After earning enough goodwill in the field of radiology for almost four decades, Dr Atul Marwah and Dr Ruchira Marwah established the Medcare Institute of diagnostics in Mumbai. Their tale has several learning lessons for aspiring radiology entrepreneurs. Raelene Kambli meets the dynamic duo
Tell us about your business model. What makes it different from other imaging diagnostic centres?
Medcare Diagnostics is a tie-up with Sushrut Hospital in Chembur, Mumbai. The uniqueness of Medcare Diagnostics is that you will fill find all diagnostic imaging facilities under one roof, to cater to the patient’s healthcare needs and convenience. PET-CT, nuclear medicine, radiology and pathology are some of the pivotal facilities available at Medcare Diagnostics. Our centre is equipped with the latest cutting-edge technology which helps in giving its doctors and patients the best possible results in comparison to other diagnostic centres in the city.
We can confirm that from Parel to Pune you will not be able to find similar facilities.
Ours is a service-centric model. I am the fourth generation doctor in my family and so I have been raised with the knowledge that medicine is a profession meant to serve people. Our business strategy also revolves around this ideology. We have patients coming to us from all strata of the society. We also treat poor patients for free.
What led you to venture into radiology entrepreneurship?
After pursuing our graduation and post graduation from respected institutes, we worked with some government hospitals. Later, we went on to work with corporate hospitals such as Bombay Hospital, Seven Hills and Umrao Hospital in Mumbai. Thinks were going fine, however, we realised that beyond a point we were not able to really translate our thoughts, our convictions into action. For example, if we had poor patients coming to us for help, it would take a long process to actually get permissions to diagnose them. So we decided to establish our own diagnostic centre.
What were the road blocks in this process?
Setting up your own business is not a cake walk. It involves a lot of skill. The biggest road block was real estate and finance to set up the centre. In a city like Mumbai it’s difficult to get a place easily. Moreover, we needed a lot of finance, especially to buy equipment. And our basic principle was that we will not compromise on equipment , we would rather compromise on interiors. Some of the equipment cost around Rs 35 lakh, so the returns on that equipment should be around Rs three lakhs for a monthly survival. The other challenge was getting trained manpower.
How did you overcome the challenge of real estate?
We decided to tie-up with Sushrut Hospital which allowed us to set up our centre in 1000 sq ft area. Also, since this hospital is located in the centre of the city, we could easily target patients from across the city.
How did you manage to attract financers?
Since setting up a radiology centre means investing a a lot of money, we needed some financers. Luckily, the name we earned in the industry helped us to find financers and we also had to take a loan. We had the experience and people knew about our work so they believed in our project. We have a company called Clearmedi who have financed our business model.
And how did you manage to get the desired manpower?
We had to network and convince experts from within the sector to join us. Now these trained professionals have become the biggest support for the smooth functioning of our centre.
What are the benefits of starting your own centre?
Running your own business means a lot of effort, but it has its own set of advantages. Firstly, it gives you the freedom to think and take business decisions on your own. Secondly, it gives you a wide scope for your practice.
Some experts feel that doing a radiology diagnostic business on your own sometimes is not viable. What is your opinion on this?
Well, viability in radiological imaging business is achieved when you have a good business plan. The strategy used is also important. We also believe that before starting your own set-up, a radiologist should work with an hospital or an imaging centre. It is important to make your name. Once you have earned a good name among patients and fellow radiologists, it becomes easier to venture out and do something new. Coming back to making the business viable, I feel the strategy should be earning in volume, than value. Nevertheless, high quality should be maintained.
So how do you manage viability?
One way to do it is to reduce cost burden. For this, we both reinvest our salaries into the business. So this reduces a little bit of the cost burden. The other way is to work in volume without compromising on quality. Also, we feel proud to say that some of the top-notch, internationally trained doctors from Mumbai’s leading hospitals are associated with us and serve as our faculty members. Having trained faculty also helps us provide the best quality services while ensuring that every doctor get a break. We follow a SOP system in order to provide good service to our patients and also it helps in maintaining efficiency. Therefore, we can earn in volumes as well.
What about giving the equipment a break?
The equipment also gets its share of rest. Normally we do not have patients during the nights , except if there is an emergency.
Your business is still young. According to you, when will you break even?
It has been around two years for our business now and we are going very strong. We perhaps may break even in two to three years.
What is your strategy for success? Should it be a one-man show or not?
We feel that a diagnostic business needs to be process driven and should never be run by a single person, as this could hamper the functioning and viability of the business.
Running a diagnostic business, you must have come across ethical issues. How did you deal with this?
We are very strict with our morals. In our centre we do not entertain any one who would provide us with any kind of cut-practice. We get our work by our name. In fact, we don’t even have a marketing team.
And the truth is that people who follow the cut-practice are actually a handful. We personally believe that cut-practice does not help you to prosper.
How do you market yourself?
We conduct CMEs, and workshops for this. We also go out to medical colleges and give lectures. Here, we try to create an academic environment so that people who work with us also get to learn new things.
If a practising radiologist would wish to start his/ her own set-up, what should be the strategy to attract investors?
If somebody is trying to make money overnight, then this is not the field to invest in. We feel that the way forward is through public-private partnerships (PPP). Also, the financers should not own and run the business. It should be run and owned by radiologists. This is because we believe that doctors having their own expertise will be in a better position to under their patients’ requirements and deliver the services accordingly. This, in turn, will fetch the business a good name as well as profits.
What are your plans for the future?
Our plan is to continue growing in every possible way. We also wish to raise money by way of private equity in order to expand further in the coming year.
What is your message to radiologists who aspire to venture into entrepreneurship?
Gain experience before you start your own business. Experience should be in the form of clinical as well as managerial know-how.