Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi, June 16

IF global private equity funds are picking up stake in Indian healthcare companies, the industry here is eyeing the international markets. In fact, several companies are in the process of setting up on-site delivery centres in different geographies.

The Apollo Group, for instance, has a presence in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the UAE, Nepal, Ghana, Nigeria, the UK and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is also in talks with private healthcare groups and Government authorities in Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritius, Yemen, Muscat, Bahrain, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and other neighbouring countries.

Ranbaxy-promoted Fortis Healthcare has chosen a different path. Instead of getting into the hospitals business directly, it has tied up with hospitals in the UK, whereby teams of doctors and nurses would work for a short time there.

Max India, on its part, has a separate outfit, Max HealthStaff, which provides training that prepares nurses to work in hospitals in the US and other developed countries. While tapping international markets would help in projecting India as a healthcare destination, companies feel that this would also enable them to create a brand for themselves, bringing in additional revenues.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Harpal Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Fortis, said while the move to send medical teams will not only help reduce the burden there, it would also help in building India as a brand for quality healthcare. Apollo is looking at directly servicing patients in their own countries. It believes that its capabilities have received international acclaim resulting in the replication of its Indian models at foreign locations. Mr B. Anantharaman, Joint Managing Director, Max India, had said that Max HealthStaff was initially set up for the nurses working in its own hospitals. "However, it has managed to attract outside talent as well. We have tied up with consultancies in the US and our first batch of 40 students is ready," he added.

Analysts tracking the sector said that foray into international markets may not be a money-spinner at the start. "But initiatives like these help bring in international clients. Hospitals abroad have already started sending pathology samples and images for diagnostics to Indian companies, which is a start," said an analyst tracking the sector.

Meanwhile, companies are forging alliances with international institutes such as the Harvard Medical School, The Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine for technical collaboration. "Most aim at drawing upon the international partners' skills, knowledge and experience in devising and implementing a medical care service rather than the latter's capital," said the analyst.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 17, 2005)
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