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The code-breaker

52Shashank Shashank N.D. | Bhanu Prakash Chandra

Shashank offered a medical revolution with his Practo software

The first set of doctors to whom Shashank N.D. pitched his software hesitated to invest in it, as they thought he would vanish soon. Not because they did not trust him, though. They felt he was too bright and, therefore, would end up at Stanford or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Shashank, 28, was trying to market Practo Ray—a software which would allow doctors to email reports to their patients. The software used for diagnostic reports at that time did not have this feature.

The idea struck Shashank in 2008, when he wanted to send medical reports of his father, who had to undergo a knee surgery, to a doctor in the US. He found it cumbersome to send the hard copies of the reports. Shashank was just in college then and, before he graduated, he already had 50 doctors in his client list.

“I used to code at night and meet the doctors in the morning. Doctors were fed up with buying software, as support system was virtually nonexistent. I had to change that,” recalls Shashank.

Although the product was meant for doctors, it was made patient-centric. For example, doctors could schedule their appointments and, the moment they did that, patients would get an alert on their mobile phones. This was followed by a separate product for consumers which could help them find the right kind of doctors and book consultations and tests online.

In 2011, Shashank got the first round of funding. Things changed for Practo—from fledgling to flourishing. By 2015, the company raised $120 million, and made four acquisitions.

Shashank now wants to enjoy life. The struggling start-up days are far behind him. “Life is too short. There is just too much to do,” he says.

A travel freak, Shashank loves exploring places and meeting interesting people. Fun and adventure are important, he says. On a recent trip to San Francisco, he went bowling at 2am. He would roam around the Golden Gate Bridge and the adjoining hills pretty late, around 3am.

“All my exploration happened at night because the day went in business meetings. I hardly got two or three hours of sleep, but made it up on the flight,” says Shashank, who is a trained hiker. “San Francisco has these beautiful hidden beaches which are relatively unexplored. I went hiking there.”

Next, he is headed to Vietnam. And, the to-do list is ready: scuba-diving, hiking, rock-climbing, water-sports...

A lot of his trips are impromptu, like his recent Bodhgaya visit—he and a couple of friends decided to go just 48 hours before the flight.

Bodhgaya was a “timeless experience”, he says. “I like Buddhism not from a religious perspective, but because of the value system that the Buddha had put together. Buddhism, in fact, is more spiritual than any other religion,” he says.

A typical day for Shashank begins at 6am. Fitness activity is a must, so he either hits the treadmill at home or goes for a game of squash. Then, after breakfast, he devotes himself to his love, Practo, till about 9.30 pm. On some days, there are dinner meetings and they go on till midnight.

Even if it is midnight or the wee hours, Shashank ensures that his inbox is ‘free’. “No spam and unnecessary mails,” he explains. “It does not matter even if the process takes a couple of hours.”

Weekends are for “exploring”. That could mean trekking with friends or a quick getaway from the city.

Auroville near Pondicherry is such a refuge. Now, he visits the place once in every three weeks. “It is a detoxification camp for me. After a stressful week, it brings me back to life,” says Shashank.

Next halt? Gokarna with friends, he says.

“Gokarna has got some beautiful beaches. These places offer tranquillity that many popular tourist destinations don’t,” says Shashank, who graduated from NIT Surathkal in Karnataka.

Having been in the business of health care, he takes wellness quite seriously. Whenever time permits, a massage session or a detoxification treatment is part of his schedule.

Books make another getaway. His latest pick is Zero to One by Peter Thiel. Works of Murakami and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are among his favourites, he says.

Dreams? Shashank wants to visit a couple of planets. “I am really curious about them,” he says, as he fiddles with his Bose earplugs.

His biggest dream, however, is to own an island. “It is not to be on the list of affluent people owning them, but because I want to demonstrate a new form of governance,” he says. “Innovation in governance has not yet come in and it would be interesting to work on that.”

Company: Practo (started in 2007)
Valuation: Rs.3,348 crore
Hobbies: Exploring places, meeting interesting people, adventure and reading
Quote to note: I want to own an island some day. Not to be on the list of affluent people owning them, but because I want to demonstrate a new form of governance.

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