Meet Dr Vishal Rao: A frugal innovator who restores voice and dignity to cancer patients

Navi Radjou
3 min readMay 19, 2024


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Usually, before going to bed, I would listen to a spiritual song dedicated to a Hindu god-dess. That would quieten my mind and soothe my heart, leading to a good sleep.

Last night, I tried something different.

Rather than listen to devotional songs praising Gods dwelling in the Sky, I watched a video praising a human being who embodies godliness here on Earth.

After watching this video, I felt immense peace.

Dr. Vishal U S Rao, a head-neck oncologist, was horrified by the fact that his throat cancer patients who had their voice box removed couldn’t afford a voice prosthesis that would enable these patients to speak again.

The voice prosthesis sold in #India costs $500-$1,000 — which is too high for most Indians who earn $2 or less per day.

As a result, low-income patients in India remain in silence after surgery.

Dr. Rao found this immoral, as he believes that “Voice is not a privilege, but a right

To restore his patients’ “right to speak” and their dignity, Dr. Rao became Dr. MacGyver: he applied his jugaad (hussler) ingenuity to create his own voice prosthesis called AUM that costs less than $1.

Watch this inspiring video to learn about Dr. Rao’s #frugal #medical innovation and its major impact on patients’ lives.

I love Dr. Rao’s following comment in the video above:

SCIENCE should not only remain a hope for the FUTURE. It should serve the PRESENT. It should serve the needy and should become ACCESSIBLE. Only then will #science become COMPLETE.”

In India and in many of developing countries, 80% of cancers are detected late — stage III/IV.

Hence it is estimated at least 10,000 patients in India each year potentially stand to lose their voice box to throat cancer

Dr. Vishal’s jugaad innovation is a GODsend for all these patients.

Jaideep Prabhu and I featured a case study on Dr. Vishal Rao in the revised Indian edition of our book on Frugal Innovation published by Penguin Random House India in 2019.

Learn more about Dr Vishal Rao :

Check out Dr Vishal Rao’s spiritual book “Beyond AUM: The Fourth Syllabe”:

The 4th Syllabe Dr. Rao refers to is the TURYA — the 4th state of #consciousness beyond the 3 common states of consciousness (waking, dreaming, and dreamless deep sleep) represented by the 3 letters A-U-M.

Turya represents your true self known as Atman (soul).

Most of us lead our whole lives unconsciously, mindlessly repeating only the first 3 syllabes (A-U-M)

Few of us find and stay connected with our Atman.

Dr. Rao is one of those rare souls who knows how to pronounce the Fourth Syllabe

Dr. Rao helps his patients unlock their Vishuddha (विशुद्ध) or throat chakra so they can find their “true” voice and express it freely.



Navi Radjou

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Based in France. Visit: