After more than 30 years as a healthcare professional, Rupak Barua is no stranger to saving lives. Usually they belong to humans.
In 2014, however, Barua’s patient was AMRI Hospitals. The Indian private hospital company was suffering in the aftermath of a deadly fire that had left dozens dead and forced the closure of one of its facilities. AMRI was hemorrhaging money and its reputation had taken a severe hit. The prognosis wasn’t good.
“The credibility was absolutely below negative,” Barua tells The CEO Magazine. “There was a lot of negativity in the administration and among the public. It was a huge challenge to turn things around.”
Immediately, Barua set to work assembling a team of trustworthy, capable doctors and healthcare professionals to become the new face of AMRI, all the while gently reintroducing the brand to the market.
“There was still a lot of aggression in the media and the public, so we had to be indirect,” he recalls.
Over time, however, AMRI’s reputation began to heal. By 2019, after five years of Barua’s treatment, AMRI was hot on the heels of the industry leader and has kept a comfortable second place position in the years since.
“Almost all of the healthcare staff who had initially left rejoined, which helped with patient confidence,” he says.
“And then during the COVID-19 pandemic, we really made a name for ourselves within the community and on a political level. The Indian government started talking to us and giving us preference over the competition because they could see how we were visibly working for our patients and the community.”
“We’re now considered a strong, intelligent brand that works hard and does good for its patients.”
AMRI rapidly expanded from 350 beds to almost 1,200 in its hospitals in Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar; the latter has become a particular point of interest in the media.
“Everybody’s talking about our Bhubaneshwar hospitals,” Barua eveals. “We’re now considered a strong, intelligent brand that works hard and does good for its patients.”
Today, Barua remains CEO of AMRI Hospitals as it carves out a niche in the post-COVID world of health care. So effective has his tenure been that AMRI’s value has skyrocketed; in March 2023, Manipal Health Enterprises purchased the chain in a US$290 million deal.
He confirms the buyout has made it easier for him to pursue his vision for AMRI.
“Digital health care is the future,” he stresses. “Telemedicine is a huge market and we’ve already initiated our capability in that space. We’re now taking our telemedicine offerings to the rural segment to increase accessibility.”
Over the next three years, AMRI will expand its digital initiatives in what Barua describes as “a major way”, by incorporating AI.
“The sky’s the limit when it comes to healthcare opportunities, but there’s a question of accessibility,” he concedes. “Of our infrastructure, 70 percent is in urban areas, while only 30 percent is available in rural areas. But 70 percent of the population is in rural areas and vice versa, so we’re seeing what we can do.”
That means AMRI has reached out to its partners, such as Advanced MedTech Solutions, CardioAxis Corporation and cardiovascular device company Translumina, as well as large pharmaceutical companies, to extend itself into rural regions.
“It’s an opportunity and we’re coming up with a blueprint,” Barua reveals. “Ultimately, we want to expand into eastern India and reach 2,000 beds. We’re planning a state-of-the-art hospital in Kolkata on land we’ve been given by the government, so that’s about five years away.
“Exploring the unexplored areas, that’s our major campaign.”
“The sky’s the limit when it comes to healthcare opportunities.”
And not just in India, either. Barua says AMRI intends to stretch into Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
“Doing so will create a better health ecosystem, greater brand visibility and, of course, sizable revenue,” he explains.
Despite the potential in all these siloes, he believes that success comes down to community confidence.
“If the community believes in you, that’s success,” he says. “Every year we research the comments we get from patients because we see the patient as our major stakeholder.”
Barua’s physician-grade work to restore AMRI’s financial and reputational health notwithstanding, the CEO insists his ongoing cause is to meet the needs of individual patients.
“That’s the differentiator for us. Many of our peers work solely on financial wellbeing, but I believe AMRI’s major difference should be that we’re creating a better class of service for our patients,” he points out.
“Our staff have been retrained to reflect this, to learn that a patient is their only source of work. Take care of the patients and every other success will follow.”
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