In a country that associates surgical care with hospitalisation, the concept of ambulatory services, or same-day discharge, requires greater trust in scalpel-wielding specialists than patients have ever had. Surgeons, too, are only now warming to this idea.
When Nova Medical Centers started in June 2009, in Bangalore where it is headquartered, it had to evangelise ambulatory services, which comprise 70 percent of all surgeries globally. It took a year to start the second centre. During this time, it evolved from pure day care to short-stay (where a patient could stay overnight at no additional charge). Since then, the growth has been rapid.
Nova now operates 12 short-stay surgical centres and six IVF centres in seven cities. It will ring up nearly Rs 300 crore in revenue in 2013-14. Each centre, run as a small business unit with its own profit and loss account, is complete with pharmacy, pathology labs, diagnostic services and health check-ups. “It has all the complexities of a big hospital but it neither feels nor smells like one; it is like a boutique hotel,” says Suresh Soni, chairman and chief executive officer.
In the IVF business, where the break-even is faster, its tie-up with IVI of Spain, which brings the whole kit and kaboodle of technology, treatment protocols and research, is the biggest differentiator. Of nearly 120 million infertile couples in India, 20 million can afford Nova’s services, it claims. That gives it a reasonably big addressable market.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND IT
Soni seems to have mastered the art of spotting, seeding and growing businesses. They may be as diverse as power electronics, oil technology and aircraft overhaul and maintenance, but he finds a way to fast-track them all. Before Nova, it was Airworks, a decades-old family-owned business which he acquired and turned around, along with other investors; it grew from Rs 10 crore to Rs 250 crore in two years.
For a technology professional who had spent 20 years in the US with companies like Lucent and Emerson, parachuting into India as venture partner of GTI Capital was a tantalising challenge for Soni. Once he finalised on short-stay surgical centres as a business focus, he began searching for surgeons. That was when he met Dr Mahesh Reddy. An entrepreneurial surgeon, Dr Reddy had opted to specialise in non-emergency/trauma surgeries during his training in the UK.
Soni and Dr Reddy are well matched. Soni wants to build a $1 billion business; Dr Reddy wants to see ambulatory services reach every corner of India and hopes that government hospitals will, like the UK’s National Health Services, move to day surgeries for efficiency and cost reduction.