Dr Gurushankar , 37-year-old entrepreneur fixed the discrepancies caused by legacy assets and ruthlessly fired people who did not work according to his way.
The moment you enter Madurai district, you will find a couple of Meenakshi Mission Hospital buses on the way. These buses are like the hospital’s telemedicine units and anytime you can find them communicating with doctors at the city command centre.
These buses, serve around 1,50,000 people every year, was the idea of Dr Gurushankar , who has transformed the hospital into the most demanding health centres in southern Tamil Nadu. Though the hospital had very interesting history filled with drama and intrigue.
Meenakshi Mission Hospital was founded in 1985 by N Sethuraman, a urologist who dreamt of having a modern hospital in a Madurai.
By 1991, the 100-bed hospital had come to be identified with politicians from Devar community. This was one of the reasons why in 2005, Sethuraman was losing his grip over the hospital. Sethuram built the hospital to serve the patients who can’t afford hefty hospital charges. But now it seemed like the politicians had taken control over the hospital and disgusted the purpose of making healthcare affordable.
This was the time when Sethuraman launched his youngest son, Dr Gurushankar, to save the hospital. He was worried that the amalgamation with politics and the power centres that were executing the hospital would gradually degrade this place.
No doubt it becomes a Rs 100-crore company and the hospital offered 250 beds, its margins had suffered the losses with cronies earning money and its business ethics compromised. The standards of the hospital dropped so much that the hospital wanted help. When Gurushankar joined he was just 25 and had no experience in this industry.
GuruShankar, Chairman of Meenakshi Hospitals, says,
“At the time I was never prepped to take over the business. It was when I was going abroad to study that I realised that dad was going through a lot of trouble and he needed my help. The decision to stay back changed my life.”
But soon he took care of the business very effectively by creating profits and end of friendships with mean partners. But his actions not only saved his family but business, which is now a Rs 350-crore enterprise and likely to increase revenues to Rs 500 crore in coming five years. There are plans to set up three more hospitals by 2024 and also build a telemedicine practice for Africa. Currently, the hospital serves more than 5 lakh patients per year.
Adel, a childhood friend now head of marketing and projects at the hospital says.
“Guru was a brilliant student. He would teach us physics and always read a lot,” he was the kind of kid who would succeed in whatever he did. “While everyone was being studious, he would just understand concepts very quickly and would ace exams with very little effort,”
Gurushankar says he is very thankful to his mother for making him study and says he had the capacity to comprehend concepts from an early age.
The time had come when he joined the business in June 2005; he was announced vice-chairman in board meeting by his father. His appointment was not very much appreciated by some members especially the senior members In the end everyone had to accept the Gurushankar as the Vice chairman of the company.
However, that did not control the power centres from executing things their way. Gurushankar called each of them in and fired them.
While the hospital’s management structure started to be realigned, Gurushankar also planned in for expansion. He recruited young people to work on key departments. He strictly suggested them to bargain in a better way with pharma companies.
Gurushankar introduced a plan for the doctors in which every big consultant had to give up consulting on the outside and dedicate themselves entirely to the hospital. Being a good leader, he also promised that the doctors would receive hefty compensation from the organisation’s profit margin.
Most of the senior doctors quit but the young ones stayed behind and relied on the future. Right now , the hospital is working with 330 doctors with over 150 of them being MD- and MS-level doctors.
“Such a business model takes away the business-minded nature of the doctors who use hospitals to get patients into their personal profit centres. This destroys healthcare service, which Madurai cannot afford.”
Then came the turn of politicians. “I have learned to say no to people. I made sure my business did not have political leanings,”
I ensured that I removed the clan-based association that my hospital carried because of my dad’s association with politics. I kept them at a distance”.
The politicians complained to his father, who again said that his time was over. Fixing the leakages took Gurushankar three years. In 2016, he was appointed as a chairman of the company and finally things were in his control. And under his chairmanship now the hospital had expanded into a 1,000-bed hospital. Gurushankar started focusing on expansion plans around the Tamil Nadu region.
He started analysing the Thanjavur region which had small 100-bed hospitals. He found out that there was no multiple specialities in the region.
As far as the future business strategy is concerned Gurushankar is planning to set up a premium hospital in Madurai that will be focused on serving the premium patients in the region. His company is also planning to focus on growth in Salem, a tier-3 city, with a 250-bed hospital. Besides they have plans to set up a hospital in Chennai as well.
He has finalised a Rs 300-crore investment plan to build a nursing college in Madurai. He plans to use the New Zealand university to train African students, who can go back to their countries and serve as nurses in telemedicine centres set up by Meenakshi Hospitals. The first stop will be Kenya.
“I want to apply the same model abroad. But this time I might want help with a clever startup platform or anyone who can make this dream of serving Africa from India a reality.”
“I cannot chase short-term profits. I do not work in that fashion and it will be a nightmare if I sign up with profit seekers,”
No wonder, he wants things to be done on his own terms. He is very fond of the given quote from the Tamil movie Thiruvalavar
The quote goes like this..
“Who can harm a king with counsellors who are free to rebuke him roundly. A king unguarded by trenchant counsel needs no foes to come to grief. The earth bears no heavier burden than a tyrant hemmed in by fools.”