According to Gabrielle Seacy of AktivOrtho, there are so many smart, talented people in India and the government needs to do much more to support them. AktivOrtho is a New Delhi-based orthopedic rehabilitation, sports medicine and medical fitness center
Gabrielle Seacy and her husband co-founded AktivOrtho to bring Western standards of Comprehensive Orthopedic Rehabilitation to India. Ms Seacy, who studied in Ireland, had worked for 15 years in marketing and business management. She moved from Germany to Delhi with her husband Dr Gerd Mueller and their two young children in February 2012. In April 2012, they started AktivOrtho with a team of eight physiotherapists, which has now grown to 28 physiotherapists and sports therapists. Till now, Aktivortho has treated over 2,500 patients. The turnover of the company is Rs8 crore with a gross profit margin of 55%.
Read the excerpts of the interview with Hitisha Jain of Moneylife:
Hitisha Jain (ML): What gave birth to AktivOrtho? Why did you choose Delhi as your base?
Gabrielle Seacy (GS): I and my husband Dr Mueller, who is also the founder of AktivOrtho, decided to bring Western standards of Comprehensive Orthopedic Rehabilitation to India.
Delhi chose us it seems, as did India in fact. We had patients from Delhi coming to our centres in Germany asking “why don’t you do this in India – we have nothing like this here”. That’s where it started almost five years ago. For two years, we travelled to and from India to see how best to make this model work, meeting with potential partners etc. In fact, our chief executive Dr Rajen Ghadiok (MD), who joined us two months ago, was one of the first people we met back then.
ML: What inspired you to start an orthopedic rehabilitation centre? How is it different from other orthopedic clinics?
GS: What makes our philosophy different is that we take a very active approach (thus our name!) in our treatment process; we engage our patients from day one with counseling and support to teach them to be more active in their daily life. It is a process and there is no quick-fix. We take a long term approach – yes, they may come with a chronic problem and we first need to solve their immediate pain but also we need to undo what is most likely years of a sedentary life-style and gradually get them to build exercise into their daily routine. Daily exercise is as much a requirement of our daily life as good nutrition and drinking water. Having seen the immense need in India and realising how nascent rehabilitation medicine is here, we strongly felt we could make a difference. So, we came up with the concept of setting up AktivOrtho.
ML: What challenges you faced while shifting to India?
GS: Every country and a new start-up have its challenges, but we have been blessed with finding a great team of employees. It takes time to find them and train them but overall we have been happy with the standard of staff generally. Prior to starting this project in India, Dr Mueller was Chairman (and also Founder back in 2000) of the Rueckenzentrum Group in Germany, which has seven centers across Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen and Cologne. For family reasons and also just for the challenge, we decided to do this project. We both like India very much, the people, the culture and we felt our children too would be happy here. Thankfully it has worked out really well – we have a great network of followers and friends, who keep us motivated and inspired!
ML: Why according to you it is important to encourage women entrepreneurship in India?
GS: Entrepreneurship is really a state of mind and an attitude of “yes I can do this”. Belief in oneself along with a strong passion for what you do and wanting to really do it the best you can are the key pre-requisites to successful entrepreneurship. It is hard work and there are moments which are frustrating but nothing in life comes easy. Stay focused on your achieving your goal, work hard, and believe in yourself.
India is a vast country with a huge population and there needs to be much more entrepreneurship across all sectors. There are so many smart, talented people here – the government needs to do much more to support entrepreneurs through education, start-up funding, helping to expand/ export. There is quite a brain drain of smart young people, who seek to build their careers overseas but it’s these very people India needs to hold on to – they are the future of India, be they men or women.
Specifically on encouraging women to be entrepreneurs, that is of course a given, but much needs to be done to change the social mores, which tend to in fact, hold women back, especially in rural areas. It will happen, but it needs some education and example-setting.
ML: What was your initial start-up capital for starting this business? Did you get any support from Government or any other organisation?
GS: The initial capital has been brought in by us privately and we are still in the process of setting up the business and its allied processes. It was started with about three million Euros. We had some initial guidance from a German overseas business development organisation but apart from that, not very much.
ML: Is it challenging for you to be a woman entrepreneur?
GS: I think whether you are male or female we all have to prove ourselves and our competencies. It is of course challenging in one’s personal life when as a woman, I am trying to be a great mother as well as managing and growing the business. I have to confess it’s hard; there is a certain amount of guilt I carry about this…not being able to spend as much time with the children but when we are together it’s very intense and is real quality, family time.
I remember the excitement and enthusiasm Gerd and I shared over the years we were travelling frequently between Germany and India. That same excitement is there – it’s a feeling of achieving something good here; building a strong team with knowledge that can help a great many people to get better. What is life without good health? The very positive feedback from both staff and patients, who recognise and appreciate the difference we make, is the key driver. The challenge now is to expand and ensure access for all the Western standards of rehabilitation medicine. This will take time and requires a lot of education and quality management to maintain these standards but the results really do speak for themselves.
ML: You are from Information Technology (IT) background, did it help in anyway?
GS: Having come from the IT sector mainly, over the years I worked with many female and male leaders who inspired me – success does inspire success. Developing best practice habits learnt from those I’ve previously worked with and today, being open to learn from our staff and our clients around, gives me a lot of food for thought as to how I can develop and improve my skills and knowledge.
ML: You are handling the management aspect of the business, how are you dealing with day to day working operations?
GS: I could not live without my iPhone – it makes communication instant and helps me act quickly when I need to. I’m a massive believer in MS Excel – it gives me the overview I need for whatever function or activity and helps me to plan and organise myself better. My most commonly used phrase would be – “let’s structure this; let’s make an excel sheet for this project”. An abundance of patience is also important as well as a cool head and never taking things at face value…very important to assess things in detail.
ML: How do you see the future of your company?
GS: Our future plans would be to take this structured, comprehensive approach to rehabilitation medicine to other parts of the country by setting up more such rehabilitation medicine centers in the next couple of years. We need to conquer India first and then perhaps look at the Middle East and other parts of Asia who badly need our concept. So, the plan is to expand.
ML: What is your mantra for our women readers?
GS: Stay focused on your goal, believe in yourself and in what you are trying to achieve. Above all stay true to yourself, work with integrity and commitment. The rest will fall into place. Life is short; this is not a dress rehearsal – go for it!
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Seven fund houses, including ICICI Prudential MF, Reliance MF and UTI MF, which hold 3.93% stake in Maruti Suzuki would approach SEBI over the carmaker's deal with its Japanese parent
The stand-off between Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) and its investors, especially mutual fund houses, seems to be worsening as these institutional shareholders are now planning to approach market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) after the car maker failed to address their concerns.
Seven fund houses, including ICICI Prudential MF, Reliance MF and UTI MF, may again approach the company and also its Japanese parent Suzuki Motor Corp (SMC), over the proposed Gujarat project, say media reports.
According to reports, fund houses are planning to approach SEBI in a day or two with regard to their concerns over a proposed deal to transfer a Gujarat plant by MSIL to Suzuki.
These seven fund houses together hold 3.93% stake in MSIL, while 6.93% stake is held by state-run Life Insurance Corp of India (LIC), which has also sought certain clarifications from the company on the Gujarat plant matter.
Earlier in January, Suzuki decided to take over the setting up of a plant in Gujarat, proposed by its subsidiary MSIL. (Read: Maruti Suzuki: InGovern recommends voting against proposed arrangement with Suzuki)
The parent company would invest in the plant through wholly-owned unit Suzuki Motor Gujarat Pvt Ltd, which will manufacture vehicles exclusively for MSIL.
Mutual funds are opposing Suzuki’s move to make the proposed Gujarat unit its wholly-owned subsidiary as the deal would transform MSIL into a distribution company from a manufacturing one.
While SEBI is yet to hear officially from the fund houses, it is already looking into the matter on suo motu basis.
According to the new corporate governance norms, this deal can be construed as related party transaction requiring approval from public shareholders, but these new regulations are yet to come into force and would be effective from 1st October.
Last month, mutual fund houses had written a letter to Maruti Suzuki India chairman RC Bhargava highlighting investor concerns arising from the deal.
The fund houses in the letter had asked MSIL to again think over the decision as the same is clearly “neither fair nor in the interest of shareholders”.
Investors have shown concerns over turning this critical and highly profitable project into a 100 per cent subsidiary of Suzuki instead of MSIL.
They are of the view that the proposed deal is not in the interest of MSIL and its shareholders and would lead to significant erosion of value for the company.
Bengaluru-based InGovern Research Services also had advised shareholders of Maruti Suzuki, to vote against the country’s largest carmaker's proposal to enter into contractual arrangements for expansion with a 100% subsidiary of Suzuki, the dominant shareholder in the company. Japan-based Suzuki holds 56.2% stake in Maruti Suzuki.
Acting on a proposal sent by SMC, the board of Maruti Suzuki has agreed to an arrangement according to which expansion and production of the company branded cars will be undertaken by a 100% subsidiary of SMC on plots of land the carmaker had purchased in Gujarat in 2011. The subsidiary will produce vehicles in accordance with requirements of MSIL and will be sold only to the carmaker. The price of the vehicles to MSIL would include cost of production by the 100% subsidiary and adequate cash to cover incremental capital expenditure requirements. The return on this investment for SMC would be realised only through the growth and expansion of MSIL’s business. The subsidiary will always remain a 100% subsidiary of SMC.
According to InGovern, this is not a simple contract manufacturing arrangement, as the dominant shareholder of MSIL is 'the contract manufacturer' and can dictate the terms of any contractual arrangement.
The fund managers are also concerned over the royalty paid by Maruti to its Japanese parent. Besides, they have sought explanations on certain terms like incremental capex with respect to the deal.
Will Subrata Roy, who has defied regulators and courts thanks to his political backing, be finally brought to book?
Will Subrata Roy, ‘chief worker’ of the Sahara group have to be arrested to ensure his appearance in Supreme Court (SC) on 4th March? Will he, finally, understand the gravity of an unprecedented non-bailable warrant (NBW) issued by the SC and make an appearance without coercion? No. He has once again, employed the best legal brains in India to come up with more delaying tactics.
Most ordinary persons would not have dared to defy the SC once it had angrily rejected his plea for exemption from personal appearance, especially when he already faces restrictions on travelling abroad. However, the extraordinary Sahara saga that is being played out in multiple courts, for over three years, defies every rule in the book about fear and respect for judicial proceedings.
Even the NBW does not seem to have woken up this strange man with powerful friends among all of India’s movers and shakers. Immediately after the SC issued a NBW, the Sahara group released a letter from Sahara Hospital claiming that Mr Roy could not leave the bedside of his ailing mother. In effect, the man who usually flies private charters or helicopters could not leave the Hospital even for a couple of hours to remain present in court! The SC also has been extraordinarily patient with Subrata Roy. Its path-breaking order asking him to refund Rs20,000 crore to investors was back in August 2012.
That trial itself was marked by Sahara’s audacious strategy of making defamatory and contemptuous statements against the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) through full-page advertisements. This stopped only after SEBI, finally, hit back when Sahara went too far and called it a ‘sarkari gunda’. Meanwhile, Sahara’s battery of lawyers kept trying to delay compliance though endless appeals.
Until the SC put Sahara’s claims about the funds collected, repaid and the identity of its investors under the lens, none of India’s investigative agencies, nor the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), had dared to examine the endless source of a large gush of money.
There is also no clarity on what the group has paid in terms of service tax, income tax or to the provident fund, although it claims to employ hundreds of thousands of people. Even today, the SC is only looking at two specific companies that raised over Rs20,000 crore through a synthetic instrument called optionally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs) that were made to appear like financial paper that was under regulatory scrutiny and oversight.
As Moneylife has written earlier, nearly Rs20,000 crore raised by the two Sahara realty entities was to be managed by a tiny partnership firm of the promoters called M/S Sahara India. The documents submitted to the Supreme Court show this clearly; but it would not be a surprise if all the money, claimed to be raised by the Sahara pariwar from tiny investors, is similarly controlled.
How has Sahara avoided investigation and scrutiny by our revenue, intelligence and investigation agencies over the decades? That is a mystery that even a SC order may not solve. Maybe Arvind Kejriwal can.