When we first set foot in the UAE in 1998, the outlook was very different for newly arrived entrepreneurs. The country was facing its first challenges; it was an unfamiliar environment for anyone seeking to contribute to the life of the nation.
We started out in the UAE by venturing into the real estate sector; however, a chance meeting with the Ruler of Ajman encouraged me to branch out into medical education, and subsequently, healthcare. The encounter was to prove fortuitous.
Nearly two decades on, and the Thumbay Group is now an expansive conglomerate of teaching hospitals, businesses, labs and pharmacies that serves the region. We recently announced a strategic growth plan will almost double our group net worth to US$3 billion (Dh11 billion) by 2020 from our current value of US$1.8 billion (Dh6.6 billion). By 2020, we aim to have a workforce of 15,000 employees.
Our first venture is flourishing today—and it is this success that reminds us of how far we have come. Setting up what was then the Gulf Medical College—and is now the Gulf Medical University (GMU)—was an almost insurmountable challenge. We were able to build the first private teaching hospital in Ajman under challenging constraints and in very little time. It may have taken focus and determination, but we were able to beat our own targets and build top-notch facilities that today form the bedrock of Thumbay Group’s growth and success. The support of the government and the UAE community has been instrumental to our growth.
But we won’t rest on our laurels. A great deal motivates us to move forward. Of great, personal value to me is the injunction that “If you save one life, you will save the life of the whole mankind.” It’s a sobering reminder for us to do more, and to do it better, particularly in a region that is underserved in healthcare provision. For us as a group, it’s a duty of public healthcare, of instructing our future generations in excellent medical care and in equipping our young with the scientific tools they need to shape our lives. It’s perhaps why for many of us, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the region.
We were initially drawn towards working in the Gulf because it welcomed us with open arms and opportunities. There is an ease of doing business here, along with excellent air-connectivity of the region and a vibrant economy that has proven ideal. Although we have set up base here, we are gradually expanding to the African continent and the Indian sub-continent.
Our movement forward has been carefully planned. One such area is India; where our Indian roots matter to us, with the ability to contribute to our homeland. Moving forward, the nation is one of our major areas of focus. We now have an advanced Thumbay Hospital, a couple of Thumbay Pharmacies, and an outlet each of Thumbay Labs and Blends & Brews Coffee Shoppe in Hyderabad, India. We plan to open more hospitals in the major metropolitan areas of India in the coming years.
Newer areas are also key. Among our new frontiers for development, Ghana has consistently figured among our preferred investment destinations on the African continent. A stable government and a secure atmosphere for business investments have been attractive factors for us to develop our healthcare ventures in this beautiful country. The opportunities offered by Ghana are perfect for the GMU model of education-healthcare-research. The country has a thriving education sector, especially at the university level and that also attracts a large number of foreign students. Ghana also has a vibrant healthcare sector that is widely considered the most successful on the Africa continent—a natural choice for our global expansion plans. It’s not just Ghana or India.
A report by Alpen Capital Group has placed Qatar alongside the UAE as the fastest growing healthcare markets in the GCC for the next six years. As with the UAE, Qatar also is gradually evolving as a medical tourism destination in the region. The government of Qatar has drawn up ambitious plans to make the healthcare system among the best in the world, which is where Thumbay Group has an important role to play, as the leading network of private academic hospitals in the region. Moreover, Qatar also gives a lot of importance to medical research, which is one of the focus areas of Thumbay Group.
Our Future In Their Hands
Yet even as Thumbay Group is growing and expanding, we take our commitment to the community in which we live very seriously. We established the Thumbay Foundation which provides funding to the less fortunate students in the form of scholarships, grants, bursaries, awards, fellowships, endowments and donations, and it is open to all fields of studies. This is in addition to the Sponsor-a-Medical-Professional program of Gulf Medical University (GMU), under which scholarships are given to deserving, meritorious students, to pursue medical courses of their choice, through GMU’s Care & Share initiative. Thumbay Group’s hospitals have dedicated Patient Affairs Departments which ensure that good treatment is provided to those less able to afford it at subsidized charges, ensuring that no patient is denied treatment because of their financial circumstances. All our hospitals and clinics also regularly conduct free medical camps for the public. Thumbay Foundation has also provided for wider societal causes, such as assistance for new marriages.
We won’t rest there. The Thumbay Group’s recently noted that our expansion plans will see us grow to develop an additional 420 establishments including three new university campuses in three countries, an Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine Hospital and College a chain of eye hospitals and fertility centers, and as many as 15 new Thumbay Academic Hospitals in UAE and other countries. Our success may have had humble beginnings, but the journey has proven of benefit to many—and we’re not yet half of the way there.