Coffee with Y meets Nasser Batha, CEO and Co-Founder of Starcare Group, to learn how a focus on upholding Omani healthcare remains at the root of their success.
Success is the outcome of hard work, determination, and resilience that requires constant attention to detail – even at the most testing of times.
That’s probably what outlines the two-decade-strong career of one of the nation’s most prolific CEOs: Nasser Batha.
It’s also the motto that extends to his hospital – Starcare – that’s quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing private healthcare groups in the Sultanate.
But, for a man with a career that’s silver-lined with success across several different sectors – from beginnings in the aviation industry and extending to technology, investments and asset management and, finally, healthcare – Nasser takes special pride in highlighting the achievements of his colleagues over his own.
“Starcare’s success comes from those that work behind the smooth functioning of the hospital; from the specialised doctors and consulting doctors, to the nurses and hospital staff,” says Nasser with a smile.
His words stand true, as Starcare was recently awarded the ‘Best Employer for Healthcare’ in Oman by the World HRD Congress following an anonymous and private audit.
A prestigious award by all means, Nasser goes on to talk to us about what it is that makes Starcare the brand that it is today, and how they’re becoming a provider to the masses while also garnering trust from the millions of people that reside in the Sultanate.
Here’s an excerpt from our interview:
Y: Being named by the World HRD Congress as the ‘Best Employer for Healthcare’ in Oman is a matter of great pride for the brand, its staff, and customers. What went into the makings of this achievement?
NB: We’re very humbled by the recognition that we’ve received and are very proud that we could win this award. The award was judged by an independent panel and was audited anonymously. That’s what makes this award a matter of prestige for us. To keep it simple, we just stick to our motto: Keep Caring. We don’t restrict that to our patients alone; we extend it to our internal customers: the people – our colleagues – who work for us and keep this eco-system working efficiently – and we’re grateful for them.
Y: How is Starcare upholding the values of Omani healthcare?
NB: When Starcare came into Oman 10 years ago, private healthcare was in its early stages. There were only a couple of players here then, but we’ve had a lot of acceptance since we began bringing good service and quality to the market. His Majesty’s vision to privatise healthcare has also propelled our efforts and made us do more. Unlike many countries, healthcare provided by the government here is very high. So, for the private sector to succeed, we must bring a lot more value to the people. This has put a lot more pressure on us to improve the quality and ensure that there’s not just that – but also acute care provided.
Y: What are some of the challenges you faced after taking over as CEO?
NB: Like any business, the challenge is always in providing quality care at an affordable price. For that, you must invest a lot in bringing the right talent pool; the doctors are extremely important for us as they’re the asset of our business. We also put a lot of importance on quality. Yes, every business must remain profitable, but having said that, our priority is to service the community. So, there’s pressure to ensure that our quality and efforts match the affordability of the marketplace. To achieve this, we had to invest a lot in technology. Only through that could we manage the equilibrium of the quality and the price we can charge. We pay a lot of emphasis to quality control when it comes to building our products. We also pay attention to building our people (the staff).
Y: Are there plans to expand your hospital’s reach beyond the already established Seeb branch in Oman?
NB: Currently, we have a hospital in Seeb – that’s our flagship. We started as a 50-bed hospital and have since opened an 80-bed hospital in Barka that serves the whole South Batinah region. We also have three medical centres in Mabelah, Baushar, and Duqm – those are quite capable of handling the patients in those regions, and we’re launching the first, and our only, exclusive women and children’s hospital in Al Hail early next year, which is an extension of our hospital in Seeb. We’re also in the final stages of finishing our design of a large 250-bed tertiary care hospital in Ghala that we’ll open in 2-3 years’ time. The construction will begin sometime in October and it’s called the ‘Health City’ project. Aside from that, we’ve launched a new product called the ‘Saha Clinics’. We conceived this model to serve the primary care services in the marketplace, the first of which we’ve opened in Samail. We also hope to open 20-odd ones in the next 24 months.
Y: Starcare currently operates medical centres as well across Oman. Can we expect to see more such centres outside the capital? If so, which city will you be focusing on?
NB: I think it’s very important to focus on the suburbs because there’s a huge population growth in many of the areas outside the city, and the medical facilities there are a bit scattered because of the market size. But, if you cluster them together, where you can offer immediate and primary care, it will bring a lot of value to the community. We can also then offer support to transfer people to bigger hospitals during emergencies.
Y: The hospital in Seeb currently boasts quality doctors from around the globe. Can you tell us how crucial these doctors have been in helping the brand connect with patients?
NB: Like a restaurant is primarily driven by the chefs, hospitals are driven by its doctors. So, sourcing our doctors and retaining them is our highest priority. At Starcare, we have the highest level of consultant-level doctors in the nation coming from all parts of the world. We’re proud of that, and that’s what gives the patients the trust that they have with us. We have a lot of Omani doctors as visiting consultants and we’ve started hiring full-time Omani doctors as well.
Y: Can you elaborate on the brand’s Omanisation strategy – how you train and offer equal opportunities to the citizens?
NB: Omanisation is a priority for us, and I’ve taken it as a personal mission as I believe that we owe it to the country. Since I’ve come, I’ve been able to increase Omanisation by 20 per cent. We’ve been working closely with the Ministry of Manpower to place, advertise, and conduct mass interviews. We’ve completed four mass interviews with a selection model from which we chose 15 nurses. We’re now working with the National Training Committee, who have offered to train these nurses before they come on-board. We also had a social media recruitment campaign among Omanis, from which we had about 2,000 entries. We’ve also started embarking Omani’s in leadership programs.
Y: We understand that Starcare has also gone overseas to Kerala, India. Can we expect to see Starcare grow beyond its local roots and into the GCC as well?
NB: Starcare is blessed to be an Oman-based company and, currently, we have an ambitious growth plan in Oman given his Majesty’s vision to further privatize the healthcare sector – so for now our primary focus remains in Oman. We do have a presence in Sharjah, UAE and India already, and over a period of time we do hope to spread out to other GCC countries too.