June 01, 2008

Young entrepreneurs challenge doctors’ hegemony in healthcare business

The aura of unapproachability around the healthcare business for all but medical professionals is beginning to slip as realisation grows that the stethoscope may not be the only tool to run a successful hospital trade. The business of healthcare, traditionally a bastion of medical professionals, is now being breached by spunky young entrepreneurs trained in technology or management challenging the notion that the doctor knows best.

One of the challengers, Anoop Radhakrishnan , is an unusual blend of a doctor and a post-graduate degree holder in management from IIM-Lucknow . Dr Radhakrishnan and four of his management-school batchmates started Indigoedge Consulting, whose main focus is on projects related to healthcare. They conduct feasibility studies for hospital projects, evaluate public health impact and also undertake management consulting. “Young professionals are getting increasingly interested in this field and the sector too has realised that it needs professional help,” says Dr Radhakrishnan, CEO, Indigoedge Consulting.

While Indigoedge was begun by those who had just completed their education, Satyajeet Prasad started Asclepius Consulting after his experience with GE Healthcare honed his skills for the sector. “I was to get transferred to Chicago, where I’d be working for people I do not relate to,” says Mr Prasad, alumnus of IIT and IIM. The prospect of moving to foreign shores motivated him to utilise his expertise for the domestic market.

And an understanding of how processes worked in developed nations made him see the huge market potential for basic healthcare in urban and rural India. “We especially want to focus on early healthcare in the rural areas,” he says. Asclepius provides management consulting for hospitals and clinics — from process design to the opening of a hospital.

Ranjit Kovilinkal Ramakrishnan, who studied at IIM-Ahmedabad , had carved out over nine years what seemed like a perfect career in consulting in the Middle East. When the entrepreneurial bug bit him, he knew it had to be in the healthcare sector. “We (his team) felt that professional vision was what was lacking in this field and there was a huge market to explored,” says Mr Ramakrishnan, MD, Hygeia e-Services. His firm specialises in international patient care, outsourced sales and marketing, and consulting and training services for healthcare organisations. He is now eyeing the opportunity in medical tourism, a promising business according to him if powered by corporate tie-ups.

However, it has not all been hunky-dory for the pioneers. One common concern is that physicians are typically not receptive to technology and set procedures. Also, some find it awkward to seek help from outside their profession.

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