We dont just sell products here

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Apr 14 2014, 08:40am hrs
GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Company, is focusing on some of the toughest healthcare challenges of Indialowering maternal and infant deaths, enable early detection of cancer for early treatment, addressing heart disease burden etc. It has committed $1 billion over the next five years to developing molecular technologies for cancer diagnosis and imaging. In partnership with Cancer Treatment Services International (CTSI), GE Healthcare will be setting up 25 world-class centres across India to improve access to cancer care.

GE Healthcare is at work for a healthier India. We are a fully functioning business with over 1,500 engineers in the healthcare space, multiple factories, a team of great people in marketing and product management, and what we have done iswe have put them on to Indias healthcare problems. This is a problem in their backyard, says John Dineen, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, formerly GE Medical Systems and now a $17 billion business. Dineen, who has held a variety of leadership positions at GE, both in the US and worldwide, feels that India has a very unique and challenging healthcare system. It is becoming larger, widespread and sophisticated, and has the makings of a very good market, he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts: What are the opportunities that the Indian healthcare market presents and how do you plan to address them

The Indian healthcare market is clearly on a build-up mode. There is a huge demand for quality healthcare, access at affordable points and the disease spread is high. There is tremendous interest on behalf of the consumers, the government, and the providers to extend capabilities. So, we are going to see the healthcare system becoming larger, more widespread and more sophisticated. Those are the makings of a very good market. We are here, and are committed to work towards a healthier India.

But the diversity of the Indian market is quite unique and challenging. On one hand, you have high-class hospitals and on the other, a vast majority of the population does not even have access to basic healthcare facilities. How does GE Healthcare try to serve both markets

I think its not different. The overarching challenge here is one of economic access. This is a very unique and challenging healthcare system. Its a consumer-driven healthcare system. The consumers do not have a lot of disposable income to spend on healthcare and they shop rigorously for their healthcare. And as a result, the economic pressures on delivery of healthcare is stronger here than anywhere else in the world.

This puts pressure on both the providers and the infrastructure providers like ourselves to change the economics of our offerings, our products and our technologies. So, it has challenged us to rethink the

basic architectures that we use to serve the consumers and to serve the healthcare system here. We are building new products and new technologies that have very different economic value propositions for the Indian market.

At a realistic level, affordable healthcare is the need of the hour in India. What is GE Healthcare doing in this direction

We dont just sell products here. We are a long standing member of the community. We are a fully functioning business with over 1,500 engineers in the healthcare space, multiple factories, a team of great people in marketing and product management, and what we have done iswe have put them on to Indias healthcare problems. This is a problem in their backyard. This is a problem that they understand better than the engineers in the US or Europe would understand. Rather than having them working on projects for the rest of the world, they are concentrating more and more on the problems and challenges in their backyard.

And being here, our engineering teams understand the actual realities in the environment they understand the needs. And they feel great about ittrying to solve this problem and trying to answer this challenge. So we are redesigning products and technologies. Not de-featuring existing technologies, but building new technologies from the ground up that can meet new standards of clinical capabilities and economic capabilities. We are telling them to redesign their technologies in order to make them more affordable...and they are doing that. They are coming up with technologies that are not 10-20% plus but 20-40% lower cost of a comparable technology in another part of the world.

Was the low-cost ECG machine MAC 400 entirely developed by GE Healthcare in India

Yes and no. We intended to use a MAC ECG device, which is essentially a piece of hardware and a lot of software that was developed for other parts of the world. So we started there, and then we gave the product to our India team. And we saidyou cant take this apart and make it less, but build something from the ground up that is as good but more affordable. And what they are able to do is, to take some capability from an existing productoften it is a software functionality...a very sophisticated software.. and we figure how to run that software on a more cost effective hardware architecture.

So you get the application capability of a developed market and the cost structure of a developing market. We didnt start on completely clean slate. We have got capabilities but we borrow what translates well cost-effectively and they invent where they need to do something disruptive. It could be the hardware that doesnt translateit could be over featured, too expensive or solves problems that do not exist in this environment. So we tell them to start from zero, and we develop the hardware. Once we figured it, we took it several notches further, improved affordability and even upgraded the technology to send ECGs digitally to experts to include tele-medicine capability. Today, this Made in India MAC is available in over 72 countries.

We have about 25 products that have been designed and manufactured in India for reducing the costs of care and improving quality of care to the same standards that we see elsewhere in a developed world. Today, we are designing the most sophisticated technology in imaging like PET/CT for early detection of cancer in India. So that is the beginning of what is going to be a portfolio of technologies that not only address Indias healthcare challenges but the whole world.

There are other players too in the market place. What is the key differentiator that GE Healthcare brings to the table

There are competitors in every market around the world. We try to be different by being more local. We are local in terms of our investment in our development capabilities, our people, our engineers, our factories. And we try to work more closely with our clinicians to understand their work, to understand the problems we are solving. So, we are all great technology providers, but I think the differentiator is making sure the technology is more relevantto the unique problems in that market place. We dont believe that all the solutions that are relevant in US or China maybe relevant here. So our advantage is to stay closer to our customers, better understand their problems and quickly use

our local teams to develop responses to their problems or solutions to their problems.

I always believe that to be a good global company, you got to be a good local company. And the more you can embed capabilities in this marketplace and teams that are more capable in interpreting the needs, responding to needs quicklyand we dont talk a lot about it but people care about fixing problems in their own backyard. So the degree of engagement, enthusiasm and passionyou may not get in developing a product in another part of the world. Engineers get excited about solving problems here and bettering society here. Healthcare is a business, but it is also an enormous societal need. And thats an embedded advantage we have in our people and in our business and if we can unlock that, I think it will help us in a competitive way.

We develop economically relevant products for this economically challenging applicationhealthcare in India. I find this everywhere. People are trying to make healthcare even more accessible, even more affordable, or both in other parts of the world. So the solutions here have some validity in market potential in other parts of the world. I am actually thinking of sending these products to Africa, but we are seeing the uptake and interest in our products in the Europe and US at the same time.

How important is the Indian market for GE Healthcare

It is tremendous. I am speaking to the developing markets of the world. In healthcare, that is actually where the growth is. Many of the developing markets are on a build out. The two most important infrastructures/social investments that you make are in education and in healthcare. Most of the governments in the world realise this and where they are behind in healthcare infrastructure investment, we are seeing either governments or in case of India, private sectors stepping up to the challenge and making some big investments. So these are the markets where the growth is and we spend a lot of time here and take them very seriously.

Do you think the senior and middle management staff working at the GE India centres can be groomed to take global positions

Yes. Our goal is basically to have local talent in every level in our organisation. I think theres excellent talent. I think you have to want to make sure you build local leadership teams. I think we have done a great job in that in GE. Most of the leadership across GE India is local talent and the same goes for GE China.

We have an advantage that we have been growing our managerial talent here for over 30 years. That is been something we really won. There are always people trying to get hold of your talent in a market like this. But on the other side, we are a strong, standalone high tech enterprise and we see a lot of managerial talent who want to work for us. We are a pretty attractive case for people who want to build their career in a major multinational that is a GE companybut do that in their home country for their whole career.