As the director of Bausch and Lomb’s surgical business arm, the sorry state of medical facilities in areas just 50 kilometres away from New Delhi touched a nerve for Rajat Goel. It was not long before he partnered with his friend from school, Dr. Ajay Sharma to set up Eye-Q Super Specialty Eye Hospitals (Eye-Q) in 2007. Having worked with the likes of Godrej and Bausch and Lomb for 16 years, this Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad graduate made a career shift when he found a corporate setup too restrictive. His vision was to bring superior quality eye care facilities to places that need it by means of a socially-driven yet commercially viable business model. Today, Eye-Q has 15 centres spread out in Tier-II and Tier-III areas in Delhi-NCR, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand and Gujarat. And for Goel, the freedom to execute his vision is precious. “Now, I have the liberty to shape Eye-Q according to my values,” says the 44-year-old co-founder and CEO.
“I had to travel a lot within India and abroad in my previous stint, so I got a chance to understand geographies and that gave me a wider perspective.”
At the grassroots
“I had to travel a lot within India and abroad in my previous stint, so I got a chance to understand geographies and that gave me a wider perspective,” says Goel. He also had to re-learn to work at the lowest level by undertaking groundwork. The company’s target segment includes anyone with eye problems and Goel has modelled his offerings accordingly. Eye-Q has been empanelled on the government’s medical insurance policy for BoP (bottom of the pyramid) patients, besides it conducts camps as well. Its cataract surgeries range from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 75,000, depending on the quality of lens used. It also offers spectacles from Rs. 100 to Rs. 2,000 and prescribes medicines from both Indian and multinational companies.
Eyeing aggressive expansion
Eye-Q raised Series-A funding from Song Investment Advisors in May 2010 and Series-B funding from Helion Venture Partners and Nexus Venture Partners in October 2011. Both the investments are being utilised for its expansion. Its strategy in choosing a location is simple: the district must be well connected and have basic and recreational facilities for doctors and their families. “By this year end, we hope to invest a total of US $20 million to expand in UP and Gujarat. We also hope to double our network to 30 in one year. Our vision is to have 100 centres by 2015 in the northern and western states,” shares Goel. Though his corporate journey has made Goel a comprehensive manager and helped him understand different aspects of a business, his biggest challenge continues to remain in finding quality personnel. And to address this concern, the company has established a training institute in Rohtak, Haryana, where 90 people are trained monthly.
Goel believes the market for eye care in India is US $2 billion, of which organised players constitute a mere five per cent. “Right now, the players complement each other because we are creating a category. Brand differentiation takes place only after that,” says Goel, while talking of competition. However, the company has reserved Rs. 15 crore in marketing spends for both traditional and new media.
Despite being a venture that looks to affect social change, Eye-Q has its sights placed firmly on growth in the future. The last year saw it grow by 200 per cent and for the year ahead, Eye-Q is targeting growth of 170 per cent.
Previous Avatar: Director of Bausch and Lomb’s surgical business arm
Current Avatar: Founder and CEO, Eye-Q
Why he took to entrepreneurship?
To bring superior quality eye care facilities to places that need it by means of a socially-driven yet commercially viable business model
Professional vs. Entrepreneur:
In a multinational company, you need to get right the company’s fundamentals, make strategic decisions, and build good relationships with the senior management. As an entrepreneur, the challenge is to think the right thing and build a solid team as you go. You absorb the shocks yourself. Though the buck stops with you in both the cases, as an entrepreneur, it hits you harder.
Lessons from the past:
I learnt to build a great network of people that is crucial for any business and understand geographies better.