For the past 10 years, Indian cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty has been working relentlessly to drive down the cost of quality cardiac care in India and to make it accessible to the masses. At his Narayana Hrudayalaya chain of cardiac care hospitals, Shetty offers heart surgeries at a fraction of what it costs across the world. The cost savings have been achieved through what he terms “process innovation.”

Shetty is now looking to take this service model outside India with a 300-bed hospital in the Cayman Islands. Over time, the facility is expected to expand to a 2,000-bed multi-specialty hospital. Talking recently to economic daily, Business Standard, Shetty said: “The Cayman Islands is an hour’s flight from the U.S. We intend to offer cost-effective treatment for the citizens of the U.S. and also for those who are under-insured. We will also cater to the local population.” Shetty is now looking at creating a presence in Malaysia.

With spiraling health care costs a matter of serious concern across the world, Shetty’s model could be a game changer for the global health care industry. Rana Mehta, executive director PricewaterhouseCoopers, notes: “The Indian model of health care is a very cost-effective one and is attractive to both developed and developing countries.” Rana says that, within the health care sector, services like diagnostics could also be an area where Indian companies can make a significant mark worldwide.

K. Raman, practice head (infocomm, media & education) at the Tata Strategic Management Group, an independent management consulting firm, points out that health care spending is high all over the world both at the individual and government level. “Any solution that brings down the cost of health care delivery can have a large scale impact,” he adds.

But this is not about health care alone. Shetty’s move needs to be seen in the larger perspective of services from India having the potential to be game changers and redefining various sectors across the globe. It has already happened in the information technology and business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. Not only are Indian IT and BPO companies servicing their global clients from India, they are increasingly taking their model outside the country and setting up centers in different parts of the world. Other global players have had to follow suit.

In the telecom industry, Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom player, is seen as a pioneer in introducing a new, low-cost business model. Last year, the company took its learning from the Indian market to tap African consumers through its acquisition of Zain Africa. Bharti plans to look at other markets, too.

According to Raman, services from India that are built around innovations to cater to the unique needs of the Indian market have global potential. Education, he says, could be another sector where India could make a mark. He points out that education, like health care, involves significant spending at the government and individual levels. The sector has a large nation-level impact; needs to be delivered over a wide area and can leverage technology in a big way. “If India is able to address its own internal challenges in this sector, particularly in terms of quality and reach, it could be replicated across many countries,” Raman notes.

He goes on to add: “As a concept, frugal innovation has been there for some time. The whole idea is around innovating for developing countries and then taking the same innovations to developed countries. Until now, this has primarily been on the product side. Taking low-cost service methodology to other countries is a logical extension.”

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