Dr. A Velumani recalls why he looked forward to school each day when they were battling for a square meal a day. They served a midday meal for us to consume. He had no idea that it
would inspire him to pursue a career in education.
He was born in the Tamil Nadu village of Appannaickenpatti Padur to landless farmers. His mother was the main earner and raised two buffaloes while his father was unemployed. For the following 20 years, the milk from those buffaloes fed her five children and kept the household afloat.
Velumani never let his shaky socioeconomic situation dictate how his life would turn out, even though school looked a long way off for the many disadvantaged kids around him.
He was a self-made man who overcame all hurdles to earn his BSc from the former Madras University. But, just as he thought schooling would be his ticket out of poverty, he discovered that no one wanted to hire him.
He battled for four years in Coimbatore before being forced to work as a chemist in a small capsule manufacturing company for a meager Rs 150 per month income due to unemployment.
From not knowing where the thyroid gland was in 1982 to earning a Ph.D. in thyroid biochemistry in 1995, his knowledge of the topic enabled him to advance from a lab technician to a scientist at Radiation Medicine Centre. It is a BARC department that investigates the application of nuclear energy in healthcare and agriculture.
Dr. Velumani's sole chance at 37, with no experience running a business and a two-lakh provident fund, was an idea: to create thyroid testing labs around the city to diagnose thyroid diseases at one-fourth the market price.
In 1996, he opened his first laboratory in Byculla, South Mumbai, 15 minutes from the Tata Memorial Hospital, a renowned cancer institute.
Thyrocare is the world's largest thyroid testing company today, having been formed 22 years ago. It currently processes over 70,000 samples per day and performs 3,50,000 medical tests per night, up from 25 samples per day previously. Apart from India, it has a network in Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Middle East.
From a monthly salary of Rs 150, the man who dared to fall in love with risk has built a firm worth half a billion rupees! Along the way, he gained skills he never learned in college, such as HR, logistics, and information technology.
What's even more intriguing is that 98 percent of his employees are newbies. “I prefer inexperienced folks than freshers. A newcomer is never required to unlearn anything. Also, I recall that during my four-year job search, I was rejected wherever I applied, and the excuse given to me was that I lacked experience. Isn't it true that a man can only develop experience if he is given a job? He responds, "I want to do exactly that with freshers immediately."
“There is never a good time to start a business. Don't get into the habit of relying on your father's money too soon. Business is a marathon, not a 100m dash. Making a business successful requires a high level of probability. Furthermore, early success is difficult to maintain,” he adds.