Sharing an Eastward Vision
Medica Synergie's retail pharmacy, project consultancy and
hospitals divisions are making inroads into the under-served and untapped healthcare
landscape of Eastern India, Rita Dutta finds out
Tales of entrepreneurship always make for fascinating case
studies. It becomes all the more enthralling when people from varied geographic
locations and experience come together on one platform, share a common vision,
chart out an unconventional business plan, nurture their dream for years and
then put in their life's savings to fuel their dream. We are taking about Medica
Synergie, the Kolkata-based healthcare company, which created a buzz when the
group's 500-bed Medica Super Specialty Hospital was inaugurated in Kolkata in
April this year. However, unknown to many, Medica has been making inroads into
Eastern India's healthcare landscape over the last three years in the verticals
of pharmacy retail, project consultancy and hospitals.
Birth of Medica
Dissatisfaction often leads to creation. In 1998, that's what
happened with a bunch of colleagues at Dr Devi Shetty's Asia Heart Foundation
(AHF). When differences simmered between long-time business partners Dr Shetty
and Dr Alok Roy, Vice Chairman, AHF, the latter decided to venture out on his
own with some of his colleagues and industry professionals. People who shared
Dr Roy's dream and passion were Dr Alexander Kuruvilla, Udayan Lahiri, Sudhanshu
Roy, Ayanabh Debgupta, Aruna Nair and Shrabani Basu from AHF, Sanjay Dasgupta
(an IAS) and Acchama Joseph (from IT sector). Though the idea of a new company
was conceived in 1998, the company was registered by the end of 2003, when Dr
Roy finally left AHF.
"As we did not have enough funds in 2003, we decided against working full-time
for Medica, immediately. We thought of coming back after saving a substantial
amount," recollects Dr Roy. Thus, Dr Roy went and joined Apollo and then
Fortis (Delhi), Dr Kuruvilla worked at Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad and Debgupta
in Muthoot's healthcare venture (Delhi). Lahiri continued with AHF for some
Then in 2006, during a family vacation in Bhimtal (in Uttarakhand), this group
of five (Dr Roy, Dr Kuruvilla, Sudhanshu Roy, Debgupta and Lahiri) realised
that the time was right to give wings to their long-nurtured dream. It was in
this sabbatical that the group rolled out its business model- that of foraying
into retail pharmacy, hospitals and project consultancy. The underlying mission
and vision was to provide healthcare services that were affordable and accessible
to all. It zeroed in on the Eastern part of India because of the region's wide
lacunae of healthcare services. They decided to operate from Kolkata, where
most of them had roots, except for Dr Kuruvilla, who was from Bengaluru. While
Sanjay Dasgupta and Acchama Joseph did not join the group for various reasons,
Lahiri and Nair left AHF to join Medica.
The Early Days
Once the business plan was finalised, the first task was to
garner the working capital. The founders chipped in with Rs 15 crore to start
the company, with the bulk coming in from Dr Roy. Eventually, Medica borrowed
Rs 45 crore from SBI and Rs 65 crore (so far) from ICICI Ventures for various
projects. For the first three months, they worked from Lahiri's home. "It
was his child's room, which was converted into an office for us. His wife cooked
for us," reminisces Debgupta. In the last few years, they moved office
five times to accommodate their expanding work.
In 2006, the first project that the group bagged was that
of preparing a health insurance scheme for landless labourers of West Bengal.
This was the first project of the projects division. "After devising the
Karnataka Yashasvini Health Insurance scheme for rural farmers in AHF, health
insurance scheme for landless labourers was an easy one," says Dr Roy.
Soon, they approached the Government of West Bengal for land for building Medica
Super Specialty Hospital and received permission. "As the work for the
hospital was supposed to take time, we took over a brown field project in 2008
and made it into Medica ENT Hospital," says Dr Kuruvilla. This was the
genesis of the hospital division of the group.
Now, after four years, the company has already turned EBITDA positive, and is
rolling out aggressive growth plans across verticals. "The new projects
are funded by a mix of debt and equity," says Dr Roy.
The Hospital Division
The Hospital Planning and Management division provides turnkey
design and project management consultancy services to healthcare providers.
Says Dr Alexander Kuruvilla, CEO and President, Medica, and the head of the
Hospital Division, "The core principles are to provide a cutting edge to
the hospital management practice group in the following areas: functionalities
of healthcare facilities wherein form always follows function in any design,
optimum space utilisation considering future expansion plans, construction of
cost-effective infrastructure executed in compliance with pre-planned time lines,
environment-friendly energy efficient buildings, patient-friendly designs wherein
designs are developed for patients and not for equipment, and designs complying
with national and international accreditation."
Besides Medica Super Specialty Hospital and Medica ENT Hospital
in Kolkata and Medica North Bengal Clinic (management consultancy) in Siliguri,
this division is coming up with its own secondary care hospitals (greenfield
projects) in Murshidabad and Asansol in West Bengal, Shillong in Meghalaya and
Tinsukhia in Assam. It has done the turnkey design and build project of Sankara
Nethralaya at Kolkata, and is also managing the hospital now. It has bagged
master planning of three medical colleges and hospitals in Orissa funded by
DFID, master planning of seven hospitals in Assam, design review and equipment
planning for the medical college and hospital of Vedanta University, Orissa
and three in Uttarakhand under the World Bank project, turnkey consultancy for
design development and project management services for Metro Blood Bank, Kolkata,
preparation of infrastructure expansion plan for Bishnupur sub divisional hospital,
West Bengal and preparation for institutional strengthening plan for district
hospitals in Assam.
Pharmacy Retail Division
A behaviour change communication roadshow organised in Meghalaya by Medica
The flagship hospital of the group Medica Super Speciality Hospital
The Rs 36,000-crore pharmacy retail market, growing at an
annual rate of 18 per cent, seemed a lucrative sector to explore with the concept
of neighbourhood pharmacy. Medica Pharmacy, a subsidiary, offers competitive
prices leveraging its strength of bulk purchase and efficient supply chain management,
ensuring adherence of crashed timelines for availability just in time. The stores
offer drugs, health, beauty, neutraceutical and FMCG products. So far, 58 outlets
have been rolled out in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Medica Pharmacy, under its brand name Medica Health Shoppe,
undertakes O&M of retail pharmacy outlets in hospitals and nursing homes.
It offers technological advantage, efficient supply chain, marketing inputs
and best practices with a new look as per its existing chain's interior and
branding to operate them in an organised manner and optimise the business potential
with excellent customer care. It provides free BP and weight check-up to its
patrons at its outlets, also maintaining records and free consulting/counselling.
It offers auto refill plan catering to patients with chronic diseases like abnormal
blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer etc. and also to pregnant women
who consume medicine for a prolonged period of time. This ensures timely delivery
of medicine to the consumers every month without any reminder. Says Anupam Shukla,
MD, Medica Pharmacy, "In the next three years, we will roll out 100 pharmacies.
We will roll out another 150 outlets in the second phase."
Projects & Consultancy Division
This division has been doing work on reproductive and sexual health, ICD, adolescent
health, gender and sexuality, HIV/AIDS, PPP, biomedical waste management, telemedicine
and tele-health, health financing and livelihood. Says Ayanabh Debgupta, CEO,
Projects Division, "The services offered by the division range from policy
formulation, strategic project planning, assistance in project implementation,
capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, research health communication,
system strengthening, designing of management information systems, to human
resource rationalisation, procurement and logistics management, and social marketing."
Some of the key projects developed by them include 'Preparation of State Implementation
Plan and District Implementation Plan for ICDS IV' (2007-2013), Bihar, 'Study
of Knowledge, Attitudes, Perceptions' in South Africa, preparation of Decentralised
District Health Action Plan under National Rural Health Mission in Sikkim, Vaishali
and Nalanda District of Bihar, Biomedical Waste Management Strategy in 74 PHCs
of Tripura, conducting 'Strengthen State Health Resource Centre' for providing
independent Technical Assistance to the Directorate of Health Services and UKHFWS
and Evaluation of Sabuj Sangha's Rural Health Training Centre (RHTC), a component
of health under 'Model Villages in the Sunderbans Delta' Programme in 2009.
Let's elaborate on some of the projects in Eastern India:
Procurement Audit and Procurement Systems Reform for State
Health Societies of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland: The overall objective
of this audit was to appraise RRC about the contracting, procurement activities
and processes being followed by the State Health Societies of Nagaland, Mizoram
and Manipur under NRHM for procurement of drugs and equipment during the fiscal
years of 2005 to 2009. The audit consisted of a review of related policies,
procedures, guidelines and processes, conducting interviews with departmental
officials, the examination of procurement and contracting files and a review
of the contracting and financial databases and assessment of selected procurements
Design, Implementation and Monitoring of Biomedical Waste
Management Strategy in Tripura: The state health society has entrusted the
responsibility of designing a suitable strategy to implement the biomedical
waste management practices in 74 PHCs across the state of Tripura. So, Medica
had to offer assessment of the prevailing scenario, designing of a Biomedical
Waste Strategy in consultation with state officials, training of trainers, medical
and paramedical staff of PHCs, procurement and supply of infrastructure, equipment
and supplies for 74 PHCs across four districts, recruitment and training of
Safai Karmacharis, monitoring of the project, development of monitoring tools
and monitoring mechanism and assessment of the change after 15 months.
Preparation of State Implementation Plan and District
Implementation Plan for ICDS IV, Bihar: ICDS was initiated in India in 1975
as a pilot programme and has expanded to constitute one of the country's major
national development programmes. "However, while the programme is intended
to target the needs of the poorest and most undernourished, there is often a
mismatch between the programme's intentions and actual implementation and not
much has been achieved in 33 years. To address these gaps, the ICDS IV programme
was floated. The programme had limited coverage and was targeted at the most
poorly performing/vulnerable states and districts. Nineteen districts of Bihar
were identified for which a five-year implementation plan was to be developed,"
Developing Comprehensive Behaviour Change Strategy for
Meghalaya: The Government of Meghalaya has approached Medica with the task
of developing a service oriented behaviour change communication strategy for
Reproductive Child Health based on assessment of current status of knowledge,
attitude and practices among local people in the rural areas. Therefore, communication
research related to key processes and local customs is being undertaken which
in turn would enable the development of integrated and comprehensive behaviour
change communication material for the state. A complete BCC toolkit will be
developed in order to cater to the project objective. Medica Synergie will also
be providing initial 'Training of Trainers' at the state level simultaneously.
Monitoring and evaluation will form an integral part of the assignment for which
Medica Synergie experts will develop carefully thought out methods and tools.
The Road Ahead
While the initial focus has been on Eastern India, the group
is slowly picking up projects in other parts, as well. Eyeing the southern market,
the group has recently set up an office in Bengaluru. With the healthcare industry
witnessing exponential growth, the three legs of Medica can only be expected
to power its galloping growth.