Just when stories abound about start-up entrepreneurs making their billions from a tiny stake in their ventures, Vipul Jain, CEO of Advancells, has a contrarian take. If you don’t put a neat sum in your start-up, chances are you will end up selling a large stake for a few dollars. Instead, if you invest a decent sum and reach a respectable level, you can get wads of dollars for a small stake.
So Jain has put in close to Rs 8 crore in his start-up in the stem cell therapy business, which he believes is a sunrise industry. Such investment is also a vote of confidence in his business. “It is not difficult to get debt financing in India. Then, why do you opt for private equity? That means you’re not confident of your business”, he adduces. Then adds, “Good valuations come only after some good ground is made.”
This is not the only way in which Jain is different. He can easily be a club member of the bold and the bored. “I am quite restless. I don’t enjoy getting into a comfy office and running a company for life. I like to build a business from scratch, reach a certain scale and then leave it for professionals to run it, and I move to newer things. I like the challenge of entering an incipient industry and then growing it.”
He is not exactly boasting. He started with fabric import. Moved on to animation with a studio in Chennai. Then came the most successful, medical tourism business in America. That business, named Planet Hospital, became a trailblazer and went on to list on the Nasdaq in 2011. He left Planet Hospital to co-founders—an American and and a Canadian—to start another medical tourism outfit, Mirage Medserv, focused on patients in non-American geographies.
His current priority, Advancells, is in a way anchored on the medical tourism business, though the focus, for now, is on building a base in India first. “We’re looking at the entire Southeast Asia and Middle East as a future market.”
Stemcelll therapy, though still classified as experimental, is claimed to work in critical illness where conventional treatment fails. Jain has set up a lab in Noida, near Delhi, with Swiss technology, and tied up with surgeons and hospitals. “This will become mainline treatment for many diseases, hopefully, in the next two-three years”, he says (though that looks unlikely), adding, “The US FDA has already approved two procedures of stem cell therapy.”
Jain, an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, is now looking for venture capital funds to expand his marketing operations and research. “We want to be a part of the vast research happening all over the world.”
He is in talks for a tie-up with a leading stem cell research group in the US. “Once the tie-up happens we will be able to research more and access the North and South American markets”.
“We’re also in the process of filing a few patents”, he says.
Jain is making his moves carefully, and seems on track, though the pace could be slower than he thinks.