“Our sister was just three years old when she died. We couldn’t afford to pay to a private hospital, and there was no government facility near us. We have built a hospital that seeks to change the concept of private healthcare in Manipur. “
For Surjit Ningthoujam (37), life in New Delhi was good. Working for a top firm in the solar energy sector, things couldn’t be better. His younger brother, Kumarjeet (33) too, was living the good life working as a Data Analytics Specialist with the Bank of America. Hemjit (28), the youngest of the three brothers, meanwhile, worked at a private firm. However, each brother yearned for the day when they could go back home to Imphal, Manipur. When they made up their mind, they left their cushy life in the metro city, returned to Manipur, powered villages with solar, and built a free hospital, all of which has positively impacted their community.
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“When I went back home during the vacations there were hours where homes in my neighbourhood would go without electricity from 6PM till 11PM, before getting cut off again at 1AM. So, while life in Delhi was wonderful, things weren’t particularly great back home. In my own small way, I wanted to change that,” says Surjit, speaking to The Better India.
“I saw how far away we were from the mainland, both in terms of infrastructure and quality of life. I thought to myself, why can’t we start a business that would help our population here,” shares Kumarjeet.
Surjit was the first to return to Imphal in 2012, and begin initiatives in powering houses with solar energy and provide digital literacy to school and college students. But, it is this year that the brothers saw the culmination of a long standing dream they have harboured since they were children. “Our sister died because we couldn’t afford to pay for her treatment at a private hospital, as there was no government facility near our home. We wanted to build a hospital that would change the concept of private healthcare in Manipur. Unfortunately, people have started treating healthcare as a business with little empathy for ordinary patients. Offering free treatment, our hospital will look to change that,” says Surjit.
They have opened Yelhoumee Hospital in the memory of their sister Thoibi Ningthoujam, who passed away due to typhoid in 1989. Awaiting its licence at present, the hospital will be officially inaugurated on 1 November this year. Registered under Yelhoumee Healthcare Private Limited, this 50-bed hospital will initially specialise in general medicine and orthopaedic services.
The hospital has an ultrasound, X-Ray machine, lab testing facilities (partnering up with SRL Diagnostics). The hospital will have a workforce of three doctors, seven nurses, one pharmacist and two cleaners.
Treatment will be free of cost, with patients paying only for the medicines. “In Manipur, medicines make up 10-15 per cent of the total cost if you’re admitted and require prolonged treatment at a standard private facility. That’s the only cost our patients will have to pay,” says Surjit, describing the model on which hospital will run.
“We are planning to pay the salaries for nurses, a pharmacist, and cleaners from the revenue generated by medicine sales. For doctors, the salary will come from our pockets in the first six months. We are planning to generate revenue from home sample collections, sale of medical devices and equipment, besides opening a chain of pharmacies across villages in Manipur, where people usually buy medicines from small department stores that aren’t run by qualified/certified pharmacists,” says Kumarjeet.
Solar Power & Digital Literacy
The story of the brothers’ contribution in their home state began in 2012, when Surjit returned to Imphal and founded his first company Mangaal Rural to start solar projects in Manipur. His first project was in Atom Khuman, a small village in Imphal West district with 36 households.
“Mangaal Rural lit up all the homes. Even their local temple and playgrounds enjoyed its fruits. It was the first 100 per cent solar-powered village in Northeast India and we provided solar energy equipment free of cost. I spent Rs 5 lakh out of my pocket to turn Atom Khuman into a solar village. The motivation behind taking up this initiative was to ensure such villages don’t suffer the curse of load shedding,” says Surjit.
In other villages like Chairel, Thoubal district, the company offered solar power equipment and set the plant up at a nominal price powering 5,000 homes with solar across Manipur.
“Following our solar initiative, we went onto work in digital literacy. I wanted to popularise the idea of using the internet. A major achievement was turning Nungthaang Tampak, a small village located 65 kms away from Imphal with a population of around 200 people, into the Northeast’s first computer literate village,” he adds.
Kumarjeet offered offline support to his brother’s ventures. Nonetheless, there came a time when Surjit needed funds to support his other ventures. Closing Mangaal Rural down, he opened Yelhoumee Enterprises on 23 May 2018, which also saw the return of both brothers to join the business.
The core business at Yelhoumee Enterprises is selling their brand’s LED TVs in Manipur. Their objective is to open the first LED TV assembling unit in Manipur by 2020.
Later, the brothers started the Digital Yelhoumee initiative to further their previous work of raising computer literacy in the state. Under the project, ‘Digital Yelhoumee – Laptop for every Yelhoumee’, they have distributed more than 200 laptops on easy instalments. Their aim is to make Manipur the first 100 per cent ‘Computer Literate State’.
Furthermore, the brothers are conducting computer classes for local government school students in Sugnu town, Kakching district.
“We have plans to work with Meria Pabis, an influential women-led civil society organisation, to control drug and alcohol consumption by the youth. We want to impart computer education to them at a nominal fee of Rs 100 per month instead of allowing them to just sit through the night. Another initiative we will start soon is home tutoring in computer literacy for senior citizens,” informs Surjit.
“We want to do business that has a positive impact on society. While making some money through computer literacy programmes and solar energy projects, we are also bringing positive change to the lives of people,” says Surjit.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)