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The Silicon Review Asia

Operation ASHA- “Our mission is to eradicate TB from its roots”

The Silicon Review
August, 2017

silicon-review-sandeep-ahuja“We are among the world’s largest NGOs in tuberculosis treatment and prevention.”

Established with a reason to expand access to health services and products of a high quality at affordable prices to disadvantaged communities worldwide with a focus on delivery of health services, the company does this by providing the last mile connectivity, i.e. service delivery at the doorsteps of the under-served. Today, Operation ASHA is dedicated to bringing tuberculosis treatment and health services to the poorest of the poor in India’s urban slums and rural villages.

They are among the world’s largest NGOs in tuberculosis treatment and prevention, making these services available to more than 8.9 million people who have little access to basic healthcare, let alone medicines to treat TB. With treatment centers established in more than 4,000 slums and villages in 9 Indian states and 2 Cambodian provinces, our team plans to expand to other regions of the developing world afflicted with TB. “Tuberculosis is a scar on the face of the earth,” says Dr. Shelly Batra, president of Operation ASHA

…story of their inception

Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja founded Operation ASHA in 2006 with a compelling vision: to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. The first step in this fight is to eradicate TB, and then add other products and services to the delivery pipeline of Operation ASHA. Their clear-sighted goals and unwavering dedication prompted policy-makers, health practitioners, and investors to join from both sides of the Atlantic. Shortly following, an advising and fundraising group grew in the US to form Operation ASHA, USA. 

A doctor and a former government official, Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja, were unlikely partners, but in 1998 they teamed up to finance Dr. Batra’s free treatment and surgeries for those unable to afford life-saving procedures. Sandeep helped her organize a group of friends, relatives and colleagues who supported Batra’s work regularly.

After founding Operation ASHA, Sandeep and Shelly developed a pipeline to pump in services and products to the most disadvantaged. They decided to focus on the eradication of tuberculosis (TB). India tops the world’s high-burden TB list. The UN declared tuberculosis a global emergency in 2003 and numbers of infected TB patients have reached epidemic proportions in India in the last decade. In OpASHA’s first year, 2.2 million new TB cases and 400,000 TB deaths were recorded in India. 

Operation ASHA began with one TB treatment center in September 2006 and enrolled 26 new patients within 3 months. Today, OpASHA provides tuberculosis treatment and education services in more than 4,000 slums in nine Indian states and two provinces in Cambodia. With a successful model in place, Operation ASHA continues to grow and expand beyond India’s borders to Southeast Asia and Africa, where millions more suffer from tuberculosis. Operation ASHA is now covering 14.6 million people worldwide. 

Meet the Founders

Sandeep Ahuja, Founder & CEO- Sandeep is a management and strategy expert. He co-founded Operation ASHA and has led it since 2006. Under his leadership, the population coverage of Operation ASHA has expanded by 500 times in 9 years. He is also an advocate for improved care for public health and specifically TB, for the bottom of the pyramid markets, at the local, state, national and international level.

Before starting Operation ASHA, Sandeep was a member of the Indian Revenue Services (1991 batch). In the IRS, Sandeep played many roles, starting from implementation of excise laws in Mumbai, then tax fraud detection in Mumbai and later in Western India. Then he moved to a policy making position in the Ministry of Finance and played a role in improving India’s export competitiveness. He authored a book on the Drawback Tax Rebate Program in India. Sandeep received many cash awards and commendations for excellent work during his tenure in the Indian Revenue Service.

Shelly Batra, Co-founder & President- Dr. Shelly Batra co-founded Operation ASHA and has led the organization as President since 2005. She is 2014’s Social Entrepreneur of the year, awarded by Schwab Foundation, renowned Senior Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Advanced Laparoscopy Surgeon, an Ashoka Changemarker and a best-selling Penguin author. Shelly’s dedication to reaching the unreached started in 1991, when Shelly went into the heart of the slums in Delhi. Shelly provided pro-bono life-saving treatments and operations as well as free consultations, medicines and counseling. She is actively involved with the Free Patient Department of Batra Hospital and Medical Research Center which is run for the benefit of poor patients. Shelly has contributed heavily through various media channels, such as television stations and newspapers, to impart medical knowledge and create awareness.

Dr. Batra has been the recipient of multiple awards, accolades and recognitions, including the Exemplary Contribution Award for selfless work for the underserved, given by the Indian Medical Association. She holds an M.D. from King George’s Medical College, India. 

Client Speak

On visiting a TB treatment center of Operation ASHA, “I was fascinated: If this model could be rolled out everywhere where there is TB, we could stop multi-drug-resistant TB and save so many lives! What Operation ASHA does is literally to deliver the elusive “last mile” in service delivery. The mile that lies in between well-intended government programs and results on the ground. And they do it with relentless focus and incredible efficiency. What if we could develop Operations ASHA for other problems as well? 90% efficiency and 19 times cheaper? It would be incredible! For those of you who don’t know, ASHA means hope. Hope for millions of TB patients. But to me it can be even more: hope for millions of others who need services, all over the world. Our last miles must become cheaper and more efficient. ASHA’s results in applying the science of delivery give rise to real hope that this can happen.”- Onno RuhlCountry Director, World Bank, India

“We envision a world where preventable diseases, such as TB and infant/maternal mortality, are almost nonexistent, thereby globally extending lifespan.”

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