Business Today

Getting the Diagnosis Right

Ameera Shah focused on trained manpower as she created a pan-India chain of diagnostics labs from scratch.
Arpita Mukherjee        Print Edition: Nov 23, 2014
Metropolis Healthcare's Ameera Shah
A healthy business: Ameera Shah at a Metropolis Healthcare lab in Mumbai (Photo: Rachit Goswami)

CATEGORY: Excellence in Productive Employment Creation (Mid-sized companies)

When Ameera Shah first got into business 14 years ago few people took her seriously. For, she was only 21 at the time and wanted to establish a nationwide presence in the highly fragmented segment of pathology labs. Today, 14 years on, Metropolis Healthcare has 800 collection centres and 125 laboratories in seven countries including India, South Africa and the UAE.

The foundation of Metropolis was laid in 1981 when Ameera Shah's father, Sushil Shah, opened a pathology lab in Gamdevi, Mumbai. Ameera, who studied and worked in the US before returning to India in 2000, converted the standalone lab into Metropolis and expanded across Mumbai until 2006. Then, she began to expand outside the city. "We thought that, as India was growing, healthcare would grow and there was an opportunity to build a chain of labs," she says.

125


The number of labs Metropolis has in seven countries.

To build a nationwide chain, Shah tied up with local labs in many cities. Metropolis, which competes with Dr Lal PathLabs and SRL Diagnostics, now has 25 partners. Shah says the main difficulty was to convince local labs that tying up with Metropolis would boost their brand identity and business. Lack of skilled manpower was another problem she faced. Jayant Singh, Director, Healthcare and Lifesciences Practice, Frost & Sullivan, says the diagnostics industry didn't give much emphasis to skilling as it was anyway growing at 18 to 20 per cent annually.

Shah, however, focused from the start on training everyone from partners to the sample collector and making them more customer-centric. This was critical to Metropolis's expansion from a 40-employee outfit at the turn of the century to a 4,000-strong company now. "The availability of talent will grow over the next ten years but now there is no talent available," she says.

800


The number of Metropolis collection centres.

Shah regularly interacts with 70-80 senior executives to drive home the message. "It's about spreading the knowledge to the top guys and then getting them to spread it down," she says. The company conducts training sessions for doctors and technicians. For doctors, it has about 720 hours of technical training and 300 hours for training in soft skills. Technicians are required to undergo 140 hours of training. The company conducts surveys for managers and supervisors to evaluate their training needs. It also conducts sessions of Critical Medical Education through the year for doctors and encourages its panel of experts to take part in conferences and seminars.

Private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which has been invested in Metropolis since 2010, endorses the manpower strategy of the company. "They (Metropolis) are giving them (employees) tools to do their job well. The larger players (such as Metropolis) are creating a pool of people who have the experience, tools and training to be able to do a more professional job," says Nitin Nayar, Managing Director at Warburg Pincus India.

Manpower training is more important for the company now that it is expanding outside India. Shah says it will be tougher to establish a footprint in the company's newest market, Africa, which lacks good medical facilities and where the culture, operations, and local partners would be difficult to manage. "The further you are from your home country, the more difficult it is to set things up," she says.

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