Azad Moopen, 61, qualified as a doctor and started teaching at a government-run medical school before a chance visit to Dubai set him on the path to entrepreneurship over two-and-a-half decades ago. Today, his Aster DM Healthcare is among the United Arab Emirates’ largest private healthcare players. The company spans a chain of hospitals in the Gulf region as well as in India, and a thriving pharmacy chain and medical clinics. Moopen is among Forbes’ newest billionaires (net worth $1.1 billion) and is ranked #95 in the latest list of India’s richest.
Dr. Moopen was on a social visit to Dubai in 1987 when he saw that the region had very few qualified doctors and poor healthcare infrastructure. “People had to wait long hours to see a doctor and the situation was even more pathetic for those in the lower socio-economic group,” he recalled. Within months of that maiden visit, Dr. Moopen had set up a medical clinic there. Patients began flocking and numbers rose steadily to a hundred patients daily. He expanded the clinic by bringing some doctor friends over from India. The clinic grew to six doctors in five years. By 1997, he had set up five more clinics, as with pharmacies abutting them. Eventually, the pharmacy chain grew faster and today comprises 130 pharmacies to 60 clinics.
Unusually, Dr. Moopen’s foray into hospitals was back home in his native Kerala state when he set up the 300-bed MIMS Hospital in Calicut in 2001. In 2004, his first hospital in Dubai, a tiny 20-bed facility, had come up and a larger one came in 2008, followed by two hospitals in Oman between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, he set up a specialized orthopedic and spine care hospital called Medcare in Kottekal, also in his native state. His most ambitious project yet has just launched operations in the nearby port city of Cochin, a 570-bed multi-specialty center called Aster Medcity. Aster DM Healthcare’s investors include India Value Fund Advisors which came in 2007 and Olympus Capital in 2011.
The healthecare firm now has chain of six hospitals in India, including a new one in Bangalore. It has acquired majority stakes in two hospitals in the neighboring Hyderabad and set up a medical college-hospital in the Wayanad region in Kerala state. The last is in line with Dr. Moopen’s first love – teaching.
In the Gulf region, the entrepreneur is growing the five-hospital chain by adding six more hospitals in the next two years – three in Dubai, and one each in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Today, the 1,000-doctor chain treats 8 million patients annually.
“It was all about opening the door when opportunity knocked, rather than complaining about the noise,” Dr. Moopen said. Aster DM Healthcare is now gearing up for a public offering of its shares and hopes to list in India within the next 10-12 months.