various recommendations provided by our Committee is not been implemented on the ground. The Covid Pandemic is a wake up call for the City administrators to buckle up and bit the bullet to accelerate healthcare infrastructure in the city by our planners for the future.         

Estranged 2020 : My Song, My Life, My Way

A Day in the Life of KK

Estranged 2020 : My Song, My Life, My Way

2020: Early Warnings of Devastation

I started 2020 with a very positive outlook. Our investment heatmaps were indicating upswing in investment activity, term sheets in progress for investments, strong investment flows on the back of Sino-US trade blockade. By 15 March, it was clear that some Chinese bug has hit Indian shores and I started out moving back our teams to their home bases, talking to the authorities on the situation. On my birthday, just a day before the first 14-hour lockdown, I was working late in office to mitigate the risk that may be arising out of the business disruption. Then there was the forced lockdown preventing me to work from office. The start of the Financial Year 2020-21 was clearing going to be a devastating one for all due to the Covid pandemic. In the first week of April 2020, all the financial and business outlook turned negative and also I suffered huge financial losses never anticipated in my life as a result. It was a very depressing personal situation for me which I had never faced in my life. It was clear I needed to bouceback. Suffering losses is a temporary situation, letting the frame of mind to continue with being mentally ‘broke’ was just not acceptable to me. Clearly there were four key issues that I observed in Q1

  1. the volatility and pace at which the situations changed
  2. all plans and predictions went for a toss
  3. there was utter chaos and no one had a clear head and view to handle the complexity and solutions to solve it
  4. with more bad news, there was no view when things will bottom out

That’s when I started my journey of My Song, My Life, My Mantra, My Way, My Avatar.

2020: My Song

During my long walks during the first week April, I would listen to Bon Jovi’s hit Estranged, the lyrics of which went like this and my responses (in brackets)…

When you’re talkin’ to yourself (about your situation)

And nobody’s home (although at home with family in the lockdown)

You can fool yourself (that All is Well)

You came in this world alone (I am all alone fending for myself)

So nobody ever told you baby (nobody had a clue)

How it was gonna be (the lockdown and beyond)

So what’ll happen to you baby (rather be strong than helpless)

Guess we’ll have to wait and see (no way)

One, two

The nine minutes song played out the remaining nine months of 2020 of my life.

2020: My Life, My Nine Mantra

There 9 minutes of the song inspired me to write my nine mantras to bounced back and come out a winner in 2020. These were:

1.    Love Thy Self: No Self Empathy

Every one in my circle of networks was very scared and required empathy. How would you empathise if you are yourself shallow and lack self-love? The toxic energy in the environment that was flowing around just was not doing good to me. I need not be a victim of this toxicity. That’s when I decided to manifest myself with a new energy and to fight the situation, I need to be stronger physically, mentally, spiritually. I started out with a healthy diet and high-end nutraceuticals, doubled up on my daily walks, increased my heart points by 3 times and started drawing on positive energy. As a result, I was over 10 kgs down in weight, much fitter and well energized positively to empathise with the people



2.    Renewed Vision for My Future Avatar

My mission in life has always been how to make healthcare cheaper, better, faster. Healthcare for All | Kapil Khandelwal (KK). With my interactions and calls with our investors, there was confidence in what we were doing. In fact, we raised even more funds during May-June 2020 for healthcare investments. The critical issue at hand was what investment strategies worked in the past would work in the post-Covid era. It was time to rework and restrategise the vision for my future avatar. With the positive energies, I set fearlessly out my renewed vision with Josh, Jonoon and Jigar. My best is yet to come!  

3.    Focus, Focus, Focus

With the my Avatar 2.0, it was time to focus. I clearly had 24-hours in a day and many unfinished business and agendas. It was with the renewed focus, that I cut down that was not required through a VED analysis of my work load. Clearly three key agendas for focus emerged out of this which I set forth in my work, declining, regretting and pre-closing many ongoing commitments as a result. This helped me put my time to get the maximum impact and the outcomes that my new Avatar was to emerge out.

4.    Build the Safety Net and Resilience

My primary responsibilities during the lockdown was to ensure that my people and their families are not adversely affected. To build confidence in my people, I build a safety net and emergency response for any eventuality due to Covid. At the cost of selling off my personal investments at a loss, I ensured that my people had food on their table and committed to my renewed vision with confidence.

5.    Create Impactful Behavior and Environment

To rebuild the economy and our healthcare systems for the future, it was clear that capital and investments would be with empathy and impact along with positive investor returns. One of the unfinished business was to ensure that there was a holistic and inclusive regulatory framework for the Social Stock Exchange (SSE) in India. I had been part of the journey with SEBI from its inception and worked with our team to produce a white paper with several recommendations which is now being on the table for the final regulation.

Social Stock Exchange | Kapil Khandelwal (KK)

6.    Network like never before

Other than the usual networking activity virtually during lockdown, being an investor allows you access to world politicians, thought leaders, think tanks, industry bodies, academia and opinion makers across the diaspora. My time was well spent speaking with them and gathering their take on various issues emerging out of this world crisis. Over the last 9 months, I had 1×1 with over 200 folks. I really thank them for taking their time to talk to me.

7.    Guides and Mentors

I renergised my circle of guides and mentors and opened up communications where we discussed may of my fears and issues heart to heart. This provided me the inspiration for being a better leader for the emerging new world order.

8.    Inspirational Leadership

With the current crisis, the model of leadership that I demonstrated is lead from the front and demonstrating everything is possible with less to do more. The constraints-based parochial leadership was passe for my people whether they were in front of me or virtually.

9.    Communication and Feedback with the World

In order to guide my peers and folks in the industry, I launched a podcast series QuoteUnQuote With KK which quickly emerged as India’s leading business podcast globally. QuoteUnquote with KK | Kapil Khandelwal (KK). This platform allowed me a means to communicate to the wider diaspora and also gain feedback from the world on what they were thinking on the issues.

2020: My Way, My Avatar

When I look back what I started alone in 2010 leaving Cisco as the top-200 Executive and compare what I have emerged out of 2020, I see that my way for the last 10 years could have only taken me so far. 2020 pandemic and situation, forced me to estrange my previous avatar and reincarnate into a new avatar that will be strong and durable for the 2020s decade.

The strong motive and motivations for my new avatar will drive me forward in the new normal for the world. I thank all those who have been part of this journey in 2020 to make it possible for me.

Here’s wishing you all a healthy, wealthy 2021!

Science of Politics of Covid Vaccine in India

Covid Vaccine Politics


India has finally developed a vaccine for Covid which was approved by the regulatory authority the DCGI and it now the front runner for production of vaccines in the world. This is a great moment for India’s scientific might and I want to congratulate all the scientists who have worked tirelessly to deliver this solution to fight Covid to the world. Let me tell you that having worked in the drug development industry and also on the boards of several pharma companies, and biotech industry policy making, all efforts of the scientists are guided towards drug safety and efficacy before the final vaccine candidate is commercially produced for the masses. In the last 24 hours, leaders of several political parties have placed their roles in shamming and shaming the Indian scientists on the Covid vaccines being approved by the regulators in India. Let me inform you that Indian scientists do not work for political parties, they work for the advancement of science and technology. In this blog, I want to debunk some of the politics going on around our Covid vaccine and the timing of their political statements

The Political History of Bharat Biotech

Bharat Biotech whose vaccine Covaxin started in 1996 in the Genome Valley in Hyderabad. At that time the Deve Gowda Government with the support of Congress was at the center and the Telgu Dessam Party (TDP) was ruling in Andhra Pradesh. Let me remind the leaders of Congress who have come out with some statements, why did your Minister heading the Department of Science and Technology under which Department of Biotechnology (DBT) comes in provide grants to such a company if you believed that today that company is a fraudulently and premature in producing a vaccine for Covid. Over the years under the Congress rule, Bharat Biotech received some many grants and awards from the DBT to further their development of various vaccines. Infact BIRAC an arm of DBT also owned equity in Bharat Biotech at some point in time for the funding that was provided to Bharat Biotech by the Congress Government. I had been associated with the DBT and the Principal Secretary, DBT during the Congress Government who I worked closely to deliver the Biotech Ignition Grant Policy to the nation. He was very appreciative of the work Bharat Biotech had done and achieved several milestones in its journey with several vaccines and patents.       

The Science into Politics – Way Forward

Rather than making baseless statements around the vaccines being approved, its time political parties appoint a Chief Scientific Advisor like they had Chief Economic Advisors in their party. The job of this Chief Scientific Advisor and his team would be to sieve through the clinical data presented to the regulators DBT, DCGI and other departments and raise scientific issues and challenge the science on the floor of both the houses of the Indian Parliament through their elected party representatives rather than make frivolous public and press statements outside the house. This would imbibe science into politics and allow for the ruling political party of the day to address any issues relating to the science of drug development through the right governance mechanisms of our Parliamentary Democracy.  All I must say here is: Dear Politicians, please do not debunk our Scientific progress for your political gains and headline statements for your parties and your social media impressions and eyeball. In the eyes of science, you all have been marginalized completely.

Jai Hind!

For more information on Covid Vaccine also visit:

Covid Vaccine | Kapil Khandelwal (KK)

Sustainability of Digital Health | Kapil Khandelwal (KK)

QuoteUnQuote with KK (kapilkhandelwal.com)

What Drove QuoteUnQuote With KK to be India’s Leading Business Podcast to the World?

Why this Blog Now?

I was on a call with Padma Bhushan Awardee Dr. Jagdish Sheth earlier this week to wish him on his 58th Wedding Anniversary. He was the keyman and inspiration behind starting QuoteUnquote . I was updating him on the progress of our of the show. He requested me to share this experience for others to learn and figure out. Hence I am posting this blog.

Visit to the Showroom

In 2008, iPod Mini was launched as a very innovative product by Apple. I was at the Ample Showroom at Forum Mall. The sales person showed me the benefits of iPod Mini that apart from songs there was something call talk shows called Podcasts. I bought the iPod Mini and a Bose headphones. The next 2 years before my I lost my iPod Mini from my car, I was introduced to the world of podcasts. There were no Indian Podcasts back then. So most of the Podcasts I heard during my morning and evening walks were from Harvard, Stanford, MIT and other US Universities on leadership and management.   

The Covid Affected CEO’s Self-Motivational Drive and Mental Roadblocks

Fast forward to April this year, the Covid lockdown and crisis created a sort of a mental road block in the minds of circle of CEOs in India and amongst my peer groups who I was talking with. The uncertainty, lack of experience in crisis management of this sort and driving their people and companies out of this was their deep concerns that they expressed to me one-on-one. This also made me think hard and wonder on the road ahead.

The Vehicle Design Template

One of my weekly board calls with Dr. Jagdish Sheth, I openly shared my feelings and empathy towards my peer group with him. That’s when he recommended to organized a virtual webinar for my peer group of CEOs to which he would address to allay their concerns and provide a road ahead given he was in touch with the PM and other folks in the power center in India. We started off with a Virtual Fireside Chat which he would moderate with a few global thought leaders and himself. That was the birth of our vehicle to address the Indian CEO diaspora. The launch date was set and we burnt our bridges with the world and a brave announcement to invite my circle of CEOs to attend this Virtual Fireside Chat free of cost and openly share their fears.   

The Vehicle Proto Type and Test Drive

 While we set about in motion inviting a few panelist for this Virtual Fireside Chat, we did not have a name of the model. In of our brainstorming sessions we called this QuoteUnQuote. While we could get confirmations with a few thought leaders, their calendar availability led to all sorts of logistics and vehicle assembly issues in our garage production shop. Last minute drop out of our key driver Dr. Sheth, made us think we should abbot the launch or defer it. I took the brave decision to be the back up driver and hosted my dear investment industry Dr. Mark Mobious on QuoteUnQuote. 750 industry CEOs and veterans attended the show. WhatsApp messages poured as feedback from them till late night. It may be believe that the test drive was successful based on the results of the direction it set out the roadblocks in the minds of the CEOs.

The Licensing Issues

One of the editors of a leading media house who had attended the QuoteUnQuote published a summary of our talk without any due reference and credit to QuoteUnQuote. This made me furious. Given the media industry’s blatant misuse and misrepresentation, I called up the Managing Editor of Business Standard and worked out a 4-episode deal to publish in their newspaper to further amplify the content from our virtual shows.    

Further Test Drives

While Dr. Sheth was freeing up his calendar, we went on with a few more test drives with the Gallup Chairman, who I had built up friendship since 2004 when he visited India to make an acquisition and start Gallup India. He had to apologize last moment as he was called on a major TV channel in the US to announce President Trumps approval rating. His replacement, Mohammad Younis, the Editor-in-Chief at Gallup filled up the shoes of the Gallup Chairman and the audience expectations. Dr. Jagdish Sheth followed up with his talk which further delighted the audience and built confidence in the CEOs.

The Virtual Vehicle Model Development and Configuration – Autonomous or Automatic or Manual Gear

By June 2020, the starving event management industry and its corporate sponsors had found a way to engage with their target audience virtually and blatant spamming of emails, SMS and WhatsApp on a daily basis for invites started pouring in. The personal time pressures, work demands and virtual webinar fatigue started to set in with my peer CEOs who yet sent out messages through their executive assistants on the next event to block their calendars. We were just not prepared to run our prototype in its current form to compete with the well-oiled big buck event management industry. On the other hand, requests started pouring in from the PR agencies to take their clients on our panel. This was not the intent or the drive with which we had started out. Our vehicle prototype design needed a drastic remodelling and a new drive. Back to the drawing board.

Uber or Ola?

The Indo-China relations escalations and PM’s Atmanirbhar bugle call was the back drop on which we set out for a model redesign. Uber was an American business model in India while Ola (I was an investor in Taxi For Sure seed stage) an Indian business for Indian, let us believe that our core audience was still the Indian diaspora and an Indian Ola-like though-leader with a global unicorn stature would better empathise with our audience in these increasing complex times rather than a foreigner Uber-like global thought leader to give an outside in view and perspective to issues . After several discussions with my CEO friends and those in advertising, PR, digital media, affirmed our belief that a desi podcast show giving the anytime, anywhere, anybody, anyways and anything experience is the way forward and would be available on-demand like the app-based taxi service to our core audience and also extend to the wider secondary audience.

Does Brand KK’s has the Audience Permission and License to Drive?

Our next challenge was who will be the host to anchor the show. Given the preoccupation of our initial star host, we zeroed into some of the celebrity hosts from the TV channels to take the mantle. However, their exclusivity to their TV Channels or other virtual events did not yield us any potential star anchor. The issue boiled down to can KK do it and carry it forward. It made me wonder if I am capable and would the core audience accept me or see it as a platform that would be a bragging of KK. Internally, I had to search what were my bragging rights to qualify for a successful show host if the podcast had to move ahead and the time pressures and demands on me. I had chaired industry bodies forums which has delivered the Biotech Ignition Grant Policy, Agri Reforms, Social Impact and Financial Reforms. After a few calls with my mentors, CEO club buddies, the consensus was that I should anchor and continue with the shows. After a few YouTube videos on podcasting and inputs from Spotify CEO and his team, I finally took the plunge to create the podcast. Now what do we call it?

Vehicle Brand and Launch

After a few creative iterations and ensuring continuity of QuoteUnQuote the consensus was to name the podcast QuoteUnQuote with KK with KK as the anchor host. For any new vehicle launch you need a you need a celebrity to premiere it. Given the Indo-China cross-border escalations at its peak, I called my dear friend Parag Khanna to come for the show which he gladly consented. The podcast show was launched with a huge India and International acceptance. Given the topic Parag carried, the first podcast delivered us over 1 million impressions. However the intent was for Indians by Indians. Here came the next challenge, how to market and go to more Indians?

Setting Up Indian Vehicle Distributors

There are many Indian podcast platforms. We went and tied up with Aawaz and Zee5 for hosting the show. Over the next few episodes the impressions multiplied 100x for each episode. Potential speaker requests and content request feedback started pouring in.

Periodic Maintenance of our Vehicle and Fuel Top-Up

Blessed with a strong analytics team and a Chief Evangalist Officer, our podcast vehicle came into the garage for drive-worthiness and fuel-top up. Every podcast show gave us insights on how the drive has been and what shifts in the gears are required. Armed with all the information and details from the last 10 episodes, our calendar for the next year and the drive for the 2021 was announced to the world and CNBC-TV18.

The Key Take Aways for any New Podcast Vehicle Launch

The dialogue from Dirty Movie, “Films work on 3 things, entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. However, for podcasts, my dialogue is, “Podcasts drive on 3 things, Content, Context and Commentator.”