- Title: “Excellence Has No Borders”:
- Author: Dr. B. S. Ajaikumar
- Year: 2020
- Pages: 188
- Price: Rs. 699
- Publisher: Portfolio
By Bhamy V. Shenoy
The book “Excellence Has No Borders” is by our own Mysurean, Dr. B.S. Ajaikumar, Founder of Bharath Cancer Hospital. This was released during the famous Jaipur Literary Festival on January 23, 2020.
I need to make a full disclosure. I know Dr. Ajaikumar since 1989 when he laid the foundation stone for the Cancer Hospital. Ever since I have been associated in small ways with many of the social activism. Still a few years back when a family member of cancer patient complained about the treatment at his Hospital, I as a consumer activist had to raise some inconvenient questions with Dr. Ajaikumar.
I was not happy with the response I got at that time despite knowing him so well. However after reading the book, I have a totally different perception of his contribution. My reaction depicts the human frailty. Often we tend to judge accomplished persons or leaders based on their perceived one wrong thing and ignore all their great contributions.
This book has received glowing praise from Justice M.N. Vekatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India; Shashi Tharoor, MP and author of several books; Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, well-known industrialist, Dr. Devi Shetty, famous surgeon and many others.
It was an easy reading book while being a page turner. I finished reading in less than two days since my wife was also competing with me to read it. The book starts with two shocking events — author losing big fortune (20 million dollars) because of the dot-com bust of 2000 and wondering how he would take care of his employees back home and a call from India informing him about the need to admit his son to ICU within few hours of reaching Chicago. His only son (he has three daughters) who is suffering from rare genetic muscle-wasting disorder (Duchenne muscular dystrophy) had fallen from the wheelchair. In three hours, Ajai was back to the airport to return to India.
It is amazing to learn how a person with just a fresh medical degree lands in the US in 1975 with immigration papers (it was easy to immigrate to the US), completes his Radiation Oncology Residency at famous medical college of University of Virginia and Fellowship in Mecca of Cancer Research M.D. Anderson in Houston getting the praise from his bosses and colleagues. It is thrilling to read how he got these offers in the very last minute as last dates were closing and often by pure luck.
As Ajai was putting roots in the US, unlike most Indians, he was yearning to return to his homeland and serve the poor in his chosen field of cancer treatment. How I wish there were many Indians like Ajai who inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s urging that “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them” will payback to their homeland.
The book will be of interest to just about every one since here is a life story discussed in all frankness (often I was recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s “My experiment with Truth”) of parental preference to some child, usual sibling rivalry and misunderstanding. However for future entrepreneurs the book will be a source of inspiration as Ajai is a “doctorpreneur” par excellence.
He succeeded in taking up challenges of several cancer centres which were losing money. There are lessons to learn for entrepreneurs the way he raised funds from venture capitalists, private equities, investment banks and investors. Many perceptive professors of management, sociology and economics are likely to recommend this book to their students to find out how Ajai succeeded despite all odds. For most students the book will show how even an ordinary student can achieve his or her dream with hard work and grit.
The book disproves the long held view of most Indians that it is impossible to build and manage an institution without bribing. If only Ajai had paid bribe in 1988, he could have got an attractive 15 acres plot on Nanjangud road. When his staff went on strike at his non-profit Bharath Cancer Hospital, with courage and determination he succeeded in resolving it without bribing anyone.
Today Ajai has more than 22 cancer centres including one in Africa which he developed without giving a single rupee bribe. I am sure that there will be many who will doubt the veracity of this stunning assertion.
The book also proves the aphorism “it is only the busy people who have all the time to do the right things.” Despite being a Chairman of a publicly held HealthCare Global, he has found time to start “International Human Development and Upliftment Academy” to help 15,000 self-help group women in Gundlupet, a think tank, “Antardhwani” to promote India’s development and a school in Mullur with all infrastructure to produce professionals. Unfortunately, this gets a brief discussion in the Epilogue.
No review could be complete without making some critical comments. One should not expect to read flowery or great literary English in the book. I could not figure out why the book has the title of “Excellence Has No Borders.” Is it to show that Ajai has succeeded in bringing the latest technology and expertise to help cancer patients in a country like India with poor infrastructure and extreme poverty and demonstrated that excellence has no borders?