Back in those days, when he started the first clinic, Dr. Moopen would reserve at least one day in a week to treat patients from lower socioeconomic groups. It is this commitment that Asterians have continued to stand for, and over the years Aster’s growth has seen its social commitments grow beyond geographies, expressed Dr. Nitish Shetty, CEO, Aster DM Healthcare, India in an interview with Dr. Asawari Savant of Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:

Aster DM Healthcare’s motto is “Empowering lives through compassionate leadership.” As a visionary leader, could you share your perspective on the role of compassionate leadership in shaping the future of healthcare?

Prioritizing patient-centered care, staff well-being, and ethical management is the foundation of building a successful healthcare organization. This involves fostering a culture of empathy, understanding, and support from all stakeholders, including patients, staff, and the industry. Being an advocate of compassionate leadership, it has helped Aster inculcate its values in its 30,000+ Asterians, instilling trust and building an inclusive work culture driven by empathy and a strong commitment to listening and learning, improving the health and well-being of all. In a nutshell, compassionate leadership significantly improves the quality of care and creates a positive and supportive healthcare environment for both patients and healthcare professionals.

How has the intersection of philanthropy and healthcare been a driving force behind your commitment to making quality healthcare accessible and affordable? In what ways does social responsibility play a role in the organization’s growth, and how is profit viewed as a byproduct of the service you provide?

‘Giving back to society’ has been the philosophy followed at Aster since its inception. Our Chairman – Dr. Azad Moopen, has always believed in giving back to society. Back in those days, when he started the first clinic, Dr. Moopen would reserve at least one day in a week to treat patients from lower socioeconomic groups. It is this commitment that Asterians have continued to stand for, and over the years Aster’s growth has seen its social commitments grow beyond geographies.

One such global initiative is Aster Volunteers. Set up in 2019, the global volunteer group today has grown to over 530,000 volunteers from various countries, impacting over four million lives through various CSR initiatives. The Aster Volunteers program runs medical buses, medical camps, provides Basic Life Support (BLS) training, and other endeavors beneficial to society. The group also undertook the task of constructing 250+ Aster Homes in Kerala for those left homeless in the 2018 Kerala floods. Other initiatives include ‘Second Chance’ to support underprivileged children in need of a liver transplant.

Today, Aster has identified the relevant goals to its operations from the global 17 SDG goals and started working towards achieving them. Aster integrated 11 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) into its ESG policies: Good Health & WellBeing, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Affordable & Green Energy, Clean Water & Sanitation, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Climate Action, Sustainable Consumption and Production, and Partnerships for Goals.

Aster developed a sustainability strategy on four pillars: Environment, Society, Governance, and Economy (ESG), assuring sustained reputation, resilience to economic, social, and environmental change, optimum and better use of scarce resources, and improved community service.

Philanthropy and healthcare have been driving forces behind our commitment to making quality healthcare accessible and affordable. Healthcare and Education are noble professions and have a higher level of social responsibility, and at Aster, we endeavor to do our bit for society while profit will be a by-product of our good work.

As a vast network of facilities across 7 countries, what inspired your entrepreneurial vision and ability to spot emerging trends in the health sector? Can you share some key moments or decisions that played a crucial role in the transformation of Aster DM Healthcare into a healthcare empire?

For Dr. Moopen, the journey into the medical arena came from a single purpose – to serve and alleviate the suffering faced by a common man. Aster DM Healthcare within just two decades in India has today become one of the top players in the Indian healthcare market. This has been possible because of the vision of our Chairman who has been hands-on involved in the growth of the Indian business. Two of our flagship hospitals are even less than a decade old and are today ranked among the top multispecialty hospitals in India. In fact, Aster Medcity was recently ranked No. 1 Best Multispecialty Hospital – Emerging by The Week-Hansa Research 2023 and was ranked 49 among World’s Best Cardiology Hospitals by the global media house Newsweek.

Today most Aster Hospitals especially Aster Medcity, Kochi and Aster CMI, Bengaluru are state-of-the-art hospitals that can handle complex cases. Our hospitals do not work as independent units but our doctors interact with each other across geographies and come together to solve the most cases.

Our Chairman has been very keen on integrating technology to provide our medical professionals with the latest equipment that will help better patient outcomes. Our latest offering has been in the space of AI wherein our Neurosciences team at the AI lab instituted in one of our units in association with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has developed AI Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) – the use of which is poised to revolutionize nerve ultra diagnostics.

With over 896 establishments, how do the brands Aster, Access, and Medcare contribute to offering a comprehensive circle of care for different segments of society?

Under 3 different brands, we aimed to reach out to all economic segments in the GCC states through differentiated healthcare services. While Access caters to the lower-income group in society, Aster offers its medical services to the middleincome population while Medcare is targeted toward the high-income group.

Additionally, Aster DM Healthcare is one of the few healthcare players globally to be truly identified as an “integrated healthcare company”. Our aim, to serve our patients better, was to have a 360-degree approach to healthcare and to touch all the health points for a patient. Thus came. With hospitals, clinics, labs, and pharmacies, we bring in a full circle of care to our patients. And with our latest super app MyAster, all services by Aster can be accessed on a fingertip. The app has already seen huge downloads in the GCC market and will be replicated in India soon.

How has the organization navigated the challenges of providing healthcare across borders, and what lessons have been learned from this expansive journey?

At Aster, we are guided by our core promise of “We will treat you well” that shapes our practices and actions towards our employees, patients, and the broader communities we operate in. It starts with us adopting an empathetic approach to truly listen to our stakeholder’s challenges, which helps us find innovative opportunities to create value for the lives we touch. To build a sustainable business model for its people and patients, Aster diversified through the integration of digital technology, innovation, and research.

Some of the ways Aster binds itself are:

  • Innovation and Research: Partnership with international companies; mobilizing start-ups and researches through Aster Innovation and Research center and driving efforts using digital health technologies through Aster Center of Digital Health Excellence.
  • Telemedicine and Technology Integration: Leveraging telemedicine and healthcare technology to facilitate cross-border healthcare delivery. Aster was one of the early movers during the pandemic to start e-consultations for its patients across geographies. It also launched an e-ICU to monitor patients at home.
  • Digitization: Aster Connect powered by Oracle Cloud HCM connects the workforce across 7 countries and has established an engaging system for 30,000+ employees on a single platform.

Our goal is to drive the brand promise – “We’ll Treat You Well” alike through all our network of hospitals, labs, and pharmacies. An important aspect of our communication is to encourage ambassadorship by putting a spotlight on employees, patients who want to share their experiences.

You have invested in medical institutions to address the critical need-gap for medical professionals. Could you elaborate on your commitment to shaping the future of healthcare through education? How do these investments contribute to ensuring a sustainable and skilled healthcare workforce for the future?

Dr. Moopen’s Academy was started almost a decade ago with a goal to develop the bestin-class academic and clinical infrastructure with talented faculty and administration. The college has successfully nurtured and continues to nurture a large number of excellent doctors annually. We aim to be one of the top medical institutions in India adopting global standards in education, research, and innovation, molding healthcare professionals to serve the world with compassion and commitment.

The rationale behind choosing Wayanad for a medical college is an interesting one. Although known as a tourist destination, the district lacked proper medical facilities. Locals had to travel long distances to avail advanced medical care. Dr. Moopen’s Academy was established with the aim of providing high-quality medical education, training, and healthcare at an affordable cost, thereby improving the healthcare infrastructure and overall development of the region.

Aster is committed to healthcare, and education plays a critical role. We believe that we have to invest in a skilled healthcare workforce for a sustainable future of the sector

What advice do you have for aspiring healthcare leaders and entrepreneurs based on your journey and experiences in health entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is a journey of learning and growth at the same time challenging and rewarding. It allows us to experiment, learn, and evolve. However, in the healthcare environment, mistakes can have severe consequences: the stakes are very high, demanding precision and certainty. The journey from a healthcare professional to an entrepreneur is as much about personal transformation as it is about professional development. It’s a path that requires courage, resilience, and a mindset that can adapt to changing environments.

Be a part of Elets Collaborative Initiatives. Join Us for Upcoming Events and explore business opportunities. Like us on Facebook , connect with us on LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter , Instagram.

Related Interview