A gynecologist who assisted the birth of a unicorn: Dr Garima Sawhney

Without much support or inspiration in the family and not much reassurance from the surroundings, the young Garima, still a teenager was at crossroads, and wondering about her future.

A gynecologist who assisted the birth of a unicorn: Dr Garima Sawhney

Dr Garima Sawhney (Photo: SNS)

Without much support or inspiration in the family and not much reassurance from the surroundings, the young Garima, still a teenager was at crossroads, and wondering about her future. She found her strength in her father, himself a self-made man. He was much ahead of his time. True to his personality, he encouraged, prodded, persuaded, and supported the young and struggling Garima to go all out and achieve her dreams. His encouragement transformed the young, uncertain, and hesitant Garima into a confident and passionate medical doctor, with a specialization in gynecology from a premier government medical college. She continues to be rooted in the family traditions of empathy, care, and responsibility.

Her life is nearly divided into distinct, though unequal parts. The first part is her journey towards becoming a doctor and undergoing the grueling ward duties at a government hospital. Ask her the big lesson that she learned along the way, she is quick response, with a terse reply “Time!” Nudge Dr. Garima further, and she expands her terse reply and says, “As doctors in general and gynecologists in particular, we were always on our toes. Emergencies, coping with high patient load and shortage of junior doctors and being on duty for long duty hours, teach us to be judicious with our time. We are required to make decisions at very short notice. Decisions that may make a difference between life and death. Our professional responsibilities instill the firm belief that as a doctor, patient-time takes precedence over our personal time.”

This was the period of rapid professional growth, from knowledge, skills, and habits to experience, she was constantly learning from each experience.


Ask her about the next part of her ongoing journey of success. The very soft-spoken Garima becomes effusive and is far more forthcoming. She says that this phase started when she moved from a medical institute to a corporate one. “Having lived and learnt from the struggles of a job at a medical institute, I got the chance to move into a corporate job. I accepted the offer. But here I encountered a different kind of challenge.” So the next logical question is what was the challenge, her prompt reply is, “Corporate hospitals have their own standard operating procedures. Despite having the experience of handling complex cases, managing life-threatening conditions, and having saved endless lives, I was still treated as junior doctor-only following instructions and not allowed to directly deal with patients. I was fearful of losing my patient-treatment skills.”

Did she then think of moving to a hospital that would offer her a greater say in inpatient treatment? Her answer was, “Yes I did think about that and fortunately got an offer from another corporate hospital. Here I had my own OPD and my own set of patients.” But was this hospital not way smaller than the one that she had moved out of? She said, “Yes it was. But whatever the number of patients that I would get, I would give them enough time to articulate their condition in their own words, this would help me better understand their problem and suggest a more thought out treatment plan. This helped me develop a deep trust with my patients and their families”.

Having developed a group of patients who trusted her and recommended their friends and relatives to her, she was gaining confidence in her professional and social skills. From the young girl with whom she operated for her fibroids to managing the complex pregnancy of another woman, and operating a large, 15 cm ovarian cyst of a young girl, her reputation as a skilled gynecologist was growing.

Now was the time to start a new phase of the journey.

Moving away from a regular-income corporate job to starting on her own, was also full of challenges. But the trust that she had established and the reputation that she had gained gave her the confidence to set up her own clinic, a small 10×10 space. After much thought and deliberations, she zeroed on the name and finalized Pristyn Care. Her commitment to patient care, offering wholesome, thorough, and international standard treatment were the elements that helped her arrive at the name.

Quality was at the core of all that Pristyn Care offered. With the steady flow of patients and having Dr. Vaibhav Kapoor, himself a surgeon, and her husband, by her side, the growth of Pristyn Care was substantial, and the need to expand was being felt.

The three friends, Dr. Garima, Dr. Vaibhav, and his childhood friend, Harsimarbir Singh, started to indulge in long conversations on how to expand and by how much, after all, expansion of medical services is an expensive and risky proposition. Several rounds of discussions, arguments, counterarguments, and at times very heated ones, they decided to implement a novel model of elective surgery. The intent was to provide high-quality service yet be affordable. Research suggested that the hinterland not only lacked the infrastructure but patients and families had to travel large distances to avail similar standard of surgeries.

This led to the re-birth of Pristyn Care, in a new avatar. The new Pristyn Care decided to use idle hospital space, upgrade it to make it of optimal quality, provide IT infrastructure, and train doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff, all in line with its objective of providing quality care at affordable rates. This required large funds and this is when they started to pitch to investors.

Their Eureka Moment was when the global investor Sequoia Capital announced to fund Pristyn Care. With the relentless pursuit for excellence, putting in long arduous hours, and constantly evolving, Pristyn Care soon became a unicorn, an exalted position among startups.

What is the one big piece of advice that she has for women wanting to be entrepreneurs, her quick reply is” Break the mental barrier”. She complements this with “You have all it takes to be an entrepreneur, young woman. Go and chase your dreams. Like your male counterparts, if you feel you need help, go seek it but don’t get bogged down by the fear of failure.” She is quick to add that having family responsibilities should not be a limiting factor, use them to de-stress. Ask her how does one do that? Her reply is,” Practice and a conscious choice. Try to compartmentalize your lives. Both husband and wife, particularly if they are from the same professions, she and Dr. Vaibhav are, this becomes more important. We have to be wife and husband and not continue to be co-founders.”

Dr. Garima’s journey is indeed one that needs to be celebrated, shared and should act as a guide for young women wanting to go out and conquer the world. No challenge in the world is not surmountable. The need is to break the “mental barrier” and go for it in the right earnest.