As one of the leaders in corporate chains of diagnostic laboratories in India, Metropolis Healthcare marks its presence with great value and trust in pathological testing. Backed by strong technological support, the company is offering the best of the services and focussing into research and development.
In conversation with Sangita Ghosh De of eHEALTH, Ameera Patel, CEO, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, shared her insights into the current industry scenario of diagnostic laboratories in India and challenges faced by the sector.
What is your perspective on the Indian health services market vis-a-vis the global market?
In the US, about 20 years back, there were at least 30 thousands laboratories but today there are top 4-5 major chains of organised laboratories, which constitute around 30% of the total market of pathological testing. Now the Indian market dynamics is also changing drastically the way US did. With more than 3000 labs and 90% of the total market share currently, the unorganised laboratories are growing at the rate of 10 – 15 %, while the organised corporate chains having less than 10% share of the total market are growing in a much faster rate at 25 – 30%, annually. In the scenario, Metropolis is also growing at a rate of 35 – 40% currently. Besides, in our country there is no regulation by the government to ensure the quality and authenticity of the pathological labs. Therefore, there is high risk of improper diagnosis by the doctors who bank upon the pathological tests’ results. In US there is CAP (College of American Pathologies), which is one of the expensive accreditations in the world and all the laboratories abide by the accreditation. But in India, we are still awaiting a set of regulations, and as such currently we are bound to set our own standard to match up to the quality. We have also created an Indian Association of Pathology Labs in view to represent the industry to the government under the umbrella structure of CII (Confederation of Indian Industry).
Please give us an overview of Metropolis Healthcare.
Since its inception in 1981, Metropolis has always been on its growth path, and uptil now has expanded to 55 laboratories – 45 across India and 10 in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Seychelles, UAE, Thailand, Africa, etc. having more than 350 collection centres all across. In India there is a very localised market in pathological testing where one has to trust on the partnership model relying on the credibility of the local laboratories. Therefore, Metropolis prefers to work on partnership model and joint ventures. Metropolis is one of the leading corporate chains of diagnostic centres in India and has conceptualised on growing as an institution while standardising the norms in the growth trajectory. Being organised in structure, Metropolis has always an edge over in giving uniform results and identical reports of any test in any of its centres, across the regions. As per my vision our aim is to expand as an organised chain of laboratories not only in the growing market in India but also in Africa, Middle East and South Asia.
What is the road map in front of you being the new CEO of Metropolis?
Besides growing by the top line profit, Metropolis is also looking forward to offer the best of the services and focussing more on research and development. Our own R&D will enable us to drastically cut down on cost of materials, chemicals and equipments, thus making our services competitive and affordable. We are also trying to extend our service to doctors by providing them value added information at the level of diagnosis and consultation on probabilities of lab test results. We are looking forward to 30-40% growth on top line, 60-70% growth on profit, and adding 10 more laboratories and at least 100 collection centres in our existing span of presence in the financial year 2010 – 2011. We are also intending to add value to our existing services and products by providing the up-to-date status to our patients across our centres.
Recently Metropolis has tied up with Final Diagnostics. Why do you think it was worth going for a JV?
Final Diagnostics is one of the leading pathological labs in northern India with a solid network, knowledge of the market and a trusted name to the patients. As we wanted to strengthen our presence in north India we considered Final Diagnostics as the best option to tie up with for our further expansion.
What are the new test facilities Metropolis is bringing in?
We have the capacity of 4000 test in our laboratories collectively. We add on to three to four hundreds of variety of tests every year. We keep innovating and adding new tests that are valuable and required in the Indian market. For the diagnosis of a single disease, Metropolis has the provisions of testing it in multiple ways for a confirmation. Recently Metropolis has been into the process of promoting three more tests viz. He4 (Ovarian Marker – Gynecological), Hair DX (Genetic hair loss – Dermatological), DNA paternity test, for the Indian citizens.
Please share your perspective on the role of information and communication technologies in healthcare services.
ICT plays a very important role in this industry because of its complicated process and huge volume. ICT bridges the gaps by automating of the entire process of testing started from the on-line patient booking to the registration of the sample and then finally getting the report digitally signed in. after the analysis of the sample. Had the entire process done manually, the possibilities of human error would have been higher in risk of errors. In Metropolis, we try and avoid as much as manual intervention in the testing process. In the future, ICT will play an important role in data mining of information in pathology and diagnostic industry which is already growing leaps and bounds.
Please give us a glimpse of the key opportunities and challenges in health services in India.
The challenge lies in the underdevelopment of the primary healthcare in the country. Therefore, for us it becomes an unfavourable situation to expand and function in the rural and suburban areas. We have been contemplating about how to start our operations in the rural and semi urban areas where healthcare needs a lot of modernisation and upgradation. But lack of proper infrastructure and minimum requirements are forcing us from refraining back. We want government’s support in that. At our our end we are working on the low cost model to have a work-out in those places but that still awaiting a proper kick off in the process. In between, we are trying to manufacture and working out to cut down the cost of the equipments and chemicals so that the local model can be run in distant parts of the country.
What are the future plans of Metropolis?
We want to expand to become a sustainable chain of laboratories both nationally and internationally as well. Internationally we want to extend in Africa, Middle East and South Asia, looking forward to Oman, Iran, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi in UAE. In Africa we want to explore in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. In India we have a strong presence in south and west India and now we are planning to expand in north, east and north east India. In the east, we are present in West Bengal with a central lab in Kolkata and now planning to expand all across the state. In the north east we plan to expand in Guwahati in Assam. We also have our presence in Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in terms of having our collection centres. As of now we have five laboratories in north India in Bikaner, Agra,Noida, Delhi and Kolkata. and the plan is to increase it to 10 in numbers. We will also come out with our own research findings and publications to address the latest trends in the industry.