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Last updated January 12, 2016

A Very Indian Hospital

This book explores the extraordinary lives of patients and staff in India's most unique hospital where no one is turned away - ever.

A Very Indian Hospital

This book explores the extraordinary lives of patients and staff in India's most unique hospital where no one is turned away - ever.

NZ$ 12,162
pledged of NZ$ 42,375pledged of NZ$ 42,375 goal
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, January 12 2016 4:38 AM UTC +00:00
Last updated January 12, 2016


Paediatric cardiac surgery
Paediatric cardiac surgery


In 2012, I made a 6 x 1 hour television documentary series, Indian Hospital for Al Jazeera English which looked at the remarkable Narayana Health Hospital in Bangalore, India where profit and free medicine sit side by side.

The hospital was conceived and built by gifted cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty, formerly personal physician to Mother Teresa for the last 5 years of her life.

The hospital never turns anyone away - ever and all patients are treated as equals - regardless of finances, religion, race, caste, background or social status.

Yet, through economies of scale and astute and revolutionary business practices the hospital makes a 9% profit combined with a remarkable philanthropic approach which results in 15 -20% of operations being performed for free and a further 30-40% for very reduced fees.

Dr Shetty's innovative approach to high-end quality medicine on an industrial scale could change hospital healthcare globally. And bring affordable treatment to the masses.

For instance through economies of scale - the "Walmartisation" of medicine as it has been called - the cost of a standard cardiac surgery at Narayana has been reduced to only $US1,800 compared to the average $US80 -100,000+ in the United States.

Plans are to reduce the cost to only $US800 per operation while retaining health outcomes as good or better than leading Western hospitals.

Similar astonishing reductions in the cost of operations are achieved throughout Narayana's other 3 major speciality hospitals: eye, cancer and orthopaedic.

In only 15 years, Dr Shetty has created a medical business model combining profit with compassion proving his vision of affordable health is not only a desirable but an achievable goal.

Run on a type of "Robin Hood" principle, those that can afford to pay do, while those that can't don't. Others pay only what they can afford. All patients receive identical treatment and facilities regardless of background or financial means.

During my time there one of India's richest men and a $2 a day field worker received a similar cardiac operation on the same day, in the same theatre, with the same staff and equipment. The only differences were the rich man paid (and left a sizeable donation) and the poor man paid nothing.

The field worker's operation was sponsored by one of the many charitable trusts initiated by the hospital and funded by local businessmen and philanthropists and through the implementation of various very low-cost insurance schemes.

As we say in the film, Narayana is a hospital with a difference, determined to make a difference.

This is not just talk. Shetty has already opened another 31 hospitals based on the Narayana model around India and one in the Cayman Islands which is set to challenge the bloated US health model.

Dr Devi Shetty & patients
Dr Devi Shetty & patients

The Book 

While the Indian Hospital series was seen around the world by many thousands on the Al Jazeera English Channel and YouTube, any documentary - even a series- can only skim the surface of a hospital as complex and multi-layered as Narayana Health.

This is why I have decided to write a book exploring in detail the lives of both patients and staff who make this place not only possible but unique.

This will be no dry analytical study of a successful business model or a rising entrepreneur but rather the life stories of individuals - more in the vein of Dominique Lapierre's City of Joy or Katherine's Boo's recent Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

I will enter the lives of some of India's multitudes - Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs- the rich and poor who for awhile at least call this place home and travel with them  from the most distant parts of India. 

For some this trip will  often be financed at great personal cost.The sale of their only plot of land or the withdrawal of a child from school to save fees. For many this is their last and only chance to receive life-saving treatment normally denied to India's poor.

And I will be alongside those who tend to them - world renowned doctors and specialists, nurses and those largely anonymous staff - cleaners, cooks, drivers or administration personnel who work here as equals for a common cause.

Like India itself, it is the people that make Narayana Health truly incredible and the richness and variety of their stories which will inspire readers to question our own health models and how we treat each other.

Slum family, Bangalore
Slum family, Bangalore


My time spent at Narayana observing Dr Shetty and his staff has profoundly changed my idea of what is possible within a lifetime. 

Dr. Devi Shetty, although very humble and accessible to any member of staff,  is a man of intense vision and dedication whose sole aim is to disassociate health care from affluence. In the beginning many people said he was mad to even attempt to build this hospital.

Spending 5 months with him convinced me that change is possible, even in a place as diverse, tumultuous and difficult as India in the 21st Century. 

Although my book is unlikely to effect change on the grand scale of Dr. Shetty, I hope at to least inform readers of the work of this innovative hospital and its global health implications through the enthralling personal stories of the men and women at Narayana Health. 

A day spent at Narayana Hospital can be tough, uplifting, heart breaking and often funny, sometimes all at once and it is this unique experience that I intend to chronicle. 

The mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters from India and beyond who make their way through the doors at Narayana, are very often at the end of the road, where to be admitted is to receive salvation and a second chance at life. 

Hospital staff be they world renowned surgeons or humble cleaning staff, whom fate has drawn to this unique Indian hospital, provide this care not only with medical excellence but love and compassion. 

Narayana Health radiates an indefatigable sense of hope and optimism from its staff where the quality of health care is not dominated by the mighty dollar. 

Where else but this Indian hospital would one find a neurosurgeon giving meditation classes to staff during lunch hour or a leading anaesthetist who is also a classical raga singer teaching students after work.

Where else would a world-class paediatric cardiac surgeon  - Dr Colin John - veteran of 20,000 plus operations still perform 5 operations a day, 6 days a week  and still work after hours on the board of a charity hospital. 

Everywhere in this hospital, compassion rests comfortably along side medicine; varied religions are treated equally and a humble street vendor will be treated with the same respect as a powerful businessman. 

As an author, I have been fortunate to have already spent 5 months at this hospital while making my documentary series Indian Hospital

During my time there I had absolute access to all areas of the hospital without any restrictions  - admission rooms, operating theatres where there were both successes and failures, induction classes, morbidity reviews, nurse training sessions and pre and post-op wards. 

Shetty's promise and agreement prior to filming was to make the entire hospital's operations transparent to me and my crew and he fulfilled that a thousand fold. 

This in itself is truly remarkable given the average Indian hospital where often bureaucracy, inefficiency, sometimes corruption or the desire to maximise profits exclude outsiders especially journalists and film-makers.

I am in a highly privileged position of having total access to research this book and open the eyes of a global audience to new and exciting possibilities in medicine that do not conform to Western stereotypes through the lives of ordinary Indians.

Here are links to the television documentary series I made. Watching one or all of them, will help you understand the philosophy and operations of the hospital as well as meeting some striking individuals - patients and staff - which should help you decide whether you think this is a project worth supporting.  

I will be funding much of this book myself from my film work and I will not be drawing a wage for the research or writing periods.  My Kickstarter goal has been budgeted to cover travel, accommodation, translators fees and very basic living expenses over 2 years .

I am of course more than happy to answer any questions you may have. 

India - 1.2 billion and rising
India - 1.2 billion and rising

Series Overview:

Episode One:

 Episode Two: 

Episode Three:

Episode Four:

Episode Five:

Episode Six:

Risks and challenges

I have chosen not to seek a publisher before starting this book. Although I have written over 50 television scripts and published in national newspapers and magazines including the New Economist and New Statesman. As a first-time non-fiction book writer , the process of finding a publisher could have been a prolonged and painful process and the project may well have stuttered to a halt. .

I am confident that I will be in a stronger position to find the right publisher for this book when it is finished which will give it the global audience I believe it deserves.

I don't anticipate any unforeseen problems in researching or writing the book as long as I stick to meticulous research and constant revision during the writing.

Producing a book should hopefully not be more difficult from managing ambitious and complex documentary series which is my day job.

Importantly, I have absolute access to the hospital, staff and patients (with their permission).

Should I not find a publisher - although I think this is unlikely once I have written a few chapters, I will self publish so backers can be confident that the book, A Very Indian Hospital will be produced come hell or high water. Or possibly both.

It should be noted though, I expect this book to take 2 years in total to research and write.

I am used to meeting deadlines but the breadth and complexity of this project could mean running over - especially if I have to stop to do other work to fund it.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge NZ$ 10 or more About US$ 7

    I am afraid I am a bit ancient and old school to be offering multiple levels of rewards tailored to bucks offered.

    To me, you will either understand and want to support this book project, regardless of 'rewards' offered or not.

    When the book is published I am dedicating 50% of any profits I receive directly back into Narayana Health, to continue providing life-saving operations for some of India's poorest.

    This is the real reward which has the potential to change people's lives forever.

    Having said that, as the Kick Starter program encourages a layering of rewards, I have come up with an - ahem - rather minimalist reward list.

    $10 – A copy of the E-book upon completion

    $50 – A signed copy of the published book upon completion

    $100+ - A special mention / dedication in the first pages of the book.

    Backers will also receive regular updates and photographs of the characters from the hospital and other locations in India to which my research takes me.

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