Infusing The Human Element: Aster DM Healthcare's Alisha Moopen
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Alisha Moopen’s personal office at Aster DM Healthcare’s corporate headquarters in Dubai’s Business Bay neighborhood may seem like a relatively small space, but there’s quite a lot in there for observers to take in while within its confines. For instance, besides the expected assortment of files, papers, and notebooks on Moopen’s tidy desk, there’s a brightly colored novelty quill pen that instantly grabs your attention, following which you’ll also see an array of photographs –which includes snapshots of Moopen and her children, her father, Aster DM Healthcare Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Dr. Azad Moopen, and others- tacked onto the wall by the table.
The shelf behind her seat, while large and imposing, doesn’t seem to have any more space on it- it’s filled with a number of trophies and certificates in honor of Moopen and her role as the Executive Director and CEO - Hospitals & Clinics, GCC, for Aster DM Healthcare, alongside a number of knickknacks and mementoes, plus a couple more images of Moopen and her family. As for the wall right in front of Moopen’s desk, there’s affixed a glass painting, which showcases a group of six women wearing headscarves and abayas, but all of them are faceless- there’s no defining characteristic pertaining to their features, or backgrounds.
For Moopen, the artwork is a powerful one, containing a message that she believes is pertinent for not just her, but every woman (and every man, to be fair) out there. In a world that’s increasingly fixated on externalities (be it on one’s looks, one’s origins, or even one’s circumstances), Moopen says that the painting is a reminder to keep yourself focused on what’s really important- your inner self, your substance. “At the end, all that matters is what you have inside [of yourself], and what you give [to the world around you],” she explains. “It doesn’t really matter where you come from, the color of your face, the color of your eyes… You’re born into whatever world you are born into, and you make the best of that.”
But, even as Moopen says this, the skeptic in me wonders: surely, the daughter of the entrepreneurial legend that is Dr. Moopen has had it better than others? Moopen doesn’t flinch when I dare to ask her this, and I’ll confess that I was glad to see her respond by acknowledging her privilege- but that doesn’t mean she’s happy to be satisfied with just that either. “I’m lucky,” Moopen says. “Because I come from a background that was extremely privileged, having all these opportunities, and a platform… All of this just makes you even more responsible to give back more- the more you have been given, the more you have to give back.”
And in case you’re wondering where Moopen’s ethos comes from, she points it back to the values she was raised with. “We are all products of our environment and upbringing,” she explains. “The same applies to me. I have been blessed to be raised in a good family, with kind parents and immense opportunities to make our world a better place. I was always taught that our mission in life is to help othersit was the age-old rule that you rise by lifting others. At the core of my being is the desire and will to influence a healthier, and hence happier, community.”
With this statement in mind, it’s easy to see why Moopen says that she’s passionate about working in the healthcare sector- but this wasn’t the industry she started her career in. Prior to her entry in the Aster DM Healthcare business, Moopen was a chartered accountant who worked in consulting- but she readily admits that she didn’t find the profession fulfilling enough for her. As someone whose formative years were centered around her father’s desire and efforts to take care of people suffering from illnesses, Moopen found herself wanting to work in the same field, and she realized that she could build on the tremendous work that Dr. Moopen had initiated. “After seven years of corporate life, I found my way back to my real calling,” she remembers. “To fulfill my dream of creating a world-class institution that people can rely on when they are burdened with health problems. To follow in my father’s footsteps, looking after people’s health and fulfilling my role in strengthening communities and contributing to humanity, was absolutely a natural choice.”
Source: Aster DM Healthcare
It needs to be noted here that Aster DM Healthcare today is a 30 year-old integrated healthcare service organization with over 300 units under the company and over 18,000 employees- or as Moopen proudly calls them, “Asterians.” As an institution that is focused on delivering quality care to all the communities it services, through the best clinical care, service standards, and highest ethical practices, Moopen explains that Aster DM Healthcare is leaving no stone unturned in its simple –yet strong- promise to its clientele: We’ll treat you well. “Aster DM Healthcare is the only regional healthcare organization that has a presence across GCC countries,” Moopen notes.
“We probably have the widest reach in terms of network, as we have the community clinic concept that promotes access to healthcare in an easy and convenient way. We have 200 pharmacies, 100 clinics and 19 hospitals. Our biggest difference -and the one that allows us to deliver the most benefits- is that we have three brands that cater to all the segments of the population. My father’s dream was to deliver care to everyone regardless of economic or social positioning. He conceptualized our three brands- Medcare for the high strata, Aster for the main middle-income segment, and Access for the low-income strata of the population. This approach again reiterates our commitment to the societies in which we operate. Health, as we all know, is one of the main drivers for productivity and happiness within a nation. It is critical for the success of a society.”
When Moopen joined Aster DM Healthcare in 2012, the enterprise had already been set upon a strong foundation by her father, and it was scaling up its operations rapidly. “I joined the company at a time of massive expansion that introduced huge challenges in replicating the model of service and ethics that we endorse,” she remembers. “Building brick and mortar units is always the easy part. Infusing the human element, and finding the right people who hold the same values and similar goals toward creating a better world has been the harder part. My focus was on building the network as envisioned by my father, and institutionalizing his principles through the teams I shaped, to ensure sustainability for generations to come.”
Source: Aster DM Healthcare
As for how she exactly did this- once again, it was based upon something Dr. Moopen had taught her. “We need healthcare to be effective, efficient and sustainable,” Moopen says. “This is a key challenge faced by nations across the globe, in both developing and developed countries. Creating this balance is key, and the driver for this balance are committed people operating in good systems… The key learning from my father has been to take care of the people around me. They will extend this care to others who they interact with. It is this domino effect powered by humanity that is the biggest lesson taught to me by my father.”
At this point, the skeptic in me rises again, and wonders if the constant comparison –or even correlation withher father’s success and legacy- has been a boon or a bane for Moopen. Again, she brushes away my notions with a flourish- she calmly points out that she has now been working at Aster DM Healthcare for more than six years, after all. “I will always encounter a natural curiosity and comparison to my father,” she explains. “Our DNA is the same, and we share the same values; I come from the same school of thought and he is undoubtedly my role model. What we differ in is our style of work. I believe how we view the world influences both our mental frame of mind, and a lot of our actions. My style may be partially influenced by the new world I grew up in as a millennial, where we need things to happen better and faster. I perhaps am less patient with shortcomings, less tolerant with failures, and more demanding than my father, but at the end we are working toward the same goals."
"It is easy to get put down being compared to a legend like my father, but I use the comparison as a motivation to continuously improve. He started this business when he was 35 years old- I am that age now, and have already the luxury and herculean task to manage a large part of the business, and build strong teams that deliver great work. This combination of strength and stability that my father brings, and the agility and dynamism that I seek to bring is a great boon. Together, we have the opportunity to create a culture that drives positive change, always willing to adapt at the accelerated pace the world is moving. They say, you snooze, you lose. It is true that we need to be nimble and open to move positively with the change of the world around us. Therefore, my entry into the business came at the right time, allowing both our styles to merge, ultimately helping the company to actively build the needed tools and embrace change.”
Source: Aster DM Healthcare
So, how entrepreneurial does Moopen consider herself to be- is she also a chip off the old block, so to speak? “My personal take on entrepreneurship is that we all create the life we want,” she replies. “The same can be extended to the businesses we build. We create the business we build and for the most part, it is our perseverance and passion that will make it successful. Luck plays a part, no doubt. But more often than not, it is the perfect combination of what one is good at, what one loves to do, and what the universe needs that helps us create and build great businesses. There is always an entrepreneur hiding in every role for every person, regardless of the job they do."
"If each person believed it was their own company, and it is their responsibility to make this a success, the typical success rate plus the fulfillment from a job will be much higher. I believe that I am an entrepreneur, and there are times where I have failed, because my heart was not in it, and there are times when I have failed because of external circumstances. With my role at Aster, I believe I have found that sweet spot between doing what I love, doing something I am good at, and doing something the universe needs. That is the key to personal, professional, and societal success, if you ask me.”
And Moopen is definitely ticking all the right boxes when it comes to being a role model that other women (and, once again, men too, to be fair) can follow to realize their own dreams and ambitions. She is one of the few female figures of note in the largely male-dominated healthcare sector of the region (and beyond), and she makes sure that her voice stands out and is heard in the business realm. “I am a professional with an enormous dream for happiness and prosperity for all communities, and I have a clear understanding of where my span of influence lies; being woman comes next. Despite the massive female workforce in healthcare, the numbers dwindle down as you get to the senior management levels. Women and men bring different strengths to the table, and the strongest companies are those that are able to utilize, leverage, and embrace these differences."
Source: Aster DM Healthcare
I ask Moopen for her advice directed at women in the workplace, and she responds by urging them to remain true to who they are- don’t be someone you are not. “Women and men have different wirings and styles. We are moving to a world where machines can manage the repetitive mundane and monotonous jobs, where robots will replace human jobs. Our job is to remain human. Developing our empathy, our ethical and moral compass is key, as these will be the vital differences between human resources and machines when we move towards the next phase of industrial revolution. As women, and childbearers, we are more in sync with this idea of nurturing. I always urge women to maintain and cultivate their feminine side, and listen to their emotional intelligence, as this is a unique strength we possess. Together with nurturing, this combination is what societies and companies need to build for the future. Informing our business decisions with these embedded in our approach will serve the best yield for any society.”
Are there any actionable guidelines that Moopen can offer women then? “My tips, as I mentioned earlier, would be to stop pretending to be a man thinking in a man’s world,” she instructs. “There are enough men out there to do that! What we women need to do is channel our inner core and engineering to bring the best of both world together. So, I say to all women, please act like a woman, because that’s who you are!”
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
Alisha Moopen, Executive Director and CEO, Aster DM Healthcare Hospitals & Clinics, GCC
“There are three secrets to success. Hard work is a given. Without the discipline that is required to turn your wishes, dreams and intention to action; all the strategy developed to change the world is pointless. You have to be the change you want to see in the world and it is absolutely necessary to translate that thought into action through putting everything you have got to make your dreams come true. Only through toil, hard work and burning the midnight oil do people become successful. A wise man very aptly stated: the harder I work, the luckier I get.
Failures are pivots. It is hard to not get bogged down by mistakes, by outcomes not being achieved according to plan, by abandoned projects that didn’t yield the results you hoped. Failure is essential for learning, growing and evolving. Learning from mistakes and applying those learnings and moving forward is critical to success. This makes you wiser, gives you grit, renders you more resilient and cultivates humility in the process too. Always count failures as your blessings because when you reflect back after 10 years, you will realize the impact of those circumstances and how they contributed to you pulling yourself back up to be become even more ignited and determined for success.
Finally, only do what makes you absolutely thrilled to wake up in the morning and go to work. Do justice to your job and make sure you are immensely passionate and in love with your career and your work. If your heart and soul is not on it; whatever you do will only be mediocre. Success comes from a place of passion which requires relentless effort and determination for excellence. Always yearn to be the best regardless of the yardsticks you are using to measure your contribution.”
Tips for entrepreneurs
“Be collaborative, not individualistic. Be disruptive in technology, not destructive. Be kind, be caring and be focused on the three P’s: People, Planet, Profits. These are all the key ingredients for the world to move in a positive direction.
If we enable change in this sequence of priority, we can achieve sustainable growth and success. Success comes when we direct and align our personal skillset, capability, and goals to fulfill the needs of the people and planet in which we live. That’s the best marriage of ideals in my opinion.”