The healthcare sector in India has seen many challenges but private sector initiatives are gradually making a determined progress by providing quality diagnostic centres and services across the country and beyond.
India has become one of the leading destinations for high-end diagnostic services with tremendous capital investment for advanced diagnostic facilities, thus catering to a greater proportion of population, as stated in a status assessment report by India Brand Equity. Metropolis is one such company that offers diagnostic services through a network of pathology labs and a team of consultants. It has become a global company with services being set up in over 25 countries.
Ameera Shah, Managing Director of Metropolis, is seen as the reason for her father’s company’s success through her entrepreneurial skills and perspectives. Describing her personal journey and the success story of Metropolis, Ameera breaks barriers in understanding of the problem associated with building an organisation in the healthcare sector in India, which remains strongly patriarchal and dominated mainly by doctors.
What inspired you embark in this professional journey?
After finishing my studies in the US, I started working at Goldman Sachs. Despite achieving success at work, I realized that it was not just what I wanted to do. A bunch of us then put together a start-up where I was exposed to a myriad of experiences. That’s the best thing to have happened to me because it taught me early on that I preferred working with/for small companies/teams where my work and decisions matter. This is when I turned to my father for advice. He asked me if I wanted to be an ‘employee or an entrepreneur’. He advised that if I preferred a corporate career, then the US was my best bet but if I wanted to be an entrepreneur, there was no better place than India.
These words made me think from a different perspective and I decided to come back. My father always dreamt of having a chain of laboratories across the country; albeit without proper systems and processes this was hard to achieve. Initially, I transformed the sole-proprietorship into a company and implemented necessary processes. This is how Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. was born. With further expansion plans, we not only grew in India but also in the neighbouring countries, to create an empire that focuses on quality services.
What have been the greatest challenges so far? Has being a woman stifled your surge?
People always assume that gender is the greatest challenge but in the healthcare space it is not so. Traditionally in India, healthcare companies are run by doctors and a medical degree is a pre-requisite. When I was 21, I was trying to negotiate business deals with men who were more than twice my age and all of them were doctors. In the initial days, I faced resistance but that was only till they realized what I was bringing to the table.
Being a woman is never a disadvantage. Gender has no role to play when you are a leader and a business owner. In fact, I would say that being a woman has been an advantage. There are certain nuances that only a woman can bring in while dealing with people. There were times when I could understand from the body language of the person sitting across the table what their concerns were and how to address them. This helped me cut deals better and forge many partnerships.
In your opinion, how does one find the balance between self-growth and excelling at work?
I strongly believe in pushing boundaries and this quality has brought me this far in my career. On a personal level, I strive to be a better person every day and explore new experiences. I also think that it is essential for everyone to maintain a strong work-life balance. There is no point in burning out by working for extended hours and not delivering good output. Excelling at work is all about learning from mistakes and being satisfied with what you do. That said one should never stop learning. And to me the best learning comes from pushing boundaries.
What is your advice to the young entrepreneurs of the county?
I would strongly advice all young entrepreneurs to be fearless and chase their dreams. It’s also equally important to learn from mistakes and failures.
What is the future for the healthcare industry in India? Is private-public partnership the key to success?
We have a long way to go. Today the nation is heavily reliant on the private sector for healthcare. Both state and central governments need to step up, increase the budgets and bridge the gap between supply and demand. Regulation is a big problem in India. Nobody is watching if the people are getting quality healthcare. This scenario needs to change. At present, there are not enough incentives that are provided to private healthcare players to expand and take their services to the rural belt. Private-Public partnerships could work if implemented in a consistent manner. In my opinion, the government should look at moving from the role of a provider to that of a facilitator.