MEED: The number of private healthcare providers active in the GCC has risen rapidly in recent years. How are you responding to the increased competition?
Azad Moopen: If you look at our network, we have an advantage of size because we are catering to different verticals with our model. We have clinics, we have hospitals and we have pharmacies, this helps with backward and forward integration. We have the full spectrum and we have the largest network in the GCC. And after our new branding, we now have recognised branded healthcare facilities and establishments.
Is there any conflict of interest in DM Healthcare being a pharmaceuticals dispenser and owner of hospitals and clinics? Is there not a temptation to overprescribe?
“This year, we expect to do AED700m in revenue. In a couple of years, we hope to cross AED1bn”
We are careful in this respect. We make it a point that our pharmacies stock everything and the doctor has the choice to prescribe anything he wants. It is not in our interest to [overprescribe], not only that if you look at it from the point of view of our customers or from the point of the insurance companies, it is important that as a major player with long-term plans, we take care of their interests. We have to make them believe in us and that we are partners with them.
Previously, you focused your investment on medical centres, but you are now focusing more on building hospitals. Is there a reason for that?
We built up a chain of clinics [in the UAE] over 25 years and then we started building hospitals and pharmacies. We are going into other countries now – we are already present in two countries and are going into another three in the Gulf. So building such a network of clinics over a long period of time is not practical. If you open a hospital it is more iconic and immediately you are recognised and since we now have the knowledge we thought we should do the hospitals first and then build the clinics around that.
Are you looking at other markets beyond the GCC and India?
For our next step, we would like to go to places like Egypt. There are two reasons for this. One, there is an opportunity for healthcare facilities there and the country’s development is good. The second reason is it would be a good place to recruit more people to work in our facilities in the GCC.
How much of a problem is recruitment and retention in the GCC, since there is a lot of competition for staff and local talent does not really exist?
Human resources is a major challenge for any healthcare organisation and we have methods by which we are addressing this. We have access to many countries from where we take doctors and medical staff. We have about 26 nationalities with us. We recruit heavily for staff nurses in India and the Philippines and, for the other areas, we look at many countries in the Middle East, such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
Have you had to raise salaries due to the competition?
The salaries in the countries from where we are recruiting have gone up significantly in the past three years, so if you want to get good talent you have to match or do better than that.
What profit targets have you set out for the next few years?
We are planning for an initial public offering (IPO) in two-three years’ time. This requires a certain amount of turnover and size. We are planning to create a company that holds both our India and GCC operations. That will be a large company that can go for an IPO, in either a GCC country or in India. This year, we expect to do AED700m in revenue. In a couple of years, we hope to cross AED1bn.