NIGERIA - Health & Education
Managing Director, Vedic Lifecare Hospital
Chandra Prakash has over 34 years in various junior and senior management levels in various professional organizations in construction, oil and gas, insurance, and the healthcare industries around the world including India, France, Italy, the UK, the UAE, and Nigeria. He has spent about 30 years in Nigeria. He has headed various companies independently and profitably for years. He has a bachelor’s degree (BA), a diploma in procurement from Federation Nationale Des Travuex Public in France, and an MBA in HR management.
I have been in the oil and gas sector for over two decades. One of my responsibilities was leading the community development and social responsibility for the company I worked for. We did many primary healthcare projects in the villages across the south-south region. We organized and posted healthcare workers to various towns and communities to prevent malaria and avoidable death among the kids and elderly. We did this project for a few years and came to the realization that Nigeria lacked even basic medical facilities. Healthcare became my passion. I wanted to give something back to the country that made my career, but did not have enough expertise in my chosen sector. To solve this, I went to most of the major hospital groups in India and finally concluded with Manipal Hospitals, who agreed it could do it. I agreed to raise the investment and start the project. We started in 2011 and inaugurated the first hospital in Lagos—Vedic Lifecare—in 2013. We started with daycare, and two years later, there was no better hospital in the area. We have the best doctors and decided to convert the facility into a 21-bed hospital with an in-patient center conversion in 2015.
It has been fairly challenging, as we have spent USD21 million overall and are yet to break even, especially after 2020. Getting excellent professional talent has always been the biggest challenge. Customer care leaders and professionals specific to our industry are very hard to get, and training ordinary people into staff is difficult. It is a costly affair for everyone to work here, especially as a healthcare provider who is quality conscious. We have had to bring in foreign nurses and superintendents to train the staff, without which their competency levels decline to levels that start affecting patient outcomes. The healthcare sector has been underfunded and has been inadequate for many years. Still, we see it improving, with crucial investments coming in. When we made our investment in 2010-11, the government was not specifically supportive, and healthcare is a long-term investment. A bank will give you 25% interest rates which you cannot survive or grow with, so I had to invest money from India.
My dream is for our group to operate at least 2,000-beds aligned with our group’s vision in Nigeria and eliminate medical tourism. It is hard to achieve this dream. In 2020, when COVID was at its peak, the government declared the NGN100-billion COVID-19 fund for the healthcare sector. It was a radical input from the Central Bank; however, the participating banks wanted 150% of the collateral, which was not appropriate. The CBN funding would enable us to expand our existing hospital by another 50 beds and the second hospital one to 25. Scalability is the only route to attracting foreign investors. Healthcare is and has always been a long-term investment. The government must pay greater attention to this, as there is so much money going to foreign hospitals that should remain in Nigeria.
More private investors should come in, but with guaranteed government support if they commit. The government must play an active role in attracting healthcare investors to challenge medical tourism. If you turn this situation around, the USD14 billion spent each year abroad will be spent in Nigeria. Only the government can create this opportunity. To get an excellent experienced Nigerian doctor, you need to pay much higher than an expatriate doctor. If you want a specialist, it will cost an average of USD15,000-20,000 a month salary. A Nigerian super specialist will demand and expect much more than that. There should be more profound medical training programs in Nigeria to improve the quality of medical practitioners. I would consider training as the first focus area.
NIGERIA - Energy & Mining
Group Managing Director, Eraskorp Nigeria Limited
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