The Eye-Q Vision has 30 hospitals across North and West India among which 14 comprehensive eye care set up is in Haryana itself and has aim to grow to 100 hospitals by 2018.
When EyeQ Vision Pvt Ltd was established in 2007 in Rewari, the ultimate objective of the founder duo Dr. Ajay Sharma and Rajat Goel had visualised and aimed for dominating the Haryana state only. However, with a strong backing by leading investors like Helion, Nexus and World Bank, the duo have established a very strong market presence in India with 45 hospitals successfully operating in tier II and III cities of the country.
In an exclusive conversation with WI Bureau, Dr. Ajay Sharma, Founder and Chief Medical Director (CMD), Eye-Q Vision Pvt Ltd, shared the saga of it conceptualisation, growth and expansion in the country and abroad. Here is the edited excerpt:
The Conceptualisation story
I am an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) and practicing since 1996. Slowly, I built my hospital in 1999, it was multi-specialty hospital known as Sheetla hospital (a 100 bed hospital) where ophthalmology was the larger part. In 2006, I met a school friend (Rajat Goel, currently Co-founder of EyeQ Vision) who had taken higher education from IIM Ahmedabad and was heading Bausch & Lomb team India. He wanted to do something else and even I had big plans in mind. As, he was backed with good management skills, so I gave him this proposition to start new hospitals, but if you come and join so probably two of us will open 10-12 hospitals. In 2007, I formed EyeQ Vision Pvt Ltd. We opened our first hospital in Feb-March 2007 in Rewari. Since its inception, we’re growing and today we are successfully running 45 hospitals across north India, mainly Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and just one hospital in New Delhi and then, we’re in western region in Gujarat. We’ve started 5 hospitals in Maharashtra and by August first week or July end, we’ll be entering south and we’ll be starting 7 more hospitals within this financial year. Our number will increase from 45 to nearly 56 hospitals within 2016.
Our first hospital’s construction has started in Lagos, Nigeria and it will be operational in second week of September.
Eye-Q was a new name and slowly we built up the brand. Initially, getting doctors was difficult and secondly, like any startup, money was the important thing and getting finances was even more difficult. We waited in the beginning year and sold some of our equities and gave it to some friends and financers just to build up the company.
Boot strapped or funded
Initially, I didn’t raise anything. It was only after we opened 7-8 hospitals that we looked out for funds. Initial investor was SONG fund and later on came Helion and Nexus and lastly our investor was IFC that is World Bank.
This year will be Rs100 crores. Initially we grew fast which was nearly 35-40 per cent but now in between it was bit bad and we grew only 15-17 per cent but now this year we grew about 22 per cent.
In north, we’re basically present in every district of Haryana, starting from Gurgaon where we have 3 centres 1 in Rewari, 1 in Jhajjar, 1 each in Surat Nagar, Rohtak, Gohana, Bhiwani, Fatehabad, 2 centres in Hisar, 1 each in Sirsa, Karnal, Sonipat, Delhi, 2 centres in Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur, Roorkee, Yamuna Nagar, than Haldwani, Rajpur, Almora, Lucknow and Kanpur. Than in West, Gujarat we have 8 centres in out of which Surat has 4 centres, Baroda, Bharuch, Bardoli and in Maharashtra we have presence in Aurangabad, Nasik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune. We’ll be starting our centres in South by next month in Chennai and Selam and there we’ll grow from Chennai to Madurai and Coimbatore and from there 2-3 cities more. We Might add four more centres in North again may be in Haryana as regionally we’re a very big player here and I strongly believe to bag no. 1 position in the country, one has to take the first position in a region first.
Why targeting tier II & III cities
All the big cities, they have good ophthalmologist, practicing well and offering hi-tech services, it is only tier II and III cities which might have good ophthalmologist but they never developed themselves, never developed the infrastructure, the equipments etc, but the charges were more or less the same. Like when we started in Gurgaon, we used to charge Rs100, in Rewari the charge
was Rs70. Thus we decided and made good infrastructure, comfortable for the waiting lot and much more on offer to the patients in small cities.
In this business till date we’ve invested more than Rs200 crores. Initially it was difficult, but now it’s all volume. Once we’ve tried for volume, tied up with companies at a very special rate, they give us lenses and our pricing strategy is very clear. Wherever we go, to any city, we try to keep our prices at par with the city. But, in our surgeries and all that because the differentiation we do, we do all kind of surgeries with the latest technology.
I have been using latest technology and lenses being launched by big brands in the market. So, I’ve made these brands our partners among the top brands include Abbott, Rise, Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, a Swiss Tech Company from Switzerland, not only these, among Indian brands like Biocare, The AuroLab, we use a lot many lenses from them also. We made them our partners and it is a mutual thing under which, if I have to use these many number of lenses, they have to give us good price and in return, I have to give them assured business, and it is growing.
We’ve already established vast online presence and are doing a lot to create awareness also. We have a separate cell which does all the online marketing for us. We have our own call centers which do all the books and query handling. We’re also tying up with startups like Practo and also starting a new concept of Home Health where eyes are checked and lenses are dispensed and whenever needed, our optometrist goes to the house to do regular check-ups. We have a huge database of more than a million patients using Cloud base service which we’re storing for over 7 years now and it contains not just general details but past records of the patients as well.
Right now, we’re focusing on western region more which will be Maharashtra, Gujarat and some places in south. In overseas market, we’ve just entered Africa and later on to smaller countries like Sri Lanka, Dubai, Mauritius etc.