Bid for Fortis aside, Parkway’s new India head gears up for a tough job ahead

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on May 23, 2018

Parkway’s parent company Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare keen on local acquisitions

It’s literally baptism by fire for Ajay Bakshi, the India head of healthcare major Parkway Pantai.

Just six weeks into his appointment, the trained neuron-surgeon watches from the “sidelines”, as he puts it, as Parkway’s parent company Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare Berhaud launches an aggressive bid for cash-strapped Fortis Healthcare.

Even as he prepares for “more work” that will come his way as the India operational-head if indeed the Fortis deal goes through, Bakshi tells BusinessLine that the Group's appetite for local acquisitions continues to be voracious. And that, despite reports of issues simmering with existing partners in the India market.

Bakshi is not perturbed by the timing of his appointment coming as it does in the thick of negotiations for a large asset like the Fortis network of hospitals. When large organisations participate in a possible acquisition, the mechanism is transparent and is usually run by the parent organisation, he says, adding that keeping the local operation outside the negotiation was important to keep details confidential.

Interestingly, Bakshi's last stop was at Manipal Health Enterprises, the hospital group who are the first bidders for Fortis, and now, a key contender for the hospital network along with IHH.

“That was bit of coincidence not by design,” he says, adding that his focus is on improving their “current footprint”. The effort is to integrate and synergise the hospitals that have come into the IHH fold, he says.

Understanding India

And that brings up the criticism often levelled at multinationals like IHH in terms of not understanding the Indian landscape, leading to troubled relationships with partners. Industry experts cite Parkway's difficult greenfield experience involving the Khubchandani Hospital, even as they discuss the difficulties in digesting acquisitions without hiccups. The last two acquisitions by IHH include Hyderabad-based Continental Hospitals (₹310 crore) and Global Hospitals (₹1,284 crore).

“The accusation (of not knowing the India landscape) would be true if the person running the Indian operation was not familiar with India,” he counters, refering to his stints as the head of Max Healthcare and Manipal Hospitals, besides his role with McKinsey.

As for the leadership at IHH, he says, they are able to bring best practices from Malaysia, Singapore or Turkey to their hospitals. So in that sense, not only does the leadership understand India, he says, but they also are a “doorway to understanding what is happening in Asia” and that can be brought to the footstep of this hospital, he says, sitting in Mumbai's Global Hospital.

On trouble with partners, he explains, there are two parts of a deal involving the shareholder and the other involving actual operations including setting up IT systems, nurse-hiring , doctor management, procurement etc.

“The shareholder relationship I am getting into it. I am talking to all the partners,” he says.

Published on May 23, 2018

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