Dubai: She is the Deputy Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare that runs 697 facilities across seven countries, including nine hospitals, 96 clinics and 222 pharmacies in the UAE. A US-educated chartered accountant with a Big Four background in consulting from the UK, she is a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum, Founder & Vice-Chairwoman of the Dubai Healthcare Business Group and Chairperson of the Dubai Chapter of the Young President’s Organisation (YPO) that has 27,000 chief executives from over 130 countries on board. And yes, she is a doting mum of three, a committed wife and daughter and a fitness freak who loves to cook, read and travel too.
Well, that’s Alisha Moopen for you.
Now, how do you think a day in the life of someone like her pans out? How does it even begin?
“With a precious hug and a kiss from my kids before they are off to school,” says Alisha, whose long day takes off not before 7.30am. “You see, I am not quite the morning person,” she adds candidly.
That said, however, she is out and about to take up her demanding role at work by 9am, her commitments often keeping her occupied well into the night. On any given day, she packs in four-five internal meetings, three external visits or meetings with stakeholders, regulators or potential business partners – all of which are slotted until 5pm - three weeks in advance.
“These days, with the shift to digital, more conversations are happening in this space. It’s a huge learning curve as we want to be the best healthcare system in the world,” says Alisha, adding that her husband, an IT expert, has been her major tech-driver.
These days, with the shift to digital, more conversations are happening in this space. It’s a huge learning curve as we want to be the best healthcare system in the world.
For Alisha, each new day brings with it a new challenge in terms of what she can absorb or deliver. Much like the group of faceless women in a transparent glass artwork in her 33rd floor office at Business Bay, she believes, “It’s not about who you are or what your name is - because there’s a certain evenness in the world. At the end of the day, what matters is the difference you can make.”
Describing her role at Aster as “very active”, she says, “I have this constant tussle with myself on how to make sure my involvement is strategic, not just at 30,000ft but also with a pulse on the ground. It’s something I have learnt by watching my father and Aster Founder Chairman & Managing Director Dr Azad Moopen closely.”
That can be quite a challenge as Aster has a massive workforce of 30,000 people catering to 20 million patients per year. “We make up for around 25 per cent of the market and the patients we see are mostly in the primary care format. It’s an incredible feeling when I think of how every touch point is directly impacting someone’s life – to either stay well, get better or fully cured.”
Foray into Aster
Ironically enough, Alisha’s foray into Aster happened by chance although her father set up the healthcare group 35 years ago. “It was a personal incident that prompted me to move to Dubai from London where I was working with Ernst & Young as a CA. My eldest son had suffered an eye injury following an accident and I was in hospital with him for two months. Although his sight was restored, I felt very vulnerable as a parent and that made me want to get into healthcare.”
She said she was motivated enough to want to go to medical college, but her parents convinced her otherwise. She was then offered a lead position in her forte - finance - at Dubai’s Medcare Hospital which Aster DM Healthcare runs. That was 10 years ago.
Alisha recalled how a year down the line, the group suddenly lost one of its senior business leaders to a cardiac arrest. “There was no succession in line for him and my father wanted me to step in, understand how a new hospital at the time was being commissioned and see what patients wanted on the ground. That’s how I got into an operational role.”
Alisha’s elevation to the post of Deputy Managing Director came about three-and-a-half years ago after several rounds of assessment, both internal and external. Having equipped herself with a postgraduate qualification in public policy and healthcare management from Harvard University in Boston, the Dubai girl had what it took to don the mantle.
‘Profit is a by-product’
Fast forward to 2022, and Alisha’s sound background in finance, accounting, operations and management is holding her – and Aster -- in good stead. Ask her to what extent a hospital is run as a business, and she doesn’t shy away from an answer. “We do what is needed for a patient. We have to get that right - profit is a by-product.”
She says any organisation must have a sustainable business model devised in the most ethical way possible. “Of course, there are global benchmarks on the clinical pathways to be followed, with enough examples on what margins can be realised, so we have our checks and balances.”
As Alisha points out, unlike retail, healthcare is not a volatile business. “So from an investor’s lens, it is more steady and stable.”
In fact, while poor market conditions can fuel healthcare concerns, Alisha says away from the emphasis on sick care, real healthcare must also focus on prevention and wellness by putting in place due protocols to curate a life with the right nutrition, exercise regime and lifestyle.
A fitness enthusiast herself, she makes it a point to work out at least six times a week, mostly in the evening (three days of strength training and three days of yoga or pilates for stability, core training and posture). “When I get home from work, my time from 6 to 8pm is with my family and we have an early dinner together by 6.30pm. I am at the gym by 8.30pm, where I work out for an hour or so. After that, I am all refreshed to continue with my work. This is when I catch up on my emails and do some reading too.”
So what is Alisha reading now? “Deepak Chopra’s Metahuman. My last book was James R. Doty’s Into the Magic Shop,” she shares.
No doubt, the neurosurgeon’s quest to discover the mysteries of the brain and the secrets of the heart make for a fascinating discussion, but reverting to Alisha’s other interests takes us to cooking and travel.
“I really enjoy cooking as it is therapeutic for me. It’s a creative outlet and I believe it is the best way into my family’s heart. This is my mom’s gene which she has sweetly passed on to me,” she says, letting on that her signature dishes include lamb chops, biryani, butter chicken and Thai basil.
Coldplay concert treat
Culinary treats feature prominently during her travels too. Ask her where she travelled last and she says, “On the work front, Kurdistan two weeks ago and personally, London in August. My husband and I treated ourselves to a Coldplay concert to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had a lovely family holiday in Switzerland and Kerala for dad’s 70th birthday too in July. Being in Dubai makes travel so easy.”
On course now to take Aster to the next level globally, she says, “It is a household name here in the UAE. We want to make Aster a global brand over the next decade with aspirations to enter the Saudi and African market soon. Also, digital will be the next unlock with our doctors in, say, Kochi or Bengaluru in India catering to patients in the UK or US. The emphasis will be on affordable, quality health care.”