India’s own 911 rising

Updated Apr 23, 2007: Vamsi commented that Apollo Hospitals is also doing this. Thanks Vamsi. See below.

While living in the USA for more than 10 years, i used to often envy the 911 service – emergency response within minutes. It shows how much value is placed on the human life and even animal lives. In fact, once I and Priya Raju were walking around in our neighborhood and we found a cat struggling for its life having been hit by a speeding car. We called the local animal shelter and within 15 minutes, a car had come to pick up the animal, but unfortunately by then the poor thing was dead. Amazing speed of response.

In contrast, you come across so many instances in India, where people are simply left to die because the emergency response is simply too late or no one considerate enough to help out etc. And even if some good samaritan wants to help and takes the victim to the hospital, one would face an endless barrage of bureaucratic procedures by which time the victim maybe beyond help.  You don’t even need to ask what happens to an animal in distress.

Last week i was on the road and i was immensely delighted to watch an advertisement on the airport TV network for what seemed like a 911 service in India from an organization called EMRI.

During the weekend, i checked EMRI’s website and sure enough it is India’s answer to the 911 service. It is currently operational only in the state of Andhra Pradesh and within the year that it has been in operation, it has helped save over 8,506 lives and responded to over 4.75 million calls. If you reside in Andhra Pradesh, you are lucky, and you can find help in an emergency by dialing 108. The agency coordinates with the medical, police and fire departments and dispatches help on an emergency basis.

Interestingly this EMRI organization has been funded by Satyam Computers, one of the key software service providers in India. Satyam’s corporate social responsibility initiative is admirable. Kudos to Satyam for funding such a great service.  Hope EMRI spreads its service quickly to all the states of India.


I had written about my experience at BSNL a while ago and in general about how in India we let the customer drive our workflows. This naked workflow problem is everywhere in India not just in government agencies. If you think about the 911 service, the innovation is mainly around the eliminating the need for the customer to figure out who to call, where to go etc. Hope the 108 service inspires others to cure the naked workflow problem.

Apollo Hospitals: 

Excerpt from Apollo’s website:

The National Network of Emergency Services is operational across 9 cities in the country (Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Pune, Bilaspur, Kakinada and Bangalore). The system comprises 22 emergency rooms, 60 ambulances and over 500 personnel. The network is expanding rapidly and is expected to cover all the major towns and cities in the country by the end of 2006.

Notice that it still says “..2006”. I guess Apollo has forgotten to update its website. Hopefully, they have not abandoned their program to expand it to the entire country! BTW if you reside in one of them 9 cities you can call 1066 to get emergency help. The problem i see is that Apollo’s service doesn’t cover fire, police and other emergency services which the EMRI service covers.  May I ask why EMRI and Apollo pool their considerable resources and expand their services faster to all locations instead of having 2 competing emergency networks?





  1. Anonymous said April 23, 2007, 12:48 am:

    Good one Sukumar. I believe Apollo Chennai also has similar service.

  2. Anonymous said April 23, 2007, 12:21 pm:

    Thanks Vamsi. I have updated the post to include info on Apollo.

  3. Anonymous said April 23, 2007, 1:48 pm:

    I think 911 service etc needs more community involvement. Here the funding comes from county taxes etc. I wish to see more private participation with Govt giving incentives like 20% reduction in corporate tax for all private hospitals contributing 20% of their revenues for 911. Or similar reforms.

  4. Anonymous said April 23, 2007, 8:56 pm:

    Sukumar, Good to know ‘108’ service is coming up. Challenge would be reaching on time with all the infrastructure, bad roads and traffic.

    Workflow – some how I missed your previous blog. Read it now. Currently I am facing the same issues!!!

    To figure out what’s the process is itself a process!! I can write many of my current stories – Bank, Post office, Government, Telephones everywhere it is same. You need someone known to you to get it done (with less difficulty…please note less difficulty!!).

    For example,

    After great difficulty I found out the process for getting legal heir certificate. Then they said Village Officer is getting transferred and have to wait for new VO to come. After a month new VO came. I am (thro my cousin) dealing with PA of this VO. Few months passed with reasons like…’VO busy with free dhothi/saree scheme for Pongal’!!!

    ‘Busy with underground drainage work’!!!! etc., etc,

    Now guess what!!! I am being asked Rs. 5000/- to get this done!!

    Irony is one of the person known to me is justifying saying Rs.5000/- is cheap considering you are outside India. Can’t they make it straight and simple? – I do have passport, election ID – which is photo ID, address proof, my father’s name in all these government issued documents – I guess this is all is needed for legal hire certificate. Am I making it too simple? I always remember Kamalhassan’s dialogue in ‘Indian’ movie. Something like this…’There is corruption in all parts of the world, difference in India is you got to bribe for doing things legally’. Absolutely true!!

    When I was India last year, for transferring/closing my father’s account I was in Canara Bank.

    First they told to bring a letter with a copy of death certificate. I went with those two. Same officer told me that I should also fill up a form. He searched all the files in his table and finally asked one of his assistant to bring the form. Fine…I filled-up the form. Stood in the queue and met the officer again…now he said ‘Sir…you should get 3 witness signatures’. He could have told the process first time which would have avoided 3 trips to bank. Next day I took one of my friend who works in Canara Bank in another branch. Everything was done not so efficiently but was done! BTW, I was nominee in the account…think of a case where there is no nominee.

    – Ramesh

  5. Anonymous said April 24, 2007, 11:26 am:

    Absolutely true Ramesh. Each of us would have faced similar situations for doing things that are pretty normal and legal.

  6. Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 10:22 am:

    good idea Vamsi. incentives will help, i am sure.

  7. Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 10:27 am:


    It is really sad that you are having to go through this. Yes, the story is the same everywhere. I had recently gone to the passport office and it took me nearly 4 hours to find out which queue i should be standing at. Once i figured out the queue, they had some new requirement dumped on me – bring 3 copies of some xyz stuff. It is amazing that with this state of affairs, we want to be a world superpower. Someone said eloquently a while ago – hope is the soul of life.

  8. Anonymous said April 27, 2007, 4:57 am:

    Hi… EMRI has been around for couple of years now. Tech support is provided by Satyam as all ambulances/EMRI vehicles are equippped with GPS devices.

    Another interesting initiative is GramIT. Hope you have heard about it.

  9. Anonymous said April 28, 2007, 9:33 am:

    Thanks Ranjit. Gram IT seems like another great initiative from Satyam. Way to go. I had not heard of it.