Interview | Viren Prasad Shetty Mumbai

‘Caregiving will bring in more exports revenue than software’

Viren Prasad Shetty

Viren Prasad Shetty  


Narayana Health group COO says their hospitals will eventually provide heart and cancer treatment

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

What are Narayana’s plans for 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 world’s largest healthcare network. Now the question is, how to get there? 30,000 beds is very expensive and it will take a long time. He is ambitious and wants to see it in his lifetime. So we are trying to see if the beds are not physically there but we can reach that number of patients. It is like how Uber is a taxi company that does not own cars and OYO, a hotel company, does not own hotels. We are thinking of how we can run a virtual health network. We want to use tools to expand our services. We want to install an app on patients’ phones after they leave the hospital so that they can stay in constant contact with the hospital and the doctor for medication.

What is the roadmap to the 30,000 beds goal?

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 doctors are added, as more infrastructure comes up, we want to be the manager. It is not necessary that Narayana has to build those hospitals. We need not have to buy that land. I will not have to build all the beds but I will manage 30,000.

What is your greenfield expansion plan?

Nothing for the 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 the scarcity of doctors, the government recently announced plans to start one medical college in every three districts of India. Is this practical?

When we talk about medical education, we are not just building medical colleges to provide doctors for India; we are providing them to the whole world. You go to South East Asia, Dubai, Europe, U.K. and the U.S. and you will find Indian doctors. Someone said there are more Indian nephrologists (kidney doctors) working in the U.S. than in India. So forget 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. India’s biggest export earning will not come from software, but from our people, the caregivers. Because that is the strength we have. In the West, the population is declining; in Japan, there is no one to take care of senior citizens. So we have the great opportunity to create a nation of caregivers, because to Indians, caregiving comes naturally. They are gifted and are very good at medicine and nursing. The benefit of more doctors will come in terms of foreign exchange into the country, and it will solve the healthcare problem in India. Healthcare is a challenge and is expensive because there are not enough doctors.

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

We do everything but cardiac care is our biggest focus: 40% of the revenue comes from this. That is because 40% of all diseases are cardiac-related. However, we are seeing a much bigger growth in cancer, and so, cancer is the fastest-growing speciality. While the cardiac segment grows at 8% to 9% per year, cancer care is growing at 20% a year. Eventually, Narayana will be known as a heart and cancer treatment provider. We have six cancer hospitals, but eventually, we want to convert all our hospitals into cancer hospitals.

What makes Narayana different from other hospital chains?

The strong leadership provided by the core group of doctors is our strength. We are not a business-led organisation. 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.

India is believed to have great potential in medical tourism because we treat at a fraction of global costs. How big is the 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. While it is an opportunity for us, 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 in our hospitals. We have a partnership with the government of Ethiopia. They sent 20 doctors and 20 nurses to be trained by us. We want to do the same for Bangladesh and other African countries. In the poorer countries of West Asia, we can train caregivers. That will be a much bigger benefit than just taking their patients away.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 8:59:06 PM |

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