A long-cherished mission is accomplished

Published: 25th November 2012 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd November 2012 01:08 PM   |  A+A-

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Joint replacement surgeon Dr Vikram Shah and his wife, dentist Dr Darshini Shah, started Shalby as a Joint Replacement Centre in Ahmedabad in 1994. The next year, they added a Dental Cosmetic and Implantology Centre. Today, Shalby Hospitals is a chain that includes two multi-speciality hospitals in Ahmedabad — one hospital each in Vapi and Goa, an Assisted Reproductive Technologies Centre in Ahmedabad, service centres in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Surat, Vadodara, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Indore and Nairobi, and information centres abroad.  Says Dr Vikram, “When I was studying for my MBBS and MS Orthopaedics in Ahmedabad, my mother suffered joint pains. Yet, my college professors did not pay much importance to teaching joint replacements and related surgeries, because they felt that these expensive treatments did not have a place in a developing country like India. I found it ironical. When I left India to work in the UK, I told my wife Dr Darshini that we would come back and set up centres for surgeries that were not being done in India in the 1980s.”

He worked in Ormskirk and Wrightington Hospital, England, for two-and-a-half-years. “Working in the UK gave me an opportunity to build expertise in joint replacement surgery. There were opportunities for Dr Darshini and me to stay back, but we had decided to be in Ahmedabad. In order to start a hospital in India, I decided to work in the USA. While European countries have expertise and technology, I feel the North Americans understand scalability. I worked in Burmingham and Manhattan, New York.”

Dr Darshini recalls, “I studied dentistry at the Government Dental College of Ahmedabad. I did my advanced training in Dental Implant Surgery while we were staying abroad. When we decided to return during the early 1990s, my husband went to Darmstadt Hospital, Germany, to hone his skills further, while I came back to Ahmedabad to initiate the process of starting our hospital in the city in 1993.”

Thus, they started a medical centre with six beds, one operation theatre and a small staff, in a low-rise building with their residence upstairs. The hospital offered only joint replacement and high-end dentistry with oral implantology.  “The operation theatre was state-of-the-art with the kind of design and infrastructure that was virtually unheard of in Ahmedabad, and was advanced by the Indian standards,” says Dr Darshini. “Having worked in the western countries, many systems and hygiene safeguards were ingrained in my way of working, and patients were impressed to see the standards of my dental centre. While a house is usually the priority for a couple, for us the goal was to reach out to people with the best treatment. Therefore, we moved into rental residences at various phases of our expansion.”

The couple invested their savings, with small loans and family help, to start the hospital and kept using their earnings for expansion. “At that time, joint replacements or dental implants were hardly known in India. We grew because of our good work and practices. I was approached by a corporate hospital in the suburbs. I performed about 1000 surgeries there in a few years and was known for records in Total Knee Replacement (TKR) surgery,” says Dr Vikram

However, when the couple began to plan a large hospital in 2004-2005, some of their well-wishers advised them against the idea. “We were not entrepreneurs but doctors, but it did not make sense to me that I should be doing work in other hospitals with my own equipment, team and expertise, without my own real estate and managerial control,” says Dr Vikram. “After having acquired land, work began on launching a 200-bed multi-speciality hospital on Ahmedabad’s SG Road. By 2006, it was operational. While our own strengths, Total Knee Joint Replacement surgery and dental implant, were the USPs, the Shalby Hospitals was developed as a multi-speciality hospital.” The hospital won many national-level awards. “Our record of 3,000 knee surgeries in 2008 became known internationally. We have won prestigious awards like the Rajiv Gandhi National Quality Award, FICCI award for excellence, etc,” says Dr Vikram.

Having established a reputation, Shalby Hospitals went about becoming a multi-location hospital group. “Vrundavan Shalby Hospitals in North Goa caters to people in Goa and neighbouring areas in Maharashtra. Usha Shalby Hospitals is located in the industrial city of Vapi  in south Gujarat. It is also close to the Union Territory of Daman and north Maharashtra,” says Dr Vikram,

The couple is now hoping to start hospitals across India. Says Dr Darshini, “Shalby has announced plans to start a hospital and medical tourism

facility in Indore. With our own core specialisations and the backing of our managerial team, we are sure that the group will grow over the years.”

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