Doctors studying at a B-school? Yes, that's right.
Armed a management degree from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, young doctors like Harsh Vardhan Sharma aspire to play a leading role in the business of healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
Doctors and pharma professionals are amongst the students who have opted for B-school education, as a degree in business management is now becoming a necessary tool for their career and entrepreneurial growth.
The current crop of students at ISB is upbeat about their prospects, be it creating new enterprises of their own or heading pharma companies.
"ISB has pioneered the trend of attracting people from diverse backgrounds to join the management programme. It is very encouraging to see even doctors joining the programme," Prof M Rammohan Rao, Dean, ISB said.
The healthcare summit organised by the ISB students last week was a testimony to their growing interest in India's booming healthcare sector.
The focus of the summit was to explore innovative ways for growth in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
In his address, Dr Pratap Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals, said: "India needs to position itself as a global healthcare destination that is cost-effective and does not compromise on quality."
While highlighting that the healthcare is a business of life, Analjit Singh, chairman, Max India Ltd, spoke on changing healthcare needs.
He said that there was one factor that distinguished a customer from a patient, and that was 'fear.'
"As long as the fear factor rules, the patient remains focussed on treatment, but the moment he gains reassurance from the doctor that all is going to be well, the patient is transformed into a customer," he said.
The summit also emphasised the need for India to gear up to face the looming challenges before it and ensure that a proper health and pharma policy is in place at the earliest.
"India is poised to become the global capital for diabetes and heart diseases. Unless we take effective and preventive healthcare programmes, we are waiting for a disaster to happen," Sangeeta Reddy, director, operations, Apollo group said.
India has huge potential but unless the government wakes up to address the core issues, we cannot expect the pharma sector to bring in fortunes, speakers at the seminar pointed out.
Kewal Handa, MD, Pfizer said that India has the potential of being a global healthcare hub but excessive IP regulations, lack of a strong commercial market, small and fragmented market have dampened India's prospects.
He urged the government to minimise price controls and implement a strong IP regime and provide a transparent investment environment to attract more MNCs.
He added that India should take lessons from the IT sector to promote the pharma sector by ensuring non-interference from the government, tax breaks and economic incentives.
"India has a $36 billion R& D outsourcing opportunity. And it has a two to three year window to grab this great opportunity," Handa added.
Talking about the trends in the medical devices sector, Alok Mishra highlighted that 86 per cent of devices come from physicians who worked with engineers and business people and a great majority of the devices were developed by start-ups then taken over by big companies.
He said the Singapore model where companies team up with universities for research and development to unveils new products is an ideal practice.
Talking on the value of brands, Sandeep Bhattacharjee, director, Sanofi Aventis said, "The real value of brand building is to provide a real solution to patients. Brands should provide holistic solutions that deliver true value through well-designed disease management programmes and education."
"The success of brand lies in creating a good package of products and services and creative a unique brand experience," he said.
IT and consulting practitioners from the healthcare and pharma industries also attended the session.
J Rajagopal, EVP, Global Life Sciences and Healthcare, TCS; Dilip Jha, SVP, Healthcare Business Unit, Satyam; Sairamkumar Jayaraman, head, Life Sciences Practice India, Cognizant Technology Solutions; and Prem Kalliath, Partner, Accenture also took part in the sessions.
The healthcare summit organised by the healthcare club (class of 2006) of the Indian School of Business was a concerted 4-month long effort says Dr Harsh Sharma, president of the healthcare club, who was practising as a doctor for three years.
"The Indian healthcare sector is very enticing but there is a dearth of management professionals in the pharma sector. The healthcare summit reflects our genuine interest to create a platform to come together and contribute substantially towards the healthcare sector, Dr Harsh explains.
Adds, Dr Rakesh, "The healthcare sector is in a state of neglect and we hope work toward reshaping this sector. There is a need to be innovative and adopt new models to improve the healthcare system in India."
Anand Sairam, another pharma professional, who has worked with Dr Reddy's, also plans to work in the booming healthcare sector. He believes that the management course will help him be among the leaders of tomorrow.
Bhaskar Medhi who quit a lucrative career in the US to come back to India is optimistic of a great future in India, "In the US it is difficult as an Indian to be in a leadership position, whereas India offers exciting opportunities and am hopeful of playing crucial role in policy making as well."