‘Biggest export earning of India will come from care givers’


“Eventually, Narayana will be known as a heart and cancer treatment provider’’

Narayana Health, a hospital chain funded by well known cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty, is planning to adopt a mix of technology and brick and mortar expansion strategy to achieve the target of having 30,000 beds, Viren Shetty, executive director and group chief operating officer said. Considering the growth in the number of cancer patients in the country, he said ultimately all of Narayana’s hospitals will turn into cancer hospitals.

How is Narayana looking at the future?

We have 30 hospitals across the country with 6,000 beds. But Dr. (Devi) Shetty’s grand vision is to have 30,000 beds. He wants Narayana to be the largest healthcare network in the world. Now, the question is how to get there as 30,000 beds is very expensive and it will take a long time. He is ambitious and he wants to see it in his lifetime. So, we are trying to see if the bed does not be there physically but we can reach that number of patients. So, we are turning into ideas how Uber is a taxi company which does not own cars and OYO being a hotel company does not own hotels. So, we are thinking how we can run a virtual health network. We want to use tools to expand our services. We want to install an app on the phone of patients after they leave the hospital so that they can text in and stay in constant contact with the hospital and the doctor for medication.

What is the roadmap to the 30,000-bed ambition?

Even if you add up all the beds of private hospitals in India, I don’’t think you will get to 30,000 beds. So, we have to grow with the growth of the market. That means over time as more and more doctors are added, as more and more infrastructure comes up, we want to come in and be the manager. It is not necessary that Narayana has to go and build those hospitals. We need not have to buy those lands. I will not have to build all the beds but I will manage 30,000 in total.

What is your greenfield expansion plan?

Nothing for next one year. The Mumbai hospital is two years old. A hospital in Delhi is only eight months old. The one started in Gurugram is not even five months old. So, we cannot start too many new hospitals at the same time. For one or two years we will take a break. But, we may look at adding capacity to existing hospitals.

To deal with scarcity of doctors, the government recently announced plans to set up one medical college in every three districts of India. Is it practical?

When we talk about medical education. we are just not building medical colleges to provide doctors for India. We are providing doctors to the whole world. You go to South East Asia, Dubai, Europe, U.K. and U.S., you will find Indian doctors. Someone said, which I am not sure, there are more Indian nephrologists (kidney doctors) working in the U.S. than in India. So, forget about one medical college in three districts, every district should have a medical college because in the future the biggest export earning industry of this country will be our manpower. The biggest export earnings of India will not come from software, but from our people, the care givers.

Because that is the strength we have. In the West, the population is declining, in Japan there is no one to take care of the old people. So, we have the great opportunity to create a nation of care givers, because to Indians, care-giving comes naturally. They are gifted and are very good in doing medicine and nursing. So, the benefit of more doctors will come in terms of foreign money into the country and it will solve the healthcare problem in India. Healthcare is a challenge and expensive because there are not enough doctors.

Narayana was started as a cardiac hospital but now you have forayed into different streams of medicine. What would you like to be known as?

We do every thing but cardiac is the biggest focus. [As much as] 40% of the revenue comes from cardiac. That is because 40% of all diseases are cardiac aliments. But, we are seeing the biggest growth in cancer. So, cancer is the fastest growing speciality. While cardiac grows at 8 to 9% per year, cancer is growing at 20% a year. Eventually, Narayana will be known as a heart and cancer treatment provider. Currently, we have six cancer hospitals but eventually we want to convert all our hospitals into cancer hospitals. There will be not be any difference between what is a cancer hospital or what is not because when people live longer, first they get diabetes, then heart attack and eventually, they will end up getting cancer.

What makes Narayana different from other hospital chains?

The strong leadership that is provided by the core group of doctors is our strength. We are not a business-led organization. Every decision comes from a clinical mindset. That makes us a preferred place for doctors to come and operate. The guidance in running the hospital comes from them.

It is believed that India has big potential in medical tourism because we treat at a fraction of cost. How big is this opportunity?

It is a great opportunity but it is very sad if you think about it. People from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Iraq come here because there is nothing available in their country. So, yes, it is opportunity for us, but we want to strengthen the infrastructure in those countries so that they are treated there itself. We try to work with governments so that they can send their doctors who can be trained at our hospitals. We have partnership with government of Ethiopia. They sent 20 doctors and 20 nurses who were trained by us. We want to do the same for Bangladesh and other African countries. In the poorer countries of Middle East, we can come and help them in training care givers in our systems. That will be a much bigger benefit than just taking their patients away.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:33:03 PM |

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