This CA left his private equity career to build an Integrative Oncology healthtech platform. Here's how it impacted over 100,000 lives.
- Hi, I am Kishan Shah, a hardcore finance enthusiast – a Chartered Accountant and MBA from IIM Calcutta.
- I was living my childhood dream of working in the core finance domain until I discovered the true purpose of my life when I lost my close friend Nitesh to cancer.
- After losing Nitesh, our mutual friend and Nitesh’s Partner, Dimple Parmer, founded an NGO called “Love Heals Cancer” to support cancer patients. I started volunteering there along with my job.
- We were helping cancer patients majorly with nutrition, counseling and therapy sessions. We felt there was scope to do a lot more to simplify their cancer treatment journey.
- In December 2019, I changed my career to build ZenOnco.io with Dimple to improve and extend the lives of cancer patients.
Changing childhood dreams
Since childhood, I wanted to be in the core finance domain. I prepared myself with this in mind.
After qualifying as a CA, I went on to do an MBA from one of the IIMs and later joined JP Morgan investment banking.
In a couple of years, I moved to GIC Private Equity (Singapore’s Sovereign Wealth Fund).
I was convinced that the finance sector shall be my ultimate destination from where I shall retire, or so I thought.
Life took a huge turn as my friend and batchmate Nitesh got diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Our mutual friend and Nitesh’s partner, Dimple Parmar, became his primary caregiver. She cared for him till his last breath.
He survived for just a year and a half after getting diagnosed. We lost him in March 2018.
The most upsetting part was it took us months just to get the right diagnosis of cancer itself.
We were helpless even though we had access to the World’s best cancer resources.
After losing Nitesh, Dimple founded an NGO ‘Love heals Cancer’, to save thousands of other Nitesh’s.
I started volunteering at the NGO and we would do our best to help Cancer patients with nutrition, counseling, and therapy sessions, but still, there was a lot more to do for them.
Thoughts started flooding my mind: “We lost Nitesh. How can we save thousands of other Nitesh’s”
In my heart, I knew something was missing.
Dimple has already started making difference in people’s lives through Love Heals Cancer. I thought that together we could save many more lives.
I approached her, and together we started a social enterprise ZenOnco.io.
I changed my career in December 2019 to make a difference in the cancer care ecosystem.
A platform to save lives from cancer
ZenOnco.io is an Integrative Oncology healthtech platform.
Integrative Oncology basically means combining medical treatment with evidence-based complementary treatment to maximize clinical efficacy while minimizing side effects.
There is significant research stating that combining complementary treatment along with medical treatment can improve the quality of life and extend the lives of cancer patients.
To determine which complementary treatment is most effective for the patient we need to take into consideration the patient’s cancer type, stage, treatment taken/undergoing, comorbidities, side effects, and current physical level.
Integrative Oncology does not just increase the cancer patients’ chances of survival but also improves the quality of life.
The procedure for our patients:
Determining the type of cancer When a patient comes to our platform, we help them in getting the right diagnosis first. We even help the patients get the diagnostic test at the comfort of their own house so that they would not have to travel (especially for patients traveling from tier 3 to tier 1 city).
Finding an oncologist: There are more than 100 types of cancer and one requires a different type of oncologist depending on their cancer type, stage, organ site, performance score, and multiple other factors. After assessing these factors, we determine which oncologist is best suited for their particular condition.
Managing the side effects: As they start the treatment, we connect them to the anti-cancer nutritionists, medical cannabis practitioners, Ayurveda practitioners, ozone therapy centers, or palliative care to help them minimize the side effects of cancer treatment.
Building a supportive community: We have built a supportive community of cancer survivors, caregivers, and patients to make sure that they never feel lonely and never lose hope.
A Coach for the journey: We dedicate a cancer coach to each patient that comes to the platform.
Challenges faced throughout the journey
To be honest, there is still a huge scarcity in the space of cancer care, so challenges are not something we can get rid of entirely.
While the number of cancer patients is increasing day by day the major challenge has always been finding like-minded people to form a powerful team.
For us, every team member is crucial to transforming the cancer care ecosystem, and hence we hire those who truly want to make an impact in this field.
Many people join us not only for salary but also with an objective to make a strong social impact. Hence, they are dedicated to giving their 100% energy.
An AI-based tool to educate cancer patients
When COVID-19 struck the world, many cancer patients were lost in their journey due to lack of treatment or unable to meet their oncologist.
During this time, we came up with a product that could guide patients on what could their likely treatment path be. The tool also empowers patients to ask the right questions to their oncologists.
The solution was ZIOPAR, our Artificial Intelligence-based tool that could generate cancer assessment reports.
This free tool is based on standard international protocols, and guidelines by the American Society of Clinical Oncology – ASCO, European Society for Medical Oncology – ESMO, and National Comprehensive Cancer Network – NCCN.
We got the tool reviewed by multiple oncologists and included more powerful features to it based on feedback to increase its level of efficacy and accuracy.
Eventually, we launched ZIOPAR that also received recognition at the ESMO annual congress 2020. It was a very proud moment for all of us to have made a big breakthrough in the medical field using technology.
The objectives going forward
Today, there are 3 million registered cancer patients in India, but research suggests that the actual number is estimated to be around 4.6 million. There are 1.3 million new diagnoses each year in India.
Our vision has always been to save lives from cancer and so far we have impacted over 100,000 lives. However, our objective is not fulfilled yet. There is still a long way to go.
Recently, we’ve raised $1.4 million in fundraising, and now the next step is to reach out to the rest of India and make Integrative Oncology more accessible and affordable to patients and their caregivers.
We not only want to ensure that they get the right treatment but also ensure that they regularly monitor their health to minimize the chances of recurrence.
We also want to support economically deprived patients with cancer treatment to ensure that nobody stays behind. We are building a community of cancer patients and caregivers who can support each other in critical times.
Having an outright finance background, I never imagined myself to be moving towards healthcare, but destiny had something much greater written for me.
I feel blessed to be a part of this noble cause. It feels good that I can go to bed with contentment in my heart, knowing that I have done something good each day.
If you have ambition, you must open your mind to reach out to new possibilities.
You would be surprised after doing something that you never would have thought you would do. And it can be fulfilling, especially when you do something without expecting anything in return.