Outsourcing and India have become synonymous with each other. The world over identifies Indian as the Mecca of Outsourcing, but Dr. Charu Chitalia wants to go one step further. Dr. Charu is a highly qualified and experienced Anesthesiologist who has taken it upon herself to establish a firmer foundation for Outsourcing Healthcare. Her venture Acroseas Healthcare has been breaking new ground for some time now.Yourstory learnt more about her trials and travails in the healthcare entrepreneur’s world in a revealing conversation with Dr. Charu Chitalia.
What motivated you to start Acroseas Healthcare?
Back in the late nineties and early two thousands was the beginning of what I call Healthcare 1.0 which was ushering in a truckload of possibilities in Healthcare technology. I don’t have a technology background however I was not afraid of failure.
What was your profession before starting Acroseas Healthcare?
I am an Anesthesiologist by profession; I got my M.B.B.S. degree from Bombay University, worked in different hospitals in the U.K. for 10 years and got D.A. from London University. After coming back to India in 1985 I setup my private practice.
What did you have to do in order to establish Acroseas Healthcare?
Back then and even today I am a Doctor by heart. I had no experience of company and corporate affairs hence I took support from family friends and relatives to get insights into legal, administrative and technology structure of setting up a Healthcare Outsourcing company.Sales (given the fact we were in India and clients in the United States) was the major challenge. Initially I travelled to USA in search of work however given the cost of travel a decade back it wasn’t the most ROI centric approach. Hence I started focusing on Indian Healthcare clients. However the Indian clients did teach me a very bitter yet important lesson in life. After servicing a couple of clients for a good part of 2 quarters they defaulted on the payments and One of my clients worked in co-hoots with my manager who he bribed him and took my entire team with existing clients. I was left with an empty office & work which would barely meet ends. Fortunately during that period I was also involved in the training of future Medical Transcriptionists (MT’s).
Though they were in training I employed them did quality analysis burning midnight oil. I also communicated to my existing clients the uncertain situation and they showed immense trust in me to still outsource work to Acroseas. This situation thought me two things as an entrepreneur you were, are and will always remain a one man army. Unfortunately I did not have the luxury of co-founders but it is the entrepreneur who involves his sweat and blood in the business. Expecting the same from employees may not always be a wise decision.
I also narrowed my focus only on Clients abroad as Indian clients had many payment related complications. Today I realize it was the appropriate step as services market in India is still underpaid and undervalued.
Over a period of time I involved myself even in the finances and marketing verticals of the organization as it became imperative for me to trust yet verify all aspects of the business.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt so far?
I think I would summarize my learning’s from mistakes in 3 short sentences:
Be selective in whom you employ and who you work as clients – They will be the cornerstone of establishing the culture within the organization.
Don’t fear making mistakes – For an entrepreneur mistakes are the best source of learning
Believe in yourself – As a doctor we are taught to never give up back in 1999 if I had given up due to the unforeseeable circumstances I would not be running a company I am proud of today.
What is the biggest feather in Acroseas Healthcare’s hat?
A 98% client retention rate is a testimonial to my personal and company motto of “Customer Happiness” – Satisfying the client is not enough. WOMM or referrals are the best way to acquire business and that will happen only if your clients are delighted with your products and services.
What are the barriers faced by doctors who want to become health care entrepreneurs?
Doctors at least of my generation were born to be doctors. Today more and more doctors are venturing into entrepreneurship which is very encouraging. However if you are venturing into a field which is away from Healthcare then do involve yourself into formal training for nuances of finance, marketing, operations. Legal and Government even today are difficult for me to tackle but you will build confidence and tact with time. One advice I would give is as doctors we are taught to be ethical in the pursuit of entrepreneurship doctors should not lose their ethics.
What effect and impact will the soon to be passed Healthcare bill have on the Outsourcing Industry in India?
Some business it will affect adversely like medical transcription as EMR/EHR will be compulsory for keeping records. Tele Radiology, Billing, Coding will be out sourced more to get service at reasonable rates in quick time good service. That is why it will increase. On the whole the Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest will come into play.
What is your future vision and aspiration for Acroseas Healthcare?
I would like to see it diversify & become hub for all out sourced businesses. Today we are 150 in total and would like to expand to 300 plus employees by 2012. We have already taken the first steps and visit some of the premium Business schools in India. The infusion of youth in the company also keeps me on my toes.
What should a health care entrepreneur keep foremost in their mind?
You need to be prepared to learn a lot, be adventurous. You will face difficulties, try to solve them on your own preferably but if you can’t do seek external support. Never lose heart & hope.
Yourstory wishes Dr. Charu Chitalia success with her venture Acroseas Healthcare. We hope to see her efforts as a pioneering woman entrepreneur in the world of healthcare bear great fruit someday.