Business Today

Apollo's Acid Test

The health care leader in India is facing stiff competition from new cash rich chains.

In 1972, cardiac surgeon Dr Prathap C. Reddy returned to India with his family, sacrificing his flourishing practice in Springfield, US, and at the renowned Massachusetts General Hospital. The doctor from Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh settled in Chennai and first started practising at HM Hospital, but always dreamt of creating a world class private health care facility in India. Dr Reddy lobbied with the government and mobilised support of some 10,000 fellow doctors and contacts in the US and other countries to float Apollo Enterprises Ltd in 1979. Then he hired top doctors like Dr M.R. Girinath and professional managers like V.J. Chacko.

"Apollo Hospitals in the erstwhile Madras opened its doors on September 18, 1983. I was 50 years of age then, typically a point in time when most people start contemplating retirement", remembers Dr Reddy. After 34 years, he is still hands on in driving Apollo as its chairman and has unbelievable energy levels. Every day the doctor does routine ward rounds, attends business meetings and discusses strategies with his four daughters who run the Apollo business empire that crossed over a billion dollar revenues last fiscal. So far, the Apollo growth story and Dr Reddy'saura as the architect of India's corporate health care has remained intact.

But can the four daughters sustain the momentum after Dr Reddy? It's a question many investors are asking and there are reasons. India's private health care scene is fast changing. Numerous low cost health care chains have come up challenging entrenched players like Apollo, Manipal, Fortis or a Max.

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