Who’s the force behind this organisation that is working so hard to provide ummeed in the lives of these children and their families? It’s the powerful combination of Vibha Krishnamurthy and John Thattil. While Vibha brings a rare blend of intensive medical training and innate intuition to the table, John has over 16 years of experience in the corporate sector and 12 years in the not-for-profit sector within India and Abroad.
Having completed her MBBS from Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi where she was brought up, followed by an MD in paediatrics from Safdarjung Hospital, Vibha moved to Boston. When the Harvard Medical School system required her to qualify for a fresh MD, she just thought, “Let me learn something I know nothing about – mental health of the young – so I applied for a fellowship vacancy in developmental paediatrics,” she says simply. “Once I immersed myself in these studies, there was no stopping me.”
So when she and her husband Ashish Karamchandani ( current CEO of The Monitor Group in India) moved back to India, they took a bold step and set up Ummeed – to provide quality special care to people in need. They knew there was a need for the same but would there really be a demand? Well, in the first year itself, they catered to about 1,000 children giving them an insight into the years to come! The centre caters to well over 3,000 children annually today.
But it’s not always been an easy ride. She recalls 5-6 years ago, when Ummeed had really expanded its services, and they were pretty much at an all-time high. She was checking her mails one day and saw an email from one of the children’s parents who had written in to share how disappointed she was with her experience with Ummeed. “I came to Ummeed with hope but left hopeless” said the parent. This is when the team took a step back and some drastic changes followed.
Pay a visit to the center today and you’ll see how their current CEO John Thattil is keeping things in control. Ex-Group Head of Tass Inflight systems (manufacturer and supplier of airline amenities to 104 airlines globally), John entered the social sector after a chance meeting with the CEO of HelpAge India Mathew Cherian. A 2-month stint to help improve upon their processes turned out to be a 8-year-long one. Post HelpAge, a short stint at at Habitat for Humanity ensued, before he switched over to Ummeed. He spends his days today hovering from cubicle-to-cubicle, managing his team of 60+ and their numerous sessions.