He began by taking charge of his family-run a retails pharmacy chain and today runs 31 secondary and tertiary eye care hospitals across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
Born in the town of Tiruchirappalli in 1969, Dr Arun did his MBBS from Annamalai University.
Why an entrepreneur
He wanted to pursue further specialisation and dreamt of building a multi-specialty hospital in the town. But he became an entrepreneur because of a twist in fate. The untimely death of his father compelled him take up his family business of one pharmacy retail outlet in the town of Trichy in the name of Vasan Medical Hall (VMH).
"Within a few months of analysis, I found immense potential in retail drug sales. VMH had regular prescriptions from more than 200 loyal doctors since many years. Thus I decided to further nurture the potential in the trust capital of the business in hand," says he.
The first move
With small capital investments, Dr Arun started a slew of drug outlets in the city in strategic locations. He chose areas where large population of working middle class were based. "Every shop was lined up with a trained set of sales boys who will respond to every prescription across the counter and render quick service. No prescriptions were returned back and relationship-building strategies with referring doctors were devised," says he. His strategy clicked and initial success encouraged him to further expand his network of outlets to more densely-populated clusters in the town and also to bordering areas of the town.
Over the years
Soon, VMH attracted a footfall of more than 10,000 people a day in each outlet. Today, VMH is a chain of 27 outlets in Trichy and Madurai. Success of one concept gave rise to birth of another concept. During the process of developing the chain of pharmacy outlet, Dr Arun found that most of the referring doctors had large patient base in various specialties, practicing in attached clinic at their residences, after their work in Government hospitals or major hospitals in the town.
"Most of these practitioners had ambitions of upgrading their facilities to meet the demand of patients, but had no resources or acumen to do so. I compiled a pool of 40 doctors from various specialties, and offered them a common working place with all state-of-the-art support equipment in daycare diagnosis," says he. Thus was born the first model of Vasan Medical Centre (VMC), which started its first centre in Trichy.
The centre offers spacious consulting rooms with paramedical support staff, common equipment, minor theatres and all administrative support for managing the clinic. “Each doctor was given time slots in the centre, and their patients managed well with efficient patient care team. This model also gained quick success and accommodated more doctors from different areas," says he.
In 2001, one of the leading group of eye care service provider in the south, approached Dr Arun for strategic alliance in eye care hospital in Trichy. "As ophthalmology was not an organised healthcare segment in south India during this time, I decided to tap the opportunity and started the first eye hospital in the town," says he. Thus was born Vasan Eye Care (VEC). As a pilot project, he invested only in secondary eye care facilities and later in tertiary care segment of eye care. Eventually, he expanded his services network to key markets in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Acquisition of Dr Prem's Eye Clinic in Chennai was one of the significant acquisitions of VEC.
Today, VEC has 31 secondary and tertiary eye care hospitals across the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra. He has more than 200 ophthalmologists and 2,000 paramedics working in his eye care enterprise.
Mistakes made and lessons learnt
He claims he made no serious business mistake, but had overcome various market challenges and backstabbing of key doctors and associates in the business process. "During the initial stage of expanding our network, I faced flak from aggressive competitors who tried to downplay my vision, and criticised me about my approach to penetrate and network which was totally innovative and revolutionary," says he.
Fear and apprehension
"I had no apprehensions about the success of my business model as there was a naked lacunae and it was all about who taps the opportunity first," says he.
Earlier challenges lay in roping in experienced doctors to join his hospitals. "I had to do beyond the limited retention exercises and also offer attractive perks to make doctors join my upcoming hospitals. Today, we are at luxury of choosing the best talent among hundreds of applications for employment," says he.
Any degree in management?
No. "But I am a voracious reader and keep myself updated of all business developments across the world. I have travelled extensively during the initial stages to understand the successful business models. Before venturing into any new business model, I personally inspect a similar model, do my own research and analysis, and weigh all pros and cons,” says he.
Tips for entrepreneuship
"Healthcare is a passion more than a business. The secret of success in any healthcare business is passion to evolve it with great involvement," he says passionately.
An entrepreneur that he admires in healthcare
“Dr Prathap C Reddy, who has passion and carries the fire among the entire team down the line. All successful eye care models today evolve around passion of individual entrepreneurs like G Venkatasamy who built Aravind Eye Care System, GN Rao, who built LV Prasad Eye Care, and Dr SS Badrinath who built temple of vision, Sankara Nethralya,” says he.
The road ahead
Dr Arun has set his sails in a voyage towards 50 eye hospitals by this year and 100 eye hospitals by the year 2010.http://www.expresshealthcaremgmt.com/200901/50pathfinders33.shtml