Vijaya’s first diagnostic centre was established in the year 1981 by Dr S Surendranath Reddy, the founder, who identified the need for a comprehensive set of diagnostics services at one location. He addressed this need by offering all categories of tests in pathology and radiology under one roof with the first ever, one-of-its-kind centre in Himayatnagar.
Having been in the space for 40 long years and garnered the trust of millions of customers, practitioners and healthcare establishments, the group today successfully operates over 80 centres spread across 13 cities. It operates 63 centres in Hyderabad and has its presence in Warangal, Sangareddy, Hanamkonda, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Kurnool, Nellore, Visakhapatnam, Kolkata and Gurgaon.
The company operates with the objective of offering comprehensive diagnostic services to customers under one roof, while maintaining the right mix of the best-in-class quality and affordable prices. Vijaya focuses on offering the best customer experience by being customer-centric and concentrating on customer-comfort and convenience. State of the art machinery and technology are used to perform investigations, and professionals with the best skills in the market are hired.
Headed by S Geeta Reddy and Dr S Surendranath Reddy, Vijaya has successful and eminent personalities on its board of Directors. Sunil Chandra Kondapally(Executive Director), Nishant Sharma (Non-Executive Nominee Director), Dr D. Nageshwar Reddy, Shekar Prasad Singh, Satyanarayana Murthy Chavali & Manjula Anagani (Non-Executive Independent Directors).
In an exclusive interview with Purnima Narang, Managing Editor at The CEO Magazine, Ms. Suprita Reddy the CEO of Vijaya and the force behind the burgeoning enterprise spoke at length about her eventful journey with Vijaya, the challenges she faced and surmounted along the way, the strategies she adopted, the lessons she learned, and the vision she has for the future.
Suprita: My main motivation and that of ‘Vijaya’ right from the time of inception has been to offer best-in-class services. Our singular aim of offering one-stop diagnostic services to an underserved market, while maintaining the right mix of the highest levels of quality and affordable prices was more important to us than driving revenues or RoIs.
It is my conviction that the highest virtue ought to be empathy and humility mingled together and that work is not merely about words but should be manifest in actions and results. Being on the ground surveying customers-responses, ensuring they are satisfied with our services and constantly evolving effective strategies to optimise customer-convenience and satisfaction – this has been my decided approach towards business.
Suprita: Though my active involvement in the day-to-day activities of Vijaya started after I graduated, I fondly remember growing up observing my father’s skill and expertise in managing the day to day operation of the business.
Before formally joining the company in 2002, I started working at the billing desk, to closely understand day-to-day operations by being in real ground-level contact with the customers on a daily basis. With 5 to 6 centres in 2002, I now can proudly say that we have steadily grown both in efficiency and numbers to 86 full-fledged centres, with many more on the anvil.
Suprita: Vijaya was established in the year 1981 by my father, Mr S. Surendranath Reddy. He now holds the office of Chairman. Working as a consultant radiologist in a government institute, he observed that there was not one diagnostic centre offering comprehensive diagnostic services under one roof. This pressed upon him the need for a comprehensive diagnostic centre, which was how Vijaya came into existence.
Even back then in the 1980s, Vijaya employed the best-in-class technology, ensured it followed the best standards and offered the best in terms of service quality. The guiding principle was to offer the very best quality of service, concentrating on customer convenience and satisfaction at all times. Our aim now is to build a dense network of branches enabling our customers to access our services at a stone throw distance at affordable prices.
As a team, we were motivated to emphasize on comfort and convenience to the customer and hence we introduced home collection services as a major part of our service offering. These timely and thoughtful moves have evinced tremendous trust in doctors and customers in our brand, making Vijaya a household name in geographies where it is present.
Suprita: Growth is always the outcome of challenges met and surmounted. A readiness for change, adaptability and enthusiasm for new and effective approaches and initiatives is the essence of growth and success.
The challenge for me in taking up the family business from my father was to acquire the needed confidence for the task and to win the acceptance of the team. I succeeded in both these objectives, holding the team together, some of who have been with us since inception.
Another major challenge we faced and surpassed with imagination and bold initiative was that of completely overhauling our business model to ‘hub and spoke’. During the initial stages of expansion, we had processing labs in each branch but noticed that efficiency could not be achieved and the needed talent could not be employed.
We then changed the entire business approach to a ‘hub and spoke’ whereby samples from a group of smaller centres would be routed to a cluster hub where samples could be analysed and reports then sent back to the respective centres.
Though it was initially hard for the team to accept this paradigm shift in the business model, with motivation and positive persuasion, I could convince them to work around it and accept it as a better way of functioning.
Suprita: As the old adage has it, “Failures are the stepping stones to success”. Mistakes, in a sense, carry the seeds of positive change. To have failed and learnt lessons thereby, is to understand what works and what doesn’t and to grow astute both in the conduct of business and of life. My entire journey has been a mix of mistakes and right actions.
One such learning was from the decision to shut down a centre before giving it the time to pick up and start giving the desired results. This taught me the importance of patience in running a business and the need to concentrate on the long-term benefit instead of seeking quick returns.
Suprita: The objective behind founding Vijaya was that of offering comprehensive diagnostic services, all under one roof. This is the proposition that still differentiates us from other players in the market that offer either pathology or radiology services. We, on the other hand offer both pathology and radiology services and the whole list of tests under each category, including the most specialized ones.
For instance, a pregnant woman can have access to both blood tests and scans under a single roof in Vijaya, instead of going to two different places for each of these tests.
Even the smallest of our centres have a mix of basic radiology services along with pathology. The customer can be assured of convenience because of proximity to at least one of our many diagnostic centres, excellence and promptness of service.
Other players in the field have not gone beyond tier 1 cities while we have expanded into tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well, extending our services far and wide, without compromising quality, nor cutting corners in employing technology or high end equipment or the needed technical expertise to carry out diagnostic investigations.
Suprita: My team is a mix of loyal employees who have been with us from inception and have contributed to the growth of our brand to where it is today, and new and skilled professionals whom we have kept adding along the way.
Selection of employees for us has always been based on the nature of the person, his personality and outlook and the zeal for honest work, rather than educational qualifications, or the reputation of institutions where they might have been educated.
It is my practice to interact with my team regularly. Though there are hierarchies across the system, every employee’s idea is considered and given value. I ensure that I am approachable to employees even at the junior-most level of the organization.
Our employees are family to us. We own up the responsibility of taking care of their health and well-being by offering medical benefits and health insurance. We also have an ESOP structure in place, that allows us to reward people not only at the highest level in the hierarchy, but also those that have joined us at the executive level but have grown with us over the years.
Suprita: When you have a sure-footed aim and focus, no circumstance or setback can hamper your courage to keep going on. I always looked at adversity as an opportunity to rethink the approach to things, refurbish your strategy and press on with new resolve.
The key, I learned is never to give up and most importantly to learn from it and ensure it doesn’t reoccur. Through adversities, I have come out a stronger and more resilient person.
Suprita: Expanding from 7 centres in the early 90s, we can now proudly say that we are the only brand offering comprehensive services with a team of more than 200 expert doctors, an expanse of 86 centres and a growth rate that is fastest in the diagnostic space.
During the recent pandemic, Vijaya had actively supported the state government in conducting screening tests and efficiently publishing results on government portals. Most of the screening tests in the state during the peak time of the pandemic were carried out at our centres.
Vijaya believes in equal opportunity hiring and has an equal men-to-women employee ratio. Our company employs close to 2200 staff across all its centres, while regularly hiring new talent and creating employment opportunities. It is a matter of great pride and satisfaction to us that we are thus able to enrich lives and provide livelihood to those whom we gainfully employ.
Suprita: Success for us means maintaining and growing the trust that our customers have bestowed on us over the years. With our customers as the central focus in the growth of our company, we want to scale up our business at a steady pace while maintaining and improving our quality standards and the reputation of our brand.
Apart from being one among few players offering comprehensive services under one roof, we can boast of the highest growth rate in comparison to other players in the diagnostic space.
Suprita: Throughout my career, I have approached every occasion of success or failure with introspection of what went wrong and what we did right. Surveying at the situation and pausing to learn from it has always yielded us keen insights that have helped us excel and succeed each time.
After every breakthrough, I take stock of how we did things differently and pin down the innovative idea that propelled us to success. I believe that the success of any enterprise is the outcome of the collective genius and effort of the team. I am always conscious and appreciative of the team I head.
Suprita: In the immediate future, we aim for expansion driven by organic growth. The strategy might change to adding an inorganic mode of growth, if the prospective partner’s ideology, ethics, and style of business operations match Vijaya’s perspective of running the business.
We aim to concentrate and consolidate our presence in core geographies, while strategically expanding in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well, in geographies of interest to us.
Suprita: The most important virtue that an effective leader has to have is humility. Humility coupled with dedication, hard work and a burning zeal to make things happen is most essential for success.
I would say, the best way of leadership is leading by example and an ideal leader should practice what one preaches. This is the leadership style I have adopted throughout my career as a business leader.
An effective leader should be humble, honest, diligent, hardworking and must step out of one’s comfort zone to learn things from the grassroots level.
Suprita: The core ideal with which the company was started was to address the basic need of a person in pain to have all services in one place without the need of going to different places for different services. This basic need wasn’t addressed back then in the 1980s and hasn’t been sufficiently addressed by players in the diagnostic space even today. Meeting the patient at the point of his need is more important to us than making profit out of the business.
Vijaya has gladly given to the community the very best of medical services in the realm of diagnostics, consciously keeping costs affordable for common people.
We have eased the cumulative weight of unemployment by providing employment to 2200 people, while balancing the gender ratio right across the board, thereby contributing to the life and well-being of many.
Apart from its direct contribution to society as a service provider, Vijaya has actively participated in and contributed to CSR activities in the field of education, women empowerment, health and many others, both at as an organisation and at a personal level.
For us, it has been a labour of love and the trust we enjoy with clinicians and common people is evidence of it.