For an enterprise that started out in 1987 with the establishment of a single medical clinic in Dubai, the UAE-headquartered Aster DM Healthcare’s current network of 307 healthcare institutions spread across nine countries of the world easily make it one of this region’s foremost business success stories. But that’s not to say that this company is content to be resting on its laurels- on the contrary, this healthcare conglomerate is pursuing an aggressive expansion strategy for itself, with the plan including a reported US$300 million IPO in India in the near future. And as for who’s leading the company’s charge into its next phase of growth, well, it’s the same man who has been at its helm for the past three decades: Aster DM Healthcare Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Dr. Azad Moopen.
I must admit here that I’ve always thought Dr. Moopen had a particularly interesting profile as an entrepreneur, and the main reason for this is because this visionary businessman is, well, a doctor too, and I was curious to learn how Dr. Moopen managed these two facets of himself on a personal level, given that these two roles, by their very nature, can be seen as being quite contrasting of each other. But as I found out, Dr. Moopen didn’t see this duality as an issue, and that, in essence, explains the ideals he has set for both himself and his business. “As a doctor, I strongly believe in everyone’s right to proper healthcare, and as an entrepreneur, I have strived to address this need,” he says. “Striking a fine balance between the two roles has been key for me. I believe and practice a philosophy that profit is a byproduct in healthcare services, and I have implemented grassroots level activities that the whole organization and its people practice it.”
From a purely business perspective, it’s pretty clear that Dr. Moopen has a successful enterprise on his hands: after all, Aster DM Healthcare today employs more than 19,000 people, all of whom cater to about 50,000 patients on a daily basis. “With our core objective of providing the best healthcare services to the society, we have diversified our offerings to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure, and we are glad that our efforts have contributed to the development of the sector,” Dr. Moopen says. “Catering through a vast network of hospitals, clinics, retail pharmacies and specialized healthcare professionals, Aster DM Healthcare constantly seeks to innovate and introduce best practices, which can help shape a healthier society. The past decade has seen us expanding our services in the GCC and India, with the launch of new clinics and acquisition of existing facilities. We have widened the network in UAE, Qatar, and Oman, and entered to markets like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, and the Philippines, apart from major expansion in India.”
But while the healthcare sector remains Dr. Moopen’s primary focus, he’s also making inroads into other sectors as well. “I have ventured into education with the opening of DM WIMS Medical College and Hospital, DM WIMS Nursing & Pharmacy Colleges at Wayanad in Kerala, India, to train future healthcare professionals under the Dr. Moopen Education and Research Foundation,” he says. “Meanwhile, the upcoming IPO will continue our growth trajectory across our operating region and further establish our role as global provider catering to local needs. With the evolving needs of the society, our approach to address them has also seen a change, with the adoption of a more proactive health management approach. We see great potential in the use of technology to enable universal access to healthcare at reduced costs. As we continue to expand upon our research and innovation capabilities, which can deliver solutions to meet the fast paced lives of our patients, we are introducing new concepts in the region like chronic care monitoring at home, online pharmacy (asteronline.com), home-nursing facilities and doctors on call. Aster Chronic Care @ Home is a unique concept, combining technology and healthcare delivery features, to provide personalized care to patients at the convenience of their home.”
As for challenges that lie ahead in the future, Dr. Moopen seems to be cautious of them, but optimistic all the same- he’s leading Aster DM Healthcare in such a way that it always remains one step ahead of market trends. “The region’s healthcare sector has witnessed exponential growth over the past three decades and we expect it to continue its growth momentum in the long term, driven by a number of factors including aging and growing population, introduction of mandatory healthcare insurance, and new medical advances,” he says. “However, the main issue facing the sector is the shortage of locally trained manpower, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), where most trained professionals come from outside the region. As such, I believe that governments across the region should invest more heavily in medical education to meet the increasing demand. One route to consider is setting up public-private partnerships to address this issue.”
Dr. Moopen is also cognizant of the evolution of technology in today’s world, and he wants Aster DM Healthcare to be well aware of it. “One area that we need to keep watchful eye on is technology, which continues to develop at a rapid pace and touches upon every aspect of today’s life,” he says. “In the healthcare sector, technology is expected to play a big role in the near future, especially in the wearables and telemedicine areas.”
If his plans for the future are any indication, then it’s easy to see that Dr. Moopen is placing a lot of importance on diversification and innovation as being drivers for the continued success and growth of his company, but at the same time, he is insistent on the company being guided on this march ahead by a very specific set of values. “At Aster DM Healthcare, we have been driven by our consistent mission of providing quality healthcare at affordable costs to the people that we serve,” Dr. Moopen explains. “While excellence in delivery of services is of utmost priority, we constantly strive to innovate and introduce ways to excel in our field, which has led to our success in expanding the portfolio of healthcare services we provide, as well as the geographies in which we operate. This has been instrumental to our success over the past three decades.”
Given the size and scale of the enterprise that he oversees, I ask Dr. Moopen on how he goes about ensuring the business is running as expected on a daily basis, and much like other seasoned figures of business, he is quick to point toward the people he has managed to get on board at Aster DM Healthcare. “We have been successful in identifying capable people to head our operations across various geographies and institutions,” he says. “When you are in an expansion mood, it is very important that you get good people in administration, as well as skilled professionals such as doctors, to stay with you for a long period. Delegating with empowerment is very important for sustainable business. We are lucky to have huge number of medical professionals who have been with us for many years.” As for his personal strategy in achieving goals, Dr. Moopen claims to draw inspiration from the rulers of the nation he set his first enterprise in. “Having a vision is key to achieving excellence, as repeatedly demonstrated by the UAE’s leadership,” he says. “However, vision without execution is a waste of time– I strongly believe that it is important to focus as much, or even more, on execution, than goals and vision. In addition, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who fully understand your business is also very important for achieving your goals.”
In terms of advice for entrepreneurs just starting out on their ventures, Dr. Moopen seems to use his own journey as a reference point for upstarts in the field today. “Believing in your dreams and your ability to achieve them is definitely a major factor in realizing success,” he says. “In addition, perseverance and tenacity, coupled with the ability to move swiftly to capture market opportunities, are paramount to achieving best results.” His words may sound simple and succinct- but if Dr. Moopen’s success so far is anything to go by, it’d be wise for the rest of us to take his wisdom to heart, and be all the better for it.
Dr. Azad Moopen’s tips for entrepreneurs
1. Do your homework: “Identify opportunities doing thorough market research, and updating that with personal involvement. While consultants can give you volumes of advice, it is very important that you do the homework using your own contacts and common sense.”
2. Your people matter: “Identify a good team who can execute a project with a suitable leader. It is very important to have a capable person as Chief Executive for any project you are starting. You have to also delegate and empower the person to carry out the business without interference.”
3. Perseverance is key: “There is no substitute for hard work. You have to toil for long periods to achieve success, and you have to take failures as learning opportunities.”