Celebrate Solutions: Driving Change and Saving Lives in India

By: Lauren Himiak, Women Deliver

Imagine waking in the middle of the night choking, unable to breathe, scared, and unsure what to do. One’s first response may be to call for an ambulance, but what if none were available? This was the case in 2004 for Shaffi Mather whose mother awoke to this terrifying situation in India. Unsure of what to do, Mather’s family drover her to the hospital themselves. Just a few days later, a similar situation happened to Ravi Krishna, but in New York where a 911 ambulance was on the scene within minutes. Seeing firsthand such a stark contrast of availability and accessibility of standardized emergency medical services (EMS), Mather and Krishna decided to act.

Recognizing that India was in desperate need of organized and professional ambulance providers, Mather and Krishna teamed up with fellow Indian graduates – Sweta Mangal, Naresh Jain, and Manish Sancheti – to create Ziqitza Health Care Limited (ZHL) in 2004, to create what would become a world class ambulance service in India that would be on par with 911 in the U.S. and 999 in the U.K.

"When we stared, we were the only ones in the market to provide such a service," said CEO Sweta Mangal in an interview with Mumbai Mirror.

During their first year of operation, they saw a steady flow of business and income. India has unfortunately seen high rates of road traffic accidents and public health emergencies. According to the World Health Organization, the global ratio for road traffic accidents is 0.75 accidents per 1000 vehicles. In India, that number is 16 accidents per 1000 vehicles. And by 2020, it is estimated that India will have the highest number of cardio-vascular patients in the world. Not to mention that the country is one of the world’s most disaster prone areas, vulnerable to earthquakes, drought, cyclones, and floods.

In 2007, ZHL received their first funding from Acumen Fund to increase the number of ambulances available and today, operates more than 1250 ambulances across five states of India, equipped with basic- and advanced life support-trained professionals. The private firm also operates state-of-the-art call centers with ambulance tracking systems, and offers training programs certified by the American Heart Association and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

What makes ZHL stand out among other emergency services is its unique model. The firm’s ambulances pick up accident victims for free, charge full fare to patients who wish to go to a private hospital, and offer subsidized rates to those who wish to go to a government hospital. It is this very distinct business model that has become case studies at leading business schools around the world, such as Yale, Oxford and Columbia, and nominated ZHL to the TOI Social Impact Award in 2012.

While ZHL has seen continued growth and success, it is not slowing down Mangal who hopes to become the world’s largest ambulance provider. “I have dedicated my lifetime to create this organization into something we all are really proud of,” she says. “I tell my colleagues that we should be the Infosys of this industry and leave a legacy that people are proud of.”

Flickr photo via Benjamin Ellis

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