Dr. Sharan Patil's Hope, Faith And Love
Image: Mallikarjun Katkol for Forbes India
Dr. Devi Shetty had moved into the Manipal Hospital from Kolkata almost at the same time as I did in 1997. We would sit together and ponder over the limitation we had. In 2001, he moved out to build the Narayana Hrudayalaya. Though restless, I continued in my comfortable job.
“In 2003-04 came the tipping point when I decided to take the plunge and start my own hospital, which finally came up as part of the Health City. The greatest attraction to join Health City was its low-cost model.
“My vision for Sparsh Hospital was to create a model of delivering state-of-the-art healthcare to as many people as possible.”
“How did you evolve as a leader from being a great surgeon to medical entrepreneur? What are the top three key lessons from the first five years as an entrepreneur?”
“Leadership, I believe, has to be a part of any surgeon’s personality. A surgeon has to build a rapport with the patient, earn the confidence and build a reputation. In the operating room he has to take charge and put together a team of anaesthetists, assistants, scrub nurses and many others. He has to carry the responsibility of the outcome of the entire team’s work. I believe these are the very same qualities that will need to be amplified for a successful entrepreneur.
“One has to learn the art of multi-tasking and at the same time compartmentalising different aspects of the business of running a medical establishment. There is a very thin line between what is necessary equipment for patient care and luxury for medical personnel. Being a specialist has helped me minimise wasteful expenditure.
“The highest standard of ethics has to be spoken and practiced unflinchingly by the leadership. It creates an atmosphere of purity in thought and clarity of action amongst all the employees. This in turn is palpable to visitors — patients, their relatives, suppliers and associates. This forms the greatest asset; your brand. Trust is the all-important attribute in the healthcare industry. The choice of team makes all the difference. I have always preferred honesty over efficiency, candour over subordination and the opinionated over submissive individuals.
“We must be transparent and not hesitate to ask for help. You need to have expertise and professional inputs in the areas of specialisation and that includes finance if you want to build an enterprise.”
In the time since Sparsh came into being in 2006, the doctors there have done over 10,000 procedures, 80 percent of them on wheeled-in trauma victims. Unlike many other businesses, Patil does not choose the customer, the time and shape of arrival. I want to know, how does one maintain motivation to deal with life each time it is at its very worst?
“I started by settling the most important issue in my own mind: Who is it for? I told myself and then others that we are creating a patient-centric hospital. That led to a culture of responsibility and compassion. At Sparsh, we seek academics and accreditation of our work against the best in the world. We recognise and appreciate the efforts by individuals. A place like ours must constantly focus on creating a team and involving people in decision making; in empowering. Responsibility without power is no equation.”
In the past few years, Patil and his team have expanded into two hospitals. They’ve been reaching out to the hinterland and seeking out crippled children in distress and retired teachers through annual events called Sparsh Vachana and Guru Namana. Every year, dozens of world renowned doctors fly in at their own expense and provide their services for these two events at no cost.
We shake hands and I am about to step out of the hospital. I ask Patil one last question. What is Sparsh all about? “Hope, Faith and Love,” he says. “They come to us with hope. We must create the faith in them that we will attend to them, we will do our best and we must do so with abiding love for the work we do.”
Subroto Bagchi is co-founder & gardener, MindTree and a best-selling author. His brief: Every fortnight, exchange tales of the road with successful entrepreneurs