Dr. Sanjay Paithankar, 59, initially came to the UAE with a dream to build a hospital back home in India. Fate, however, had different plans and Dr. Paithankar stayed back – ultimately changing the face of affordable health care in the country.
The year was 1988.
Fast forward to 2019 and 31 years later, Dr. Paithankar is creating a fine balance between what he loves doing most, which is helping the poor and needy, and ensuring he remains in the business of providing health care in the UAE.
Setting the tone for affordable health care
The specialist doctor has kept his profile intact during the last three decades of having lived and worked in the UAE. So while his earnings have grown multi-fold over the years, Dr. Paithankar has kept his ultimate goal of providing affordable health-care despite all the inflation and challenges the world economy poses.
“When I started my first clinic in Abu Dhabi, my fees was as low as Dh10 per patient and consultation. Today it is Dh30. My cost to a patient is less than Dh100 versus most other doctors who are not less than Dh200. I want to change and better the lives of as many blue collar workers as possible.”
Dr. Paithankar came here with seven dollars and Indian Rupees 5,000 in his pocket way back in 1988. Today he is a multi-millionaire, but hasn’t forgotten his primary duty towards blue collar workers.
“In cash a multi-millionaire. But I have not got this because of charging my patients a high fees. It is the sheer volume we see across our clinics that has pushed our number. [At the] end of the day, the money earned is put back into setting up more clinics in other Emirates so we can have a wider and closer reach to blue collar workers in the UAE. Accessibility is key.”
Dr. Paithankar’s father worked as a professor in pathology at a government medical college in Nagpur. He earned a salary of INR 5,000 a month.
“It was difficult making ends meet. Plus, I had ambitions and desires to achieve big. I wanted to build a hospital in India and save lives. But how could I do it with such a limited income. So I decided to [leave] home, and find a job in the UAE where I could earn a tax free salary. This helped my saving potential and helped me realise my lofty dreams,” he said.
Dr. Paithankar is also a record gold medallist at his medical college in India where he worked at the Jaslok hospital in Mumbai, before making the move to come and work in the UAE. “I was a gold medallist and perhaps the only student in my college and state to win a gold medal in every year of my medical studies. It is after graduating in medicine that I joined Jaslok hospital in 1986, where I worked for two years before coming to work in the UAE.”
Starting first in UAE
Dr. Paithankar first took the plunge by joining a private clinic in Abu Dhabi. A year later, he joined the Ministry of Health (MOH) in the emirate.
“This was a turning point in my life. It opened my eyes to the fact that there was a huge need to provide affordable medical facilities for blue collar workers in the UAE.”
“During my stint in Abu Dhabi I found many workers’ accommodations were not close to big hospitals. So if a worker fell ill, he had to travel a fair distance before he could reach the nearest hospital. This was not practical or viable.”
And so in 1993, Dr. Paithankar decided to open his first clinic in Ajman called Sanaya Medical Clinic. “Sanaya means industrial in Arabic. So the whole idea was to have a clinic in the industrial area of the UAE so we could reach out to blue collar workers living and working here.”
Keeping medical fees low
“The cost to my patient was Dh10 per consultation. Today, 26 years later, I have increased it to only Dh30." The popularity of the clinic grew so much that within three months of launching the first clinic,
Dr. Paithankar was seeing 100 patients a day those days. “Today, we see almost 2,000 patients a day across 57 clinics in UAE. Our company re-branded last year and is now called the Right Health Group. We are the biggest group in terms of value healthcare. We have 608 staff working for us.”
According to the doctor, plans are to extend the clinic’s presence in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain. The next step will be to venture into the Gulf region.
“There is potential for growth.”
How did Dr. Paithankar grow
“It is quite amazing how we have grown. There was no marketing or advertising done. It was all due to sheer word of mouth that brought patients to my clinic. I remember one of the early patients who visited me at a hospital where I worked, and came to me with a chest pain. He was a young Pakistani man who had been suffering the pain for quite a number of days. But he avoided visiting a hospital as it was far from his labour accommodation. He told me there was no transportation from his labour accommodation to a nearby hospital. His company did not provide him with transportation either. He kept drinking cold water to relieve the chest pain but ended up having a heart attack. This prompted me to open my first affordable clinic in the country so I could serve blue collars.”
With this as the background, Dr. Paithankar has grown his medical offerings multi-fold in the UAE. “The core of my business is to provide affordable medical facilities to every possible blue collar worker in the UAE. If they are served well, I am happy.”
And so when his first clinic proved a success the patient walk ins at his clinic began to grow massively. “As doctors, we take a pledge to change lives for the better and this was just the beginning for me. I felt happy and useful as a human being.”
In fact, the popularity of the clinic grew so wide that patients started pouring into the clinic from as far as Al Ain, other worker accomodations in Abu Dhabi, and sometimes even from Dubai and Sharjah. This set the tone for Dr. Paithankar to spread his wings and expand his portfolio within the UAE.
“The reason why people came to us was because our medical fees was as low as Dh10. The Dh10 included consultation and medical treatment. I also have a very clear policy within our chain of clinics with regards to conducting unnecessary tests. We don’t want to create a money-making entity. We want to create an entity that offers an ethical medical practice.”
Initially, Dr. Paithankar added two clinics in Ajman and Sharjah. Then in 2002, he started a clinic in Dubai’s Sonapur area.
“My competitors in the market started following my practice of opening clinics close to worker accommodations. Imitation is the best form of flattery they say.”
Ethos and values
“I have never chased money. It came because I gave my 100 per cent at work. My intentions were right. As a practicing doctor, my aim was to provide affordable health care for blue collar workers – without compromising on my ethics and quality treatment. I take pride that I have maintained this through the three decades I have worked in the UAE.”
“I take pride in the fact that I have never taken a loan in my entire life to fund my growth. It is only recently that I got investors to put their money in my [plans for] expansion. We are all partners. And again, there is no loan involved. So don’t look for instant growth. Let it happen slowly but surely.”