Dr Prathap Chandra Reddy, M.D, MBBS, FCCP, FICA, FRCS (Hony) is a cardiologist, entrepreneur, founder of the Apollo group of hospitals, and a healthcare visionary. He was instrumental in shaping the private healthcare revolution in India, and is widely regarded as the architect of modern healthcare in the nation. He is best described as a compassionate humanitarian, who has dedicated his life to bringing world-class healthcare within the economic and geographic reach of millions of patients.
Dr Prathap Chandra Reddy, Founder and Chairman of Apollo Hospitals
- How did you achieve your status as one of India’s enduring icons?
I have been blessed with the love and respect that the people of India have given me. The person I have to thank the most for being a vital beacon in my life is my father. We were very happy and settled abroad, when a letter from him changed my life.
He told that while they were extremely proud of my success in the USA, it was time to think about my responsibility to my motherland. It was time to use my experience and clinical skills to help my fellow Indians.
That was the genesis of the dream. I came back to India, and most immediately felt the dire need for a world-class hospital. We started Apollo Hospitals with the simple mission to ensure top quality healthcare came to India, rather than Indians having to travel to distant corners of the world to get it. Thanks to my tireless team, today we have touched the lives of over 45 million patients. Others have been inspired too; India now has over 750 corporate hospitals. Today people from across the globe travel to India to get treated.
- Prior to establishing the first Apollo hospital what was your previous career?
Having received my pre-medical degree from the prestigious Madras Christian College and medical degree from Stanley Medical College, Chennai I trained as a cardiologist in the UK and later USA. After receiving my Fellowship from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA, I went on to head research programmes at the Missouri State Chest Hospital USA whereby I worked for several years before returning to India in 1978.
- When was the first Apollo Hospital Launched?
The first Apollo Hospital came up in Chennai in 1983. It has to be said, amidst much scepticism. I often say that every brick in the first Apollo Hospitals stood for an obstacle that we faced and represented our struggle to see the fruition of our dream.
India in the early 80’s was not the easiest place for private enterprise. The best of intentions could get lost in the quagmire of licensing and bureaucracy. The concept of private healthcare was completely alien, and one helpful official even suggested we would be better off building a hotel than a hospital.
Back in the 1980s healthcare institutions other than small physician-owned nursing homes were unknown and they were not doing cutting edge work. Thankfully a few pioneering leaders grasped the vision we had for Indian healthcare, and helped facilitate matters. Thirty two years later, Apollo Hospitals has become one of the world’s largest providers of high-technology healthcare. With speciality in the areas of heart, liver and solid organ transplants, and also in knee and hip replacement surgery and robotic surgery, Apollo is an industry pioneer and a world leader.
- At the age of fifty, when most people start planning for retirement, you decided that you wanted to revolutionize healthcare in India. What was your motivation?
The idea to establish Apollo Group of Hospitals started germinating almost as soon as I came back to India, and started my practice in Chennai. The huge gap in quality healthcare in our country was painfully obvious. This idea became an imperative for me when I lost a patient who could not make it to Texas for an open heart surgery. I can still recall the devastated faces of his wife and young children. I was then I decided that the situation had become completely unacceptable, and something had to be done immediately so that more people don’t die just because they couldn’t afford expensive foreign treatment.
I aspired to create world-class medical infrastructure in India and make it more accessible and affordable to common people. These efforts bore fruit when we succeeded in setting up the first centre of the Apollo Hospitals Group in Chennai in 1983. Since its inception, Apollo has demonstrated that Indian skills and outcomes are equivalent to the best centres in the world.
- Growing up in the small village of Aragonda in Andhra Pradesh, India how did you come to fulfil your dreams?
I sometimes feel that being from Aragonda had a large part to play in my destiny of being in healthcare. In mythology, it is said that when Hanuman was transporting the mountain with the life-restoring Sanjivani herb to save Lakshmana who was hurt in battle, a part of the mountain dropped in south India, and that became Aragonda.
My dream was always to heal, and I knew that books would be my path to achieving that. I was a serious student and the first person from my village to leave for a higher education. I have to thank my family for their broad mindedness, and their total support for me to nurture my dreams.
My early years in Aragonda instilled in me the belief that wonderful things can happen if you don’t let go of your dreams. This lesson has been invaluable in every stage of my life since then.
- What was your vision when establishing Apollo Hospitals
The vision was to bring international healthcare within the reach of every individual. It was to attract the best medical talent to India including doctors from across the globe. We wanted to set up an integrated healthcare model that covered every facet of healthcare. More importantly it was to make concepts like clinical excellence, patient safety the norm in Indian healthcare.
We were always aware that one hospital group would never be enough to cover a billion citizens of India, so we wanted to catalyse the private healthcare sector in the nation.
- As a private entity has there been any recognition from the government for the contribution that Apollo Hospitals has made to healthcare?