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NRI, US investors setting up hospital chain in India


Bangalore, June 30, 2005

NRI, a group of Seattle-based American investors have pooled their resources to set up an international hospital chain in India offering world-class healthcare services to the burgeoning middle class.

Columbia Asia, the international healthcare provider, promoted by high networth individuals in the US, is investing $15 million upfront to set up three hospitals in Bangalore and five more in metro A and B cities over the next five years.

Choosing the IT capital as the hub of its Indian operations, Columbia is launching its first facility, a community healthcare hospital, at Hebbal in north Bangalore on July 11.

"Perhaps, we are the first overseas healthcare provider to enter India through the automatic FDI (foreign direct investment) route for healthcare services, which was opened up last year for 100 per cent investment.

"Our game plan is to bring in internationally proven healthcare systems into India by incorporating professional and efficient practices," Columbia Asia Medical Centre CEO Tufan Ghosh told reporters here on Thursday.

The 75 in-patient bed hospital will provide multi-specialities with international policies and procedures. The other two hospitals in the southern and western suburbs of the city will come up in the next two years with a similar patient-bed ratio.

"We have chosen locations in this high-tech city, keeping in view the accessibility to our target group, namely the growing middle class. Our market survey has shown these locations are currently under-serviced," Ghosh said.

In the second phase, Columbia will be looking at other cities such as Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar for similar hospitals with an additional investment of $15 million, excluding real estate costs.

With about 40 full-time and part-time specialised doctors, 175 nursing and paramedical personnel, the Hebbal hospital will provide multi-specialty healthcare covering out-patient and in-patient services.

The 24-hour accident and emergency services will make use of the latest technology to deliver world-class healthcare to patients at affordable cost, which will be less than other private or corporate hospitals in the city.

According to group medical director Nanda Kumar Jairam, the key differentiator between Columbia and other hospitals will be the quality of service delivery and practice of ethics.

"We have tapped the local talent pool, which is as good as the best in the world. A lot of non-resident Indian (NRI) doctors, especially specialists in the US and Europe are looking forward to coming back and serving the country through hospital chains like ours," Jairam said.

Incidentally, Columbia Asia has been operating its hospital chains in Malaysia and Vietnam since 1995. It also plans to foray into other Asian countries in the coming years.

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