"Role modulation is extremely essential"

Amir Hossain | January, 2013

Ameera Shah is the Managing Director and CEO of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. She is highly respected in the healthcare world and has been recently voted by Modern Medicare as The Young entrepreneur of the Year in India. Shah has been elected the Secretary of the IAPL (Indian Association of Pathology Laboratories) and is a member of most prominent diagnostics and healthcare committees in CII.
What are the major challenges that you have faced during your corporate journey?
My journey of Metropolis began from a Rs. 12 crore business to today’s Rs. 350 crore multinational chain of diagnostics. In 2001 when I started with Metropolis, we were venturing into a relatively new area. There were not many successful indigenous examples of chain of diagnostics and many factors were unknown to us. We therefore had to learn on our own, hoping that things would work well for us. There have been many successes and failures along the journey. Lessons from overcoming challenges through creative leadership have been and continue to be very enriching.
The second big challenge was of initial financial resources which were raised through accrual of internal resources. Working with internal funding in a resource constrained environment made things difficult for us.  When I look back, I feel that had this initial resource constraint not been there, Metropolis would have grown even faster.
What factors do you attribute to the success of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd?
The culture of Metropolis has been of working through accommodation, flexibility and partnership with a sharp focus on excellence. We endear innovative ideas and try keeping bureaucratic hurdles to minimal. This ensures that ideas that will benefit the customer and the company get implemented and people who have put in their efforts get their due credit.
We always uphold interests of our customers and patients, and ensure delivering best services to them. Although we have grown to a large multinational chain of diagnostics, we ensure that we reach out to every customer and ensure personal interactions whenever possible. This culture and value base has allowed us to grow both horizontally and vertically.
Is the company looking for any kind of merger and acquisition in near future?
Metropolis has grown both organically and inorganically. We have achieved growth by setting up our own labs, and also acquiring smaller labs with good founders, repute and brand name. We started the process in 2004 and we continue on mix of organic and inorganic expansion. We have seen such partnerships become successful, to cite few examples are Lister Metropolis in Tamil Nadu, RV Metropolis in Bangalore, Desai Metropolis in Gujarat, etc.
Women in a leadership role are still a minority - both in the general business world and politics. Given this status, how can these women truly serve as role models to other women?
Today’s women are facing increasing burden of dual responsibilities, especially in the metros. The problem is when they internalize the need to do well in all their roles, socially or professionally; jeopardising their health and well-being. I’ve also seen many women taking extreme stands in leadership positions, while some see gender as no element for differentiation. I believe that role modulation is extremely essential. It is important to understand and acknowledge the fact that there are biases at times, but to ensure that they don’t impede good leadership.
Furthermore, I believe that being in a leadership position largely depends on internal psyche. I am sure most successful women leaders have gone through initial dilemmas and challenges. If they are vocal about their own experiences many women can learn from their accomplishments and mistakes. Additionally women leaders should proactively come forth to mentor fellow women at their offices, friend circles; chat about their practical difficulties and how they overcame them.
A debate is rounding in the corner that women are better leaders than men. What’s your take on that?
I believe leadership is not a gender function. Leaders are moulded by their social surroundings and undeniably defined by their innate strengths. Social circumstances for women could differ, but that might not be completely true and attributable to leadership. However for an industry like healthcare, women’s innate sensitivity could help her be more patient and care oriented, ensuring a greater chances of success for her.
How do you view transformational leadership in your own career and among your peers?
The tone of communication defines the culture of an organisation. It is very important that a leader pays attention to how he or she is communicating to his peers. It is very important to align everybody’s thoughts, objectives, and working styles towards the organisational goal building a healthy sustainable culture. I believe in leading by example. The organisation always reflects its leader and vice-versa. Hence it is very important for a leader to strive to set good examples for peers to follow. It is crucial that everyone places organisation before individuals and give credit to people who have made efforts and contributed to the growth and development of the company.
On a day to day basis, I generally follow a collaborative leadership approach, especially when organisational decisions are concerned. However at times I have to get affirmative, when things don’t go the mutually planned way. Such situations are rare, and hope to keep them rare.
What are your future plans? How do you see your company evolving in the next five years?
At Metropolis, we process 15 million tests touching 4 to 5 million lives each year. Affordability and accessibility to quality healthcare is the biggest challenge. Hence to ensure a wider reach, in India we have been penetrating the under-served markets of tier 2 and tier 3 cities, which we continue to further penetrate. We would want to reach out to the rural population as well, but the Government policies are not offering cue to enter these untapped markets, where cost control is central to business success. While in India we are aiming at deeper penetration of markets, we have already crossed the Indian boundaries. We’ve set up operations in Africa and Middle East, and as further expansion in south-east Asia we have successfully entered the Sri Lankan markets. In the next five years we will aim to strengthen our presence in the aforementioned markets through further expansions and multiplication of services.