Does the doctor always know best? Dr. Anand Lakshman, CEO and founder of Address Health, believes that this is the case. “Look at the way medical school education is—it’s different from other graduate school education,” he explains. “It’s the only course in which you interact with real people. Medicine teaches you that if you follow a certain path of logic, if there are certain symptoms and signs, you can arrive at a rational conclusion. What is business all about? You look at your environment and everything it’s throwing at you, and make a rational choice. Medicine also says: you’ve made all your choices but still have no answers. You have to take risks. If you don’t take risks you can’t save lives. Risk taking is such a huge part of entrepreneurship and business. Communicating with people, thinking rationally—all of this is ingrained into medical education.” Dr. Lakshman used his propensity towards risk to introduce Address Health into India’s highly unorganized primary healthcare sector. Address Health is India’s first branded chain of child health clinics and provides pediatric, preventive dentistry, eye-care and nutrition services to its patients.
Establishing a Vision Early in Your Career
Unlike other doctors, however, Dr. Lakshman’s desire to improve the medical landscape in India culminated before his entrance to medical school. Instead of approaching his graduate education as a gateway to the expected stipulations of a medical career, he explains that he used the skills that he picked up to approach the world of entrepreneurship. “When I went to medical school, we would be ragged,” he reminisces. “My senior lined me up and asked, ‘Why did you join medical school?’ He probably expected me to say that I wanted to become an ophthalmologist or a cardiologist. I said that I joined because I wanted to work for UNICEF. I didn’t get ragged after that.
Applying medical Knowledge to Entrepreneurship
What sets Dr. Lakshman apart from other doctors? “I think it’s about this issue of being wedded to your knowledge,” he explains. “Unfortunately, as doctors, we think that our knowledge can’t be used in any other place. If you think ‘I know more about this than anyone else’, but you’re in a consumer facing business, it’ll never work. The consumer teaches you what is right. I think we take a lot of risks when we’re treating a patient. We make life or death choices. With that kind of decision-making, we’re used to our feet and hands trembling. There is no reason a doctor can’t become an entrepreneur.”