When A Silver Lining Overshadows Dark Clouds

Author Kamal Shah’s journey from being a 21-year-old middle-class dialysis patient, faced with fresh challenges every once in a while, to becoming the co-founder of a country-wide chain of over 300 dialysis centres speaks to not just patients looking for courage but also wannabe and small-scale entrepreneurs in need of motivation

The Silver Lining

“Every time I faced a trial, life would offer a solution,” writes Kamal Shah in his autobiographical account ‘Silver Lining’. That one sentence encapsulates the essence of the book—Shah’s struggles as a dialysis patient, his determination to live as normally as possible and his growth as an entrepreneur and becoming the co-founder of what is now a country-wide network of dialysis centres.

Shah was diagnosed with kidney failure at a young age of 21, just when he was getting ready to leave for the United States for higher education. Inspired by his own struggles, he along with Vikram Vuppala and Sandeep Gudibanda founded NephroPlus, which started as a five-bed centre in 2010 in a quiet bylane of Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills and went on to become a network of more than 300 dialysis centres in a little over a decade.

At one point in the book, Shah quotes from Paulo Coelho’s ‘Alchemist’ when he talks about how things that appeared difficult eventually fell in place.

While the initial foray into business happened with personal resources and investments from friends, the founders, all from middle-class families, felt the need for some “serious capital” when they had to expand their work. Though met with initial hiccups, the trio managed to grow with clear strategies and their eyes fixed on their goal of reaching out to as many patients as possible and help them “live a full life”.

The founders’ philosophy can be a lesson for new-age entrepreneurs. “We realized it was important to never let go of the basics: the reason we were where we were. Temporary setbacks were all right. We mustn’t, however, lose sight of the long-term goal and vision of the company. The reason why we exist,” Shah writes in his book.

The Silver Lining

Before getting down to his own book, Shah had already been writing a blog for several years. “I have written a lot about how to lead a normal life despite being on dialysis. When Vikram (Vuppala) and I started NephroPlus and scaled it successfully, the story became very compelling. A dialysis patient setting up India’s largest dialysis company made for an interesting story. Many of my blog readers, friends and family kept telling me to write about my journey,” Shah recalls.

Here is an excerpt from the book

That was the logical choice. To me, quality of life was paramount. I needed to lead a normal life or as close to that as I could get. Every time I had a problem, I tried to figure out how I could get back my life. That was the only motivation. Nothing else. Normality is the only thing I desired. Everything else followed. Some people believe you need courage to deal with such a disease. To me, that sounds rather bombastic. What courage? It is only the desire to be free from pain and suffering. We are all born with that instinct. NephroPlus has helped provide the ikigai of my life. Ikigai, a Japanese concept, means the higher purpose of one’s life. Ikigai, many studies have shown, adds years to one’s life. Working towards a higher cause, something more than the individual, makes life worth living and adds happiness to your days.

“I think this excerpt summarises the entire book. It talks about the reason I was able to overcome the challenges I faced and how I found my calling – my ikigai – in NephroPlus,” explains Shah.

The book, Shah believes, can be inspirational for dialysis patients and make them realise that all it takes is a strong desire to overcome the obstacles and take back control of one’s life.

Shah admits that when he started writing the book, he was careful “about not ruffling feathers” and being nice to everyone. “One day in the midst of writing, I had a revelatory moment when I thought I should not do that. I could not please everyone all the time,” says Shah. He told himself that whatever he wrote, there would be some people who would not like it. “I realised I had to be true to myself and to the topic of the book,” he says.

The Author Up Close

Shah has ensured that there is never a dull moment in his life. He begins his day with black Darjeeling tea before slipping into his daily meditation session. When he is not busy, he has a variety of activities to indulge in. A few years ago, he was introduced to the world of sourdough bread. Since then, most of his weekends are spent baking. “The entire process gives me hours of meditative joy. And some excellent bread to relish fresh out of the oven!” he quips.

He loves swimming. “I have been swimming since I was a child. The pool is my favourite place to be. While it does gives me the exercise I need, I hardly look at it as exercise. My best time of the day is the time I spend in the pool,” Shah says.

“For almost a decade now, I have also been teaching kids of our community temple about Jain philosophy. This is also something I enjoy thoroughly. I keep the class free from

dogma and try to instil values in them rather than just focusing on the tenets. Spending a couple of hours every week with these inquisitive minds is quite stimulating intellectually,” he says.

What Next

One of the ideas that Shah is considering writing about next is healthcare. India is at the cusp of a revolution in the healthcare space, he notes. The government’s increasing involvement in this space is expected to change the entire landscape and only those who adapt can survive, he remarks.