Reaching out to the world

Leader Speak: Dr Mukesh Batra, Founder and Chairman, Dr Batra’s Healthcare

Dr Mukesh Batra, Founder and Chairman, Dr Batra’s Healthcare armed with little more than a first class professional degree and a fierce determination, took up the colossal challenge of winning homeopathy the medical respect it deserved. Extending himself beyond his profession, he wears his various hats with aplomb. Deftly maneuvering his roles as a doctor, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, he manages his responsibilities with clockwork precision. With uncluttered thoughts and excellent time management skills, he takes time out to be a photographer, animal lover, social worker and a patron of theatre and the arts. His recent stint with singing has been appreciated my many, especially because his soulful rendering of melodies is not without a social cause. It can truly be said of him that his is a life very well lived, rendering him a man very well loved.

Dr. Batra's aims at building values for patients, employees, partners and for the society at large. The fundamental business strategy of Dr. Batra’s is to innovate & excel .Founded in 1982 by Dr. Mukesh Batra, Dr. Batra's Positive Health Clinic has come a long way today with 121 clinics spread across 61 cities in India, Dubai and UK. It provides state-of-the-art services to more than half a million people from all over the world, with the numbers growing steadily. Spreading its wings beyond India, Dr. Batra’s went global in 2008 with its first clinic in Muscat, in a joint venture with Lama Polyclinic LLC. The international operations were furthered in 2009 with the launch of Dr. Batra’s Homeopathic Clinic FZ-LLC at the Dubai Healthcare City. The company made another mark on the global scenario when it established its presence in the hub of medical excellence in London, at Harley Street in 2010.Dr. Mukesh Batra also established Dr. Batras’ Positive Health Foundation in 2001. Helping underprivileged and the deprived gives a better meaning to the life of any person associated with Dr. Batra’s group.

Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Dr Mukesh Batra says "We aim to have around 400 Homeopathy and 15 international clinics by 2016."

Brief us about your journey so far.

My father practiced homeopathy for over 60 years, I for 40 years and my son for over 12 years. Through three generations, we have a cumulative 110 years of experience in homeopathy. However, I am the first generation entrepreneur. In 1982, I decided to brand my practice that laid the foundation for world’s first branded homeopathy clinic. In 2000, we set up the first corporate retail healthcare homeopathy chain.

Since then, it’s been a long way with Dr Batra’s today being world’s largest homeopathy corporate with 123 clinics spread across India, Dubai and UK. We provide state-of-the-art services to more than half a million people from all over the world, with numbers growing steadily.

We introduced our health products in 2001 and their vast range has steadily gained popularity for excellent quality and a natural base.Our international operations were furthered in 2009 with the launch of Dr. Batra’s.

Homeopathic Clinic FZ-LLC at the Dubai Healthcare City. To maximize customer benefit, we introduced hair transplantation services in the same year. We established our presence in the hub of medical excellence in London, at Harley Street in 2010.

What have been the most challenging moments in your venture?

Credibility: Providing credibility to homeopathy was by far the biggest challenge, especially in times when it was not even recognized medicine practice.

Financial challenge: There were instances when I had to borrow money at 36 per cent per annum to be in (then considered to be a) risky business.

Sustainability: It was extremely difficult to sustain the business in times when people were reluctant to spend for homeopathy treatment. I had to treat around 300-400 patients in a day to sustain my practice.

Scalability, standardization of processes & systems and pooling in talent & training are some other challenges that we faced in initial days. Finding the right doctors and to retain them is the biggest challenge in any healthcare set-up. Today, we are amongst few great places to work with and have extremely low attrition rate.

You just launched a homeopathy magazine. Tell us more about it.

Homeopathy & You (H&Y) is India’s first homeopathy and lifestyle magazine. Our idea behind the magazine is to educate people on homeopathy. We strongly believe that magazine is an excellent platform to help people understand more about homeopathy, as it gives unbiased views on various topics related to the subject. There are lots of renowned guest writers who have contributed articles for H&Y and I am sure people would love to read their articles, as they are culmination of their experience and expertise in the field of healthcare. We also believe that health awareness is very important and a lot can be done if we educate people about health. Hence, the idea is to popularize homeopathy and create awareness about various health issues.

Tell us about your business model and how it has evolved over the years.

Dr Batra’s group encompasses Dr Batra’s Homeopathy, Dr Batra’s Aesthetics, Dr Batra’s Products, Dr Batra’s International, Dr Batra’s Media, Dr Batra’s Academy and Dr Batra’s Foundation.

Starting with just one clinic in Mumbai, today we have over 123 clinics across 60 cities, 7 Aesthetic centers, 400 doctors, 1500 employees, over 1 million patients treated so far, international presence in UK and Dubai, personalized product brands (24 SKUs), over 25 franchisees, a media house, our veterinary hospital is functional in New Delhi, a training academy for doctors and a successful and satisfactory CSR initiative.

Importantly, Dr Batra’s is a debt free company and all our investments are done through internal accruals.

Wellness is gaining a lot of attraction. How would you define your industry?

Wellness industry is recession proof. In India, it is worth US $ 700 billion (70,000 crore) and expected to be Rs one trillion (1 lakh crore in 2016). Products comprise of around 55-60 per cent share of the total expenditure. Fastest growing segments within wellness are color cosmetics, slimming services & products, hair and skincare and non-surgical solutions.

Dr Batra’s today has strong presence in wellness sector with our 7 aesthetic centers catering to services like Hair Transplant, Hair Systems, GroHair; Skin treatments like Botox, Fillers, Mesoglow, Skin clarity and Skin renewal and obesity services like non-surgical liposuction. We also have our personalized product brands (24 SKUs) available across retail outlets in India.

What trends are you seeing in people’s behavior towards choosing medicines – be it allopathy, homeopathy or naturopathy among others?

So widespread are drug induced diseases that the medical system even had to coin a term for them- iatrogenic disorders (it is estimated that in America alone, 300 people die every day of medical side effects). Also, the costs of allopathic diagnosis and treatment are sky rocketing, so much that the whole American election was being fought over health insurance.

Thus, people today need safe and cost-effective healthcare. We therefore need to adopt an integrated healthcare approach where alternative health medicine will play an integral part of healthcare system. Homeopathy in particular, is becoming popular, as it is extremely cost-effective and yet delivers satisfactory results in several chronic as well as acute conditions.

Even in terms of cost, homeopathy is often seen as a cheaper alternative. Would you agree? But at well-established clinics like yours would the price be higher?

As discussed above, yes homeopathy is undoubtedly cheaper than allopathy and yet cost effective. It offers an array of cure for many skin & hair related disorders along with offering a cost effective and safe treatment for other diseases as well.

It is not true prices at our clinics are high. In fact, we provide our patients value added benefits like free consultation in a year, second opinion from senior doctors, free transfer of treatment at any of our clinics, free consultation and treatment for any associated ailments during the treatment period and more.

Tell us about your presence in India and abroad. Typically, how long does it take for a clinic to break-even? How do you get the experienced quality staff for your clinics?

We have 123 clinics across India, Dubai and London. The investment required for our standard format clinic is about Rs 30 lakh (excluding diagnostic tools). The centre usually becomes operationally profitable within three months and around one and a half year for capex.

To get the experienced quality staff for our clinics, we have put in place a strong evaluation & selection process, which helps us to screen prospective candidates before taking them on board.

Brief us on your financials. What is your revenue and profit? How are the margins in this business?

The turnover of Dr. Batra’s was Rs 133 crore in 2012-13 and we grew at a rate of 16 per cent last year. Despite the heavy investments in new clinics, we are debt free company and all our investments are through internal accruals. The profit margin in 2012-13 was 5 per cent.

What is the size of the homeopathic medicine market in India?

Since last five years, homeopathy is growing three times faster than allopathy. At present, homeopathy is the second largest system of medicine in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO). India’s homeopathy market is currently worth Rs 2,758 crore and is pegged at Rs 5873 crore by 2017, growing annually at 30 per cent. It is followed by over 100 million (10 crore) people and will reach 160 million (16 crore) in the next 3 years. India has over 5 lakh registered Homeopathy practitioners with over 20,000 new homeopaths added every year. We also have 185 Homeopathy colleges - offering 33 PG courses.

What growth rate do you foresee? Which are the large markets for homeopathy besides India?

Global homeopathy market is estimated to be Rs 26,000 crore. France is the leading country using homeopathic drugs (Homeopathic medicine is used by one-third of the French population). The Government of France has given 35% subsidy on all homeopathic medicines. Homeopathic medicines are consequently sold in over 20,000 pharmacies across France. Homeopathy enjoys Government and royal patronage in England and is included in the National Health System. The UK government spends 14 million pounds (Rs 101 crore) on Homeopathy every year. In 1994, an official report noted that 45% of all British doctors did not hesitate referring their patients to a homeopath colleague.

Homeopathic medicines are sold over the counter in pharmacies across Germany. Americans spend Rs 2,30,112 crore on alternative health therapies including homeopathy. The homeopathy market is growing at 20 per cent annually in US.

Hair loss treatment is among the most widely advertised by most players. How has your experience been?

We have satisfactory experience in treating all our patients including hair loss. 73% of homeopathy as well as conventional medicine users believe that Dr Batra’s provide the best solution in homeopathy. Specifically to talk about hair patients, 90% of Dr Batra’s hair patients won’t change to any other brand of treatment according to AC Nielsen report. Dr Batra’s is No.1 health brand for health & wellness according to Synovate. Moreover, Dr Batra’s is the only trusted brand in homeopathy according to Brand Trust report.

Do you have a franchisee model? How many are operating at present?

Dr Batras has around 13 active franchise outlets at present available in tier II, III and IV cities. Our clinics are located in prime commercial locality of the city with easy access and visibility. Project investment required for our franchise business is around Rs 18-20 lakh and payback period is 18-24 months. Operational profitability can be achieved in 3-4 months. We intend to open 150 franchise clinics by 2015-2016.

Anything else you would like to add?

We aim to have around 400 Homeopathy and 15 international clinics by 2016. We look at having aesthetics operation theatres in 25 cities including international and 50 SKUs in products to retail through modern trade over 10,000 outlets in India and 5,000 in Middle East.

What is the shareholding pattern of your company? Any plans to sell stake or do an IPO?

Ours is a family owned business and shares remain within the family. There are no immediate plans for IPO.

What is your capex plan? How would they be funded?

All our investments are done through internal accruals.

Are you open to raising debt?

If you look at my past record, it took me around 10 years to repay a loan which I had taken to set up my own clinic. The interest rate of course was over 30% then. The last two years, I have been enjoying a phase of being debt free. In case we need to scale up our business or enter new verticals, we will do what is prudent at that time. I am open to any kind of financial opportunities which will come my way. But I will not do any fund raising unless I really need it. We have funds chasing us and advising us to raise money. But as I said, I will look at fund raising options only when we really need the money.

Earlier we had yoga and then there is power yoga and different variants. Is the same happening in homeopathy too?

Yes. Lots of people are following a sub-sect. Some may work for some people and others get caught on to a fad. At Dr. Batra’s we practice classical homeopathy; in other words homeopathy in its pure form. No blended solutions, no experimental stuff is tried with our patients.

How do you manage a balance between practice and business?

I am at present fully immersed in the business. I practice maybe a day in a month to cater to the patients who have been with me; some of them for around 30 years.