Fifteen years ago, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty realised that a good part of India’s progress lay in improving the standard of healthcare available to the common man. And along the way, he also realised that charity alone could not help the situation. “If I wanted to build a large chain of hospitals across the country, I needed to build a successful company which aimed to bring down the cost and make it affordable and thereby, also be attractive for banks to lend to and investors to invest in,” says Shetty. With that intention, he created Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City in Bengaluru in 2001.
Today, the Bengaluru-based hospital chain runs 14 hospitals in 11 cities and is in the process of adding another six hospitals. From specialty centres to multispecialty hospitals, the chain caters to every healthcare need and aims to make healthcare affordable, while meeting international quality standards.
If I wanted to build a large chain of hospitals across the country, I needed to build a successful company which aimed to bring down the cost and make it affordable and thereby, also be attractive for banks to lend to and investors to invest in.
Prior to creating Narayana Hrudayalaya, Shetty founded the Asia Heart Foundation in Kolkata in 1997 to create awareness on heart diseases and help unfortunate children suffering from the same. It was this experience that gave Shetty much needed clarity, in terms of his vision for a hospital.
While the initial investment for the hospital chain came from family, in 2008, global investment banks J.P. Morgan and American International Group invested Rs. 200 crore each in the company. At present, the company is seeking funding for specific projects, preferably from local partners. The group is headed by Dr. Raghuvanshi, CEO and also a cardiac surgeon, a group COO, Dr. Lloyd Nazareth, who has vast experience in managing hospitals, and a CFO, Sreenath, in addition to a professional team to manage the growth.
Apart from NH Multispecialty Hospital, NH Devaraj Urs Hospital, NH Hospital, Narayana Cayman University Medical Center, SDM NH, and RTIICS (Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences) NH, the chain also runs Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre, one of the world’s largest cancer hospitals with 1,400 beds, in association with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon. It also has dental clinics and diagnostic centres, and the range of services include academic research, telemedicine, corporate health services, international medicine and stem cell research apart from healthcare, with a special focus on cardiac, oncology, medicine, surgical (general and specialised) and diagnostics.
Narayana Hrudayalaya Group of Hospitals
Founder & Chairman: Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty
Investors: Rs. 200 crore each from J.P. Morgan and American International Group
While Shetty has been recognised for his efforts and honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Bhushan this year, he still believes that Indian healthcare has a long way to go. Primarily, he feels that policy changes should be introduced at the national level to provide health insurance for the underprivileged and amongst his many plans is to enrol 2,000 children from rural India in medical colleges every year. “We started one such effort on a small scale in West Bengal six years ago, under a programme called Udayar Pathey, wherein rural children in class seven who are passionate about becoming doctors are given a scholarship of Rs. 500 per month,” he explains. These children aspire to study medicine and Narayana Hrudayalaya mentors them to join medical colleges on merit. It also supports the students by organising a student loan for their studies and helps them with their other requirements, if necessary.
Meeting the challenges
According to Shetty, the growth of healthcare institutions will be stalled not because of the money but by lack of skilled manpower. Shortage of healthcare manpower in India has impacted the cost of human resources, which is increasing. And hence, every institution of Narayana Hrudayalaya’s double up as an academic institution conducting training programmes for a range of medical professionals from cardiac surgeons to sterilisation technicians. “At our health city in Bengaluru, we conduct 79 training programmes to train medical specialists. We are in the process of building a medical school in Ahmedabad Health City,” says Shetty. The intention of the academic activity is to train medical specialists of the future.
However, the greatest challenge of hospitals in India is to ensure that medical care is affordable, points out Shetty. “People simply do not have the money to pay for the expensive healthcare intervention. So, we should constantly try to juggle to offer services to the poor and make it affordable for people, who can pay some money,” he adds.
The aim of the hospital chain remains the same since its inception – to be a reliable, safe and low-cost healthcare provider across the globe. “We strongly believe that the cost of healthcare must come down and that will rapidly increase the customer base,” stresses Shetty. For this, the chain has introduced efficiencies such as its recent tie-up with HCL for cloud computing to reduce administrative hurdles, in addition to keeping IT costs under control, and focusing on cost effectiveness by reducing the luxury aspects that are typical of large hospitals. Conducting more procedures to achieve volumes is another way of effecting affordability for lower income groups to access treatment.
There is also a charitable wing in every hospital aimed for those who cannot afford to pay for the treatment provided. This division also reaches out to donors and raises money by introducing the people who do not have the money to the people who are willing to contribute. “In Bengaluru Health City, we are able to sponsor about 50 – 100 heart surgeries every month by raising money and also charging the patient just enough for the materials every month,” says Shetty. Apart from taking the total number of hospitals from 14 to 20 in the coming years, Narayana Hrudayalaya is also building a hospital in Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean, which should be commissioned in the next 18 months. The company wants to add 30,000 beds within the next five to seven years across the globe.
Shetty concludes with a piece of advice for anyone entering the healthcare industry; he suggests targeting the low-cost healthcare segment that is grossly under serviced. Needless to say, Narayana Hrudayalaya has already identified this opportunity and will continue to strengthen its hold, while reaching out to the masses.
- Plans to expand in the country as well as internationally – five more hospitals to come up across India, including Ahmedabad, Mysore, Siliguri and Bhubaneswar
- An international centre is being planned in Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean, in the next 18 months
- 30,000 beds will be added within the next five to seven years across the globe