How I Made It

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 15.04.08
Dr Alok Roy
CEO, Medica Synergie

If life had to offer him a second chance, he would tread the same path again. Alok Roy, CEO of Medica Synergie, Calcutta, is proud of what he has achieved. “I always wanted to be a doctor,” he says. “My mother says that even as a child, I indulged in make-believe games in which I played doctor.”

Born in a middle-class environment, Roy grew up in a joint family with 20 cousins under the same roof. He is the youngest in his family. His father was a civil servant and mother a schoolteacher. Growing up with five siblings and 20 cousins did have an effect. “This taught me to adapt to all kinds of people and situations. There was no preferential treatment and each child was treated equally,” he says.

Each of them was given three pairs of clothes and a pair of shoes that had to last at least a year. “This definitely made me take care of my stuff,” he says.

Roy did his schooling in Allahabad. His father’s job took him all over India. He completed his higher education from Orissa and went on to do his bachelors in medicine from SCB Medical College, Cuttack. Once done with the course he went to AIIMS, Delhi, for his postgraduation. Though he was academically inclined, he loved sports. “I participated in all sporting activities, cultural fests and even contested for the post of the college union president,” he says.

After his postgraduation, Roy had a short stint as a trainee at St Bartholomew Hospital in the UK. “I was offered a job in London and in Nigeria, but because of my mother’s strong objections and my own desire to serve the people of my country, I returned to India,” he says.

Roy began his domestic career in Calcutta in 1987 as a senior consultant (nuclear cardiology) at BM Birla Heart Research Centre. “When I joined BM Birla, it was still a shell and a concept. By default, I got involved with the construction and commissioning of the country’s first heart hospital. This gave me exposure to building and commissioning hospitals and whetted my appetite for creating healthcare centres of excellence,” he says.

Post commissioning, Roy was responsible, as part of the team, for managing the hospital. This gave him a lot of insight into the challenges that go into managing a modern hospital, and the means of overcoming them.

He has built 19 hospitals like BM Birla, Manipal Heart Foundation, Bangalore and Narayana Hrudayala, Bangalore.

It was only after setting up several healthcare centres that Roy realised although eastern India represents 27 per cent of India’s population, in terms of healthcare resources, it is far behind the south, west or even north.

Every big healthcare chain used eastern India for patient sourcing rather than developing healthcare. Roy wanted to create world-class facilities to provide quality healthcare at a fraction of the normal cost. “This made me set up Medica Synergie,” says he.

In between, Roy also worked as managing director of Family Health Plan, Apollo Hospitals, Calcutta. It was here that he got an exposure to health insurance. “I also had a year-long association with Mother Teresa who taught me about values and service. This greatly strengthened my desire to create a chain of institutions where anyone and everyone could walk in and get the best in healthcare,” he says.

“There are two major decisions I took in my life that proved to be turning points,” he continues. The first was in 1986 when he decided to join a private healthcare centre. “Coming from a middle-class background, government jobs were considered more secure and I was employed in a central government institution as a faculty member. In spite of everybody’s objections, I joined a private company. I am glad I did so because it brought me out of my cocoon and gave me the opportunity to create institutions,” he says.

The second turning point came when, after having nurtured a particular healthcare group for over 18 long years, he felt the absence of core principles on which the institution was established.

“Moving out seemed a better option and I am fortunate that my erstwhile colleagues supported me and joined me in my new venture,” he says.

“From all my past experience, I have learnt that nothing in life is impossible, provided you believe in it and are willing to put in hard work to achieve it,” he sums up.

Based on a conversation with Shabina Akhtar in Calcutta