Even as you read this, one of America's most promising young people — named one of 2005's Ten Outstanding Young Americans (earlier recipients of the honour include Bill Clinton, John F Kennedy, Henry Ford and Elvis Presley) — is packing his bags in Boston, and preparing to move back 'home'.
Come December, and Dr Vikram Sheel Kumar, 31, will be in Delhi, a city he loves for its "progress, bright colours, big families, butter chicken, makeshift cricket grounds, white ambassadors and people."
For Indian-American Vikram, who studied engineering at IIT-Delhi and Columbia, and medicine at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, life will come a full circle with this move. In 2002, he had conceived his healthcare informatics services company with two others at the MIT media lab, while developing a handheld software application to solve maternal and child health care problems in Ballabgarh, Haryana. The project's name, Ca:Sh (Community Accessible and Sustainable Health System), was coined from the Hindi word,
Vikram went on to name his company 'Dimagi Inc'— after its brainy full-time partners from Harvard and MIT. Says Vikram, "When I started Dimagi, a rich man told me it would only be a graduate school project. That was five years and eight countries ago." In 2004, Vikram made it to the list of the world's Top 100 under-35 innovators, and was named the Humanitarian of the Year by MIT's Technology Review magazine.
The engineer-cum-medic will now bring Dimagi's vast experience in deploying low-cost technology to solve healthcare problems in developing nations, back to India — where it all started from. "We already have some projects in India. In 2008, we will expand on the lines of our US model. We will work on tackling the poor utilisation of India's public health resources and countering the diabetes epidemic," says Vikram.
A Boston-league squash champion, Vikram will also work with his Delhi-based neurosurgeon father, Dr Vijay Sheel Kumar, on setting up sports and pain management centres that provide non-surgical treatments. And it certainly won't hurt the relocated doc that back home, people don't mispronounce his company as Dimajee — something he has had to hear for the last five years in Boston.