The Manipal Group is putting in its share of 5O crore rupees into the $12-billion organized retail mart, under the brand name Manipal Cure and Care (MCC).
MCC plans to set up 50 outlets in the next four years. The first two outlets will come up in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July this year, while a total of 10 will be functional soon in NCR, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad. The wellness services will include immunizations, ante-natal care, baby clinic, adolescent clinic, eye care, hormonal management, dietary counseling and sexual health advice.
The company is looking into tapping the budding preventive healthcare market in India through the retail route. Says Dr Ranjan Pai, CEO, Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG): "Retailing is the next big industry that is taking off in India. We feel that there is a huge vacuum in the wellness, preventive and beauty and cosmetic care section. We plan to integrate our skills in healthcare to ride the wave of this retail boom."
Yet, MCC is not the first entrant in the retail healthcare market. Big names like Fortis HealthWorld, Reliance Retail, Ranbaxy and Dabur have ambitious plans for a share of the pie with their own business models. Manipal has gone the 'mall way' with retail outlets being established in two different formats across malls, mega-cities, health cities, hyper market and high streets, and with a focus on customers who are pressed for time.
Reasons Somnath Das, COO, MCC: "Through market research, we found there are two possibilities to spread: either expand through hospitals everywhere or have a smaller format. However, later we also found some other clinics mushrooming and growing, and we were not interested in aping. Hence, we decided to develop models with which we can establish ourselves into a niche market."
With the focus dramatically shifting from illness to wellness, experts believe that it is the right time to enter this totally unexplored market in India. Dr Ramdas M Pai, Chairman, MEMG, agrees, "Despite the old adage of prevention being better than a cure, wellness has still not found its feet in the Indian society. At MCC, our endeavor is to offer products and services, along with targeted programs that will specifically educate people on wellness aspects and create awareness about the economical and emotional burden of having a sick relative in hospital."
Experts with MCC have marked diseases, which are preventable, like hypertension, diabetes, oral problems etc. Hence, the preventive services on offer are health checks and walk-in flexi checks like diabetic check, cardiac check, liver check, HIV screening, lungs check and vaccinations. The beauty and cosmetology sections will offer services like cosmetic dermatology, dentistry and skin piercing. The outlets will have consultants from the fields of general medicine, dermatology, dentistry, pediatrics, gynecology, ophthalmology, and endocrinology and lab medicine. The reason for choosing these specialties was that not only were these services more driven towards prevention, the delivery to these services were also faster.
The inspiration for this new concept in India has its roots in the West. The revolutionary concept of mall and medicine has taken countries like the UK and the US by storm. For example, RediClinic, a US firm, already has a few dozen clinics at Wal-Mart and other retailers, and is rapidly expanding and expects its 50 or so clinics.
But the similarity between the mall and medicine combination ends here, as Das says, "We have tweaked the concept to suit our population. It is indigenised. The focus in the US is on sickness, and we are not touching it here. Our clinics are called Express Checks, they have innovative packages that are different from hospitals.
"In the US, there are parameters intrinsic to their delivery system, for example, insurance is prevalent there and in the 'one minute clinics' patients are attended by a nurse and a physician assistant. However, in India, insurance is at a very nascent stage, plus the Indian healthcare market is not ready and willing to get consultation from somebody who's not in a doctor's gown."
Currently, MCC's model will be to establish standalone outlets with customers from corporate and surrounding community. Says Das: "Our current seed capital is Rs 50 crore and whatever the business calls for, it will be pumped in."
With all the big cats rushing in to tap the primary and preventive market and with their aggressive promotional campaigns and marketing strategies, it's party time for all hypochondriacs.