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Meet 'KK' Sankaranarayanan, Equalize Health's New India Managing Director

20 April 2021

Equalize Health welcomes Krishnakumar (KK) Sankaranarayanan to the team. Recently, our Commercial Manager, Gauri Singh spoke with KK to learn more about his career and desire to join Equalize Health.

KK spearheads our strategy in India, including sourcing new technologies and opportunities, and implementing new programs. With a B.E. from College of Engineering Guindy Chennai, as well as a Masters in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, along with over 30 years of experience in Indian Healthcare,  KK is a perfect fit for us. Before joining Equalize Health, KK was Executive Director in the Health Industries team of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India, Marketing Manager in Hospimedica International New Delhi and Senior Scientific Officer at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. KK originates from Chennai (formerly Madras) in India. Equalize Health allows him to combine his passion for improving health outcomes with his experience in medical technology, product development, sales and marketing, and health system design. 


Equalize Health’s Commercial Manager, Gauri Singh recently spoke with KK to learn more about his career and desire to join Equalize Health.


Gauri: You've worked across the healthcare industry from research to marketing and consulting, so tell us about your career in the healthcare space in India.


KK: If I were to look at my career, my interest in healthcare started when I was in my third year of engineering, when we had a presentation by the then vice president of a hospital who talked to us about how engineers can contribute to healthcare. I recognized I was good at medical equipment, and I thought that I can play the role of a good engineer in healthcare. So in my first two jobs, I spent about three years designing equipment for India's health care program, and then the next 12 years in commercial med-tech across multiple groups from customer support to sales and marketing, demonstration of products, installation and so on and so forth. Essentially, what we are doing with our virtual telementoring sessions in India, but there physically.

As I advanced in my career, I decided to do a program in management, and then I joined PriceWaterhouseCoopers in health care consulting. There, I had the opportunity to actually create the Health Care Consulting Group in PWC. Over the last 13 years or so I had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients, both products and services, public and private, domestic and international, across a variety of problems. So that gave me a holistic view of health care, a systems view of health care, and towards the later stages of 2015 onwards I also spent a lot of time in public health, in consulting. I had the opportunity to work with the government of India with companies which were trying to find out opportunities for management, work on identifying health innovation for mother and child health and so on. This confluence of public health and medical technology, essentially was what brought me to Equalize Health.  

"Essentially we've become sicker before we've become richer, and that I think presents a unique set of problems and opportunities as well as opportunities for India."

Gauri: What have been some of the challenges and also the opportunities in this extensive journey, expanding 30 years or close to that?


KK: It has been 30 years now. I think lots of things have changed, but I think there is a lot more to be done. So in that sense, it's a way to look back at the significant progress with regard to health indicators surrounding infant mortality, fatality indicators, life expectancy at birth to other measures like sex ratio at birth, etc. I think all of that has progressed, but what has also become worse is the fact that our noncommunicable disease burden has increased significantly in the last I would say 25 or so years. For many reasons, 1990 serves as a reference point for any kind of discussion. And so from 1990 to 2015, the 25 year period India made the epidemiological transition, where a large percentage of its implausibilities have moved from mother and child or communicable diseases towards all non-communicable diseases. And that has kind of happened even in India's poorest states, which means essentially we've become sicker before we've become richer, and that I think presents a unique set of problems and opportunities as well as opportunities for India. We continue to focus on the communicable disease burden, but we also have to combat noncommunicable disease. And of course, the pandemic has also shown that we are vulnerable to epidemics also, so I think there's a need for looking at multiple challenges in health care in a holistic way, and therefore there is a lot more which needs to be done. 


Gauri: What motivated you to join us at Equalize Health?


KK: I think because the major motivation was the fact that the organization has a social purpose around the impact of medical technology. We have the ability and drive to improve health outcomes across the world. So there is the impact-focused nature of the organization and its emphasis on equity. I think in global health care, we haven't achieved anything if you don't have equity. And of course, the fact that we are a medical technology company. My fundamental interests and training are a good fit for the organization as well. And that's how I fully made the move to Equalize Health.

Gauri: You made this move during the pandemic, while the world is changing, and so being in healthcare, how has the ecosystem for health care innovation changed in India after COVID?


KK: I think a couple of things have happened. One is that the traditional innovation ecosystem was largely driven by the government and funded by the government.  I think the pandemic has changed this. There is philanthropic money now available for innovation in general, and health care innovation in particular. I think that is one opportunity that I see. Of course the nature of money is still small, and COVID-19 related, but what it has shown is that it is possible to catalyze innovation even with a small amount of money, provided the expectations from the innovation are clear.


Also the availability of private capital, I think, though it's small, but private capital is beginning to become available for many social causes. Education and health care are the largest sectors and funding for health care is towards health care services. So I think it's also an opportunity for organizations to see that we are not just focused on delivering health care, but developing better ways in which it can be delivered, together.


Gauri: What, in your opinion, is needed to create an impact in health care in India? And also how do you see Equalize Health doing that?


KK: Understanding where to focus attention and energy is very important. 

First of all, it needs to be a problem that is real in India, with a solution that can scale in India. It must be something for which there are no available solutions or the available solutions are not enough. A solution must start with a holistic understanding of what the issues are. 

Also,effecting changes in clinical practices is extremely hard. I think the focus on ensuring that the solutions that we design are aligned with the clinical practices or at least take into account the clinical practices and realities in India is important also.

I think the solution also has to kind of keep in mind the workload, the skill levels, and the infrastructure that is available in the healthcare sector in India. We design solutions which are appropriate for the context, not just the clinical practices, but the work environment tool. The end product is then more affordable, of high-quality, and more effective. 

Lastly, there are other sustainability factors we consider as well.  Will the product be available when I need it? Is it portable, durable? Is it something people want to buy?  How can we make sure you won't have to wait six months to get that product? Is the product something which the clinicians can use in practice, even when overburdened?  What is the right training needed for adoption? By asking these questions over and over, and from the very beginning of the design process, I think this is how we can create impact in healthcare in India.