Name: Nikhil Lawrence Pereira-Kamath
Hometown: Newton, Massachusetts
Current Location: Kigali, Rwanda
What were you involved with at Princeton:
I was involved with the Princeton Wrestling Team (which only got really good when I left... coincidence?) and Tiger Inn with a brief couple of stints with eXpressions.
What's your favorite memory of Princeton:
Forbes. Given we were essentially in a different area code than the rest of campus in the Addition, all of us were extremely close. We celebrated "Forbes Friday" which basically involved chilling in a dorm room and enjoying each others company and mindless board games - our motto "Go Hard, Stay Home".
What have you been up to in the five years since graduation? What are you currently doing? What has your path been like since college? What's next?
I took a pretty typical path for the first five years post graduation - did Healthcare Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley for 2 years followed by a move to Boston (my city!) to work as an Associate in Berkshire Partners' Private Equity arm. While I was working at Berkshire Partners - as a side passion project - I worked with an Entrepreneur from Burundi to establish the first dialysis clinic in the country. This was my come to Jesus moment and I learned quickly that the operating side was more attractive to me than investing. Thus, after the 4 years of finance, I decided a break was necessary and I joined Harvard Business School in the fall of 2014. While I was there I began the long process of beginning to formulate a business plan for establishing a professionalized chain of dialysis centers across East Africa and from that "Africa Healthcare Network" was born!
Africa Healthcare Network (“AHN”) aims to establish the first dialysis chain across Sub-Saharan Africa, providing high-quality, life-saving dialysis at an affordable cost. AHN brings world-class technical expertise combined with developing world practical operating experience to a region in dire need of quality dialysis treatment. The net result will be increased access, higher quality and lower cost to patients, delivered through a sustainable business model. AHN’s vision is to bring access, quality, and affordable dialysis care to Sub-Saharan Africa. While we are unable to provide care to the entire population, by offering high quality care at ½-⅔ prevailing rates, we expect to expand the addressable patient population. As we scale, we will educate physicians and hospitals to ensure early detection in order to prolong life, and provide additional social services including, Dialysis Olympics and free-testing holidays, similar to what is done in India & the U.S.
This summer, I was fortunate enough to move to Rwanda to launch my business, The business accelerated quickly and I am proud to say that within four months, I have established the organization and will be launching our first center in two weeks with a follow-on center in January in Rwanda. Unfortunately, passion drives performance and leaving would lead to the demise of the Company and, as a result, I decided to withdraw indefinitely from Harvard Business School to concentrate 100% of my time on making this venture a success. I will be back at school at some point, but for now, I am laser focused on my mission of improving healthcare in Africa. It has been quite an adventure! As it stands, I have no plans on leaving any time soon, this is likely a 3-5 years project at a minimum so if anyone needs a place to stay in Rwanda - shoot me a note!
On the Rwanda side, I am in love with this country. The people, the flora and fauna, and the pace of life have me, for the first time in ages, relaxed! It is truly amazing how far the country has come post genocide twenty one years ago. For those who do not know, I would recommend that you read up on the Rwandan Genocide. Having visited the Genocide Memorial, I left with extreme sadness at the events that occurred (a powerful quote that has stuck w/ me: “When they said never again for the holocaust, was it meant for some people and not for others?”) and disappointment in the U.S., Europe and the U.N.’s complete inaction. It is both depressing reflecting on the events of 1994 and also inspiring at how the country has been able to move forward and unite. I could write for hours on this topic, however, it is an emotional topic which I prefer to speak about in person.
What about your life now would your sophomore-year self be most surprised by?
1. I live in Rwanda. I always thought I would end up moving back to Boston after a few years in NYC as that's where my family is - East Africa was never on my radar. But having a truly eye opening experience! I'll be back to Boston in 5 years (self promise)!
2. I don't work in the financial services industry. I was an economics and finance nerd in college and lived an breathed finance for my first few years. Frankly I burned out and wanted to have direct control on what I was doing in life.
3. I have two dogs! Layla and Jackie - they are the two women in my life who keep me sane.
What's a lesson/belief/skill you've learned since graduating?
My cultural awareness was awful. In five months here I have had my eyes opened on how there are differences in essentially every way of operating in Rwanda and unless you are fully aware of how people operate and the slight nuances, you can turn off a number of people. Relationships are the key to success. I am learning new things every day - it has been quite enjoyable.
Anything else you want the class to know?
To quote The Truman Show, “In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!”