Wednesday, March 17, 2010

AYURVAID! One entrpreneur Rajiv Vasudevan gives Ayurveda some serious facelift..!

A Paradigm Shift in Ayurveda
AyurVAID is ushering in a new dimension to the curative aspects of Ayurveda by moving away from the corridors of luxury to people who need it the most, says Nancy Singh
Group: First Health Services Private Ltd - AyurVAID Hospitals
Location: Pan-India
Project: Chain of 40 Ayurvedic hospitals
Bed Strength: 150 beds

The AyurVaid Hospital in Bengaluru
Imagine this: You are a budding and ambitious entrepreneur in your mid 30s and you are interested in healthcare or say Ayurveda, to be more precise. The best part is you are also sanctioned an appreciable fund to set-up a chain of Ayurveda centres across India. Sitting in your boardroom, you are thinking about the locations for your new centres. Which places are you likely to choose, keeping in mind that you have sufficient funds? Maybe a place where there are high-income group residents or where tourists flock, simply because you know that Ayurveda is more popular with foreigners or affluent residents than our 'aam janta'. Even if this answer does not match your imagination, it is not likely that you will have in mind, Mumbai-based Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, in your imagination!
Well, that is where Rajiv Vasudevan, CEO, of AyurVAID hospital chain begs to differ, as he has gone ahead and done exactly that! He opened a centre in Dharavi, as a part of his hospital-chain expansion plan. He aims to build a fortune from the bottom of the pyramid and that too through Ayurveda route. And the PE firm which is helping him to realise his vision is Acumen, which has invested Rs 4.5 crore in his pet project. Currently, AyurVAID has opened six hospitals in all, with the bed-strength totaling to 150.
"Choosing Dharavi was actually a no-brainer!" says Sajan Ganapathy, Head of Hospital Operations for AyurVAID. "Dharavi is devoid of any healthcare facility. This is by far our best and most successfully running hospital," claims Ganapathy. Dharavi is a hub for thousands of labourers involved in zari work and considering their working poor conditions, they peculiarly suffer from muscle and bone-joint problems, which 15-bed AyurSEVA treats very successfully.
Tapping Market Potential
"The masses do not care what stream of the medicine it is. They just want to be cured"
- Rajiv Vasudevan
"Our healthcare facility in Dharavi is our most
successful venture"

- Sajan Ganapathy

Head of Hospital Operations
During the last financial year, Indian Ayurveda-related tourism earned Rs 6,000 crore in revenues. As modern medicine with its strong synthetic chemical drugs fails to combat disease, there is rapid and progressive acceptance of this system. Patients from across the world come to India for Ayurvedic treatment. With the popularity of the system, the demand for Ayurvedic doctors is on the rise in India and abroad as well and there are many Ayurvedic doctors practicing as consultants overseas.
Today, Ayurveda is an officially recognised system of medicine in India. Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises it as Traditional Medicine (TRM). It is estimated that the total market size of the Indian Ayurvedic market is Rs 8,000 crore and it is growing substantially between 10-15 percent, with the same growth rate targeted for the next 10 years. Overall, Ayurveda products fall into two categories-branded and traditional. Currently, more than 30,000 branded and 1,500 traditional products are available in the market. On treatment side, there are hardly any organised players. Hence, AyurVAID intends to carve a niche in this segment.
Modern medicine has certainly made advancements in terms of scientific diagnosis, but at the same time, the curative and healing effects of alternative medicinal practices like Ayurveda cannot be considered any lesser. AyurVAID Hospitals makes use of the modern diagnostic tools of modern medicine and the curative practices of the traditional Ayurveda to treat their patients.
"The fast gaining popularity of Ayurveda world over stands testimony to this. Hence, the need of the hour is not a tug of war between the both as to which is better. A median line or the 'golden path' that cut across both and takes the best out of the both is what is needed now," concludes Vasudevan. That's just what AyurVAID Hospitals has tried to do by building a viable and sustainable business model.
It will continue to expand in the regions where it is currently present —Kerala, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, before expanding to the other metros—starting with Chennai.
The Genesis
It all started when Vasudevan, was working in the Kerala Government, as a person in-charge to authenticate and validate Ayurveda drugs. When he started getting exposed to the healing powers and potential of Ayurveda, he wondered as to why most Ayurveda companies just focused on the products or massages, in spite of the therapeutic and curative potential of Ayurveda. "With my exposure to this stream, I knew the huge untapped potential of this segment. Ayurveda is a good option for primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, in this health-facility hungry country. Modern medicine is excellent for acute tertiary care. So right since the start, I was focused that I will enter into this segment."
He also realised that the masses do not care what stream of the medicine it is. They just want to be cured. So keeping this fundamental need in mind, through his own personal funding of Rs 20 lakh, the first two AyurVAID centres were set-up in Kochi, both of 15-bed and 30-beds in Ernakulum and Aluva, respectively.
Rapid Growth
Today, the group has six hospitals. Three other hospitals are in Karnataka, (two centres at Domlur and Ramamurthy Nagar in Bangaluru and one at Hubli). The sixth hospital is located in Mumbai. AyurVAID's existing facilities range from 15-30 beds, depending on allocation of private and semi-private rooms.
It also has two 'AyurSEVA' hospitals, each of which offers a general ward format and corresponding lower price-point, in order to make Ayurveda affordable and accessible to all. Hence, AyurVAID is trying to address the needs of both, the middle-class and low-income through AyurVAID and AyurSEVA, respectively.
Across all locations, AyurVAID's core medical engine remains identical, in terms of processes and standards. "While AyurVAID's founding 'product' is customising treatment plans for chronic/ severe disease patients (7-41 days), we also offer promotive and alleviative programmes targeting specific market segments. These include a 'Swastha Vritta' those seeking to maintain wellness (tissue rejuvenation, good metabolism and a healthy digestive system). Basically, wellness in a thorough, comprehensive, way that is deep and long lasting than a superficial, short term experience," sums up Vasudevan.
According to him, AyurVAID hospitals, is a new generation hospital chain pioneering rigorous, process and documentation driven, Ayurveda medical services that is appropriately and effectively integrated with modern medicine.
The Big Push
The Government of India, has given subsidies to the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), which include major plans for the ayurveda industry like upgrading quality control department, improve quality-manufacturing unit as per cGMP, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the European Union (EU) guidelines. Secondly, to set up GMP standards for botanical products defined as per WHO's standards.
AYUSH has provided the first scheme for Ayurvedic manufacturing companies, known as 'AYUSH Cluster', where it will give assistance of Rs 10 crore for forming such clusters anywhere in India. The Department of Science and Technology has also jumped into this race and welcomed the proposal for R&D for joint sector programme. "It is estimated that in India, 60 per cent of registered physicians are involved in non-allopathic systems of medicine. In addition to the nearly 4,00,000 ayurvedic practitioners, there are over 170,000 homeopathic physicians. India has about 5,00,000 medical doctors (similar to the number in the US, but serving nearly four times as many people). Dependence on ayurvedic medicine is heavy in certain regions of India, such as Kerala in the Southwest. Many ayurvedic practitioners in small villages are not registered," highlights Rajiv Vasudevan, CEO, AyurVAID.
The Business Model
The strategy is to continue building 15-30 bed hospitals (hubs) and also to expand into 'spokes' - smaller AyurVAID clinics in key locations, where patients can avail of a consultation, treatments and prescribed AyurVAID medicines, while staying in the comfort of their own home. These smaller clinics are particularly appropriate for the wellness market seeking regular preventive check-ups.
"So far, our Kochi hospitals are faring well, as they are already three years old and we do not have to go the extra mile of promoting Ayurveda there. It is a very well accepted treatment module there. For other centres, we are aggressively promoting treatment through word-of-mouth and community outreach programmes," informs Ganapthy.
Though the basic model itself is hub and spoke, wherein the group aims to have 40 hubs in the next five years across India with many other spokes around these hubs, it is the target audience and the speciality that makes it unique. Vasudevan feels that in the space that he is functioning, there is hardly any competition and he also has the first mover advantage. Moreover, there are not many chains in India who are targeting the low-income group.
For Ayurveda hospitals, the RoI is faster and the investment required for a Greenfield project is also much lesser. "Advantages for an Ayurveda centre are that it is low on capital investment and also RoI happens in three to four years," informs Vasudevan.
Currently, as a part of its expansion strategy, the group will only target metros of tier-I cadre. "Bangaluru has a population of eight million, while Mumbai has a population of 18 million, whereas Hubli is the second largest city of Karnataka. So if you see, our focus is very clear. We will cater to the low-income group of all metros."
The main USP for AyurVAID hospitals is the treatment provided for chronic illnesses or lifestyle diseases. Comments Vasudevan, "The modern healthcare delivery system has done a great job in diagnosis and cure of most illnesses. But chronic illness is one area where its' advantages pale in comparison to traditional systems like Ayurveda. By infusing modern medical practices, we are creating a reliable and replicable system akin to Allopathy which will make Ayurveda the choice of millions with chronic illnesses over the next decade. AyurVAID will of course be in the front leading that paradigm shift."
AyurVAID Hospitals' model is also unique in the sense that it is using modern tools for expanding its network, unheard of, in the Ayurveda space. It is already empanelled as a network hospital by 12 of India's leading medical insurance service providers and most leading Third Party Administrators (TPAs) facilitating cashless Ayurveda medical management for medical insurance policy holders. "This is a pioneering and unique achievement in the Ayurveda industry, representative of the breakthroughs AyurVAID seeks to bring to the Ayurveda industry," says Vasudevan.
The Challenge
The biggest challenge is to communicate and reach out to the potential customer base regarding the availability of classical Ayurveda medical care as an effective first line treatment for serious medical conditions. "Our clinical results have been very strong and patients who have undergone our treatments are our best ambassadors — but convincing new patients that the prescription we offer is a gentle, affordable and highly effective alternative to an allopathic approach (or, very often, is an excellent compliment to an allopathic prescription) is where we focus our energies," informs Vasudevan.
As a result, AyurVAID has developed an expansion strategy that focuses on geographical clusters, where they can leverage marketing across hospitals along with hub-and-spoke model which increases the ability for outreach and education and can drive traffic to the larger in-patient facilities.

Article sourced from ExpressHealthcare online:


kiruthi ka said...

Interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you.
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Dr Rajesh Choda said...

It will indeed a paradigm shift if we are able to penetrate the minds of common people.

Mahesh Siddamshetty said...

It's really great.the idea of the hubs is amazing.the business model is alike from others thoughts ,where generally concentration will be more only on riches.thanks sri Vasudevan ji

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