Courage And Conviction: Dr. Thumbay Moideen, Founder President, Thumbay Group
With an IPO planned for 2023, the Founder President of Thumbay Group is taking his UAE-born business conglomerate to the global stage.
When I asked Dr. Thumbay Moideen to reveal what he considers having been a pivotal moment in his career so far, I thought the Founder President of Thumbay Group would have a hard time deciding between the many successes he has seen along his business’ trajectory as his answer for my query. However, Dr. Moideen didn’t have to think too long before he responded, and he surprised me by choosing to not talk about one of the many wins he has seen along his entrepreneurial journey, and instead pointing me to an instant in his life in the UAE that essentially led him to all of his accomplishments later down the road.
This was in 1998, after Dr. Moideen had been invited to look into the feasibility of establishing a medical college in the Emirate of Ajman by H.H. Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ajman. At the time, there was no other institution in the UAE like the one Dr. Moideen was trying to set up in Ajman, and as such, he had roped in consultants to do a study on whether this was a business that could actually, well, work.
This process was what led Dr. Moideen to realize that he had what was pretty much an unsurmountable roadblock to his business plans coming to fruition: the UAE’s Ministry of Higher Education did not, at the time, allow for expats to own licenses for running institutions catering to higher education, and as such, Dr. Moideen wouldn’t have been able to go ahead with setting up the medical school he proposed.
Dr. Moideen duly informed the Ruler of Ajman about his predicament, and that’s when something amazing happened: H.H. Sheikh Humaid awarded the Indian entrepreneur with a royal decree that’d allow him to establish the educational institution he proposed in Ajman. This laid the foundation for the creation of Gulf Medical College, the UAE’s first privately owned medical college (which evolved into what is today Gulf Medical University), and by extension, of Thumbay Group as well, which has become an international business conglomerate with Dr. Moideen at its helm.
It’s easy to see now why Dr. Moideen remembers this moment so fondly, and as he speaks of it today, there’s still an element of surprise that can be detected in his voice, as if he has yet to come to terms with how this particular episode unfolded in his life. “No expat had done this before,” Dr. Moideen remembers, smiling. “We came into existence with a decree… I can never forget that.”
Dr. Moideen tells me this story a few weeks before the launch of his enterprise’s latest development, the AED1 billion Thumbay Medicity in Ajman. Spread over a total area of 1 million square feet, Thumbay Medicity is all set to be a regional hub for medical education, healthcare, and research, with the ability to serve more than 20,000 people on a daily basis with its advanced facilities in a variety of fields.
Besides housing Gulf Medical University, a statement from Thumbay Medicity noted that it will also be home to medical institutions like Thumbay University Hospital, Thumbay Dental Hospital, and Thumbay Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as outlets of Thumbay Pharmacy and Thumbay Labs, in addition to leisure and hospitality amenities like Body & Soul Health Club and Spa, Thumbay Food Court, The Terrace Restaurant, Blends & Brews Coffee Shoppe, and more.
In addition, there is also the Thumbay Housing Project at the site, which is set to accommodate 2,500 staff and students at Thumbay Medicity. The sheer scale of the project is enough to make one sit up and take notice of it, but Dr. Moideen points out that the offering that Thumbay Medicity brings to the UAE market also makes it very unique: “It is a combination of education, healthcare, and research, which is very rare in the country,” he notes. “There is no one else."
Thumbay Medicity is also a testament to the enterprising spirit of Dr. Moideen- remember that all of this started with him daring to dream big 21 years ago. Sure, he did have experience working in his family’s timber and real estate business in India before he came to the UAE, but Dr. Moideen readily admits that he had no experience in the healthcare sector when venturing into this arena in 1998. But what Dr. Moideen did have was courage and conviction, and lots of it too and it’s safe to say that these qualities have driven him to where he stands today.
Regardless of the hurdles he found along the way, Dr. Moideen kept finding ways around them, and moved on ahead with his career and business. “I stuck around,” he says, quite simply. “I love to do what I do. I love my job; that’s it… I enjoy what I am doing, and I look forward to each day.” And that explains why Dr. Moideen continues to spearhead the business as Thumbay Group gets going on its next stage of growth. In terms of future plans, Dr. Moideen says that the company is quite keen on building up its global presence he’s particularly hoping to launch more universities outside of the UAE; in fact, Dr. Moideen reveals that his enterprise is already looking into setting up campuses in Serbia, Egypt, and Ghana.
On the healthcare side of things, there are two routes Dr. Moideen wants to make use of to grow Thumbay Group’s interests in that field. “One is building our own hospitals and running them as well,” he says. “The other is by creating our own healthcare management company- so, we are managing hospitals in India, Africa, etc., and that business is growing rapidly.” The company has already taken up hospital management contracts in India, Kenya and Tanzania; another in Oman is also on the cards. “In addition to our new and upcoming healthcare projects in different parts of the world, we are also keen to acquire existing hospitals, either on long-term leases or on a management basis,” he adds. In the UAE, given the sectors Thumbay Group currently operates in, Dr. Moideen is quite confident that the business is only going to prosper in the years to come.
“Our business, whatever we do, is related to community and the population,” he explains. “Education, healthcare, laboratory, retail, etc.- everything is related to the population. The good news [with the UAE] is that the population is growing. The government says that two more million people will come [here] in the next two years- which is good news for us. They’re our customers, we have to cater to them.” Besides all of this, Dr. Moideen also reveals that he is intending to take Thumbay Group public by 2023- which will be a major landmark for the enterprise.
As Dr. Moideen talks about his future plans for Thumbay Group, it becomes quite clear that this award-winning entrepreneur has no intention of resting on his laurels; his dreams remain as big and grand as ever, and he’s focused on seeing his business scale greater heights. It is this kind of attitude that has led Dr. Moideen to achieve all that he has accomplished so far- persistence and perseverance are the qualities that matter, according to him. “To be very frank, the very fact that I held on, and continued pursuing what I wanted to do is maybe one of the reasons for my success so far," Dr. Moideen says.
“But there are other reasons too. One, I definitely feel God has been kind to us- we were blessed. Two, I got good support from the government- our business had many ministries involved in it, and the local sheikhs, they supported us wholeheartedly. Lastly is our team- we have a very committed team, who are as charged up [for the business] as me.” Of course, these are the characteristics that will stand the business in good stead as it moves ahead with its next set of goals, and it definitely helps that Dr. Moideen is leading Thumbay Group from the front on this particular path. “I believe that if we stagnate, we die,” he declares. “So, we have to keep growing- we have to progress.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.