UAE-Based Indian Billionaire BR Shetty To Invest Up To $700 Million In Indian Healthcare

Global business tycoons are increasingly betting big on the Indian healthcare sector. Ask UAE-based India-born billionaire BR Shetty, founder and non-executive chairman of Abu Dhabi-based NMC Healthcare, one of the largest private healthcare providers in the UAE.

After building a healthcare empire in the UAE, Shetty has now decided to set his eyes on the under-penetrated healthcare market in India. He plans to set up healthcare centres/hospitals – both in private and public private partnership - with a capacity of around 20,000 beds across the country over the next five years.

Shetty’s focus is on both urban and rural areas and he plans to invest about $600-700 million for the same.  “Currently, most of the quality healthcare facilities are present only in the big cities. These need to be extended to tier 2 and 3 cities and rural and tribal areas as well,” says Shetty, adding “our ability to deal with pandemics as a nation, needs to be improved.”  

Shetty forayed in India in 2013 with BR Life (headquartered in Bangalore), NMC Group’s India affiliate. BR Life includes hospitals in India and the sub-continent. SUT Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram was the first BR Life hospital in India. Sree Narayana Hospital (SNH), Raipur, SSNMC Super Specialty Hospital Bangalore, Mother & Child Hospital in Udupi, Kalinga Hospital in Bhubaneshwar and The Grande International Hospital (GIH), Nepal are the other hospitals under the BR Life umbrella. So far, the BR life has a current capacity of around 1,500 beds in India.

When asked about the key challenges in the Indian healthcare sector today, Shetty reflects on the paucity of quality healthcare across the country. “India has qualified healthcare professionals but it needs more. We have organisations that want to work for the betterment of the society. But the connect between the two has so far not been established. Hence, we are struggling to build a healthy nation,” he said.

According to a report jointly published by KPMG and Ficci in 2016, the doctor-patient ratio in India stands at a dismal 1:1,700.

India Calling

It is the love and opportunity in India that brings Shetty back home. “Charity always begins at home,” says Shetty, an entrepreneur and philanthropist born and raised in small town Udupi in Karnataka. He immigrated to the UAE in 1972. Today, his flagship company NMC Healthcare is to be one of the largest private healthcare providers in the UAE. It has as many as 2,000 doctors and 18,000 paramedical and support personnel under the NMC Healthcare umbrella spread across 180 facilities in 13 countries worldwide. Every year, over 8.5 million patients are treated by NMC doctors across UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Slovakia, Egypt, Brazil and Colombia. NMC is listed on the London stock exchange and is the first UAE based company to be a part of the coveted Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, also called the FTSE 100 Index.

This apart, Shetty is also the chairman of global money transfer, foreign exchange and payment solutions brand UAE Exchange.

Opportunity in the Indian healthcare sector is mammoth. As per data available with healthcare venture capital fund, Quadria Capital, over 70 per cent of the population in India currently lives in the hinterland. Of this 60 per cent is poor, 35 is middle class and 5 per cent can be categorised as rich. Rural sector accounts for 70 per cent of communicable disease and surprisingly 50-70 per cent of non-communicable diseases.

To break down the numbers further, as much as 60 per cent hospitals, 75 per cent dispensaries and 80 per cent doctors are currently located in urban areas servicing only 30 per cent of the country’s population. The situation in itself paints a grim picture with the unavailability of secondary or tertiary care services in rural areas (only 37 per cent of people have access to In-Patient Department) that leads to higher costs of healthcare for rural population.

“Due to the sheer size and persity of India, standardization of healthcare system gets challenging. It is doable, but will take a much longer time,” says Shetty.

Earlier, Azaad Moopen developer of healthcare facilities in Asia-Pacific and chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, too bet big on India. Having begun in the Middle East and carving out  name or himself there, he has also been involved in the development of healthcare facilities in India.

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