“Stay true to yourself, work with integrity & commitment,” says Gabrielle Seacy of AktivOrtho

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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    Maruti's deal with Suzuki: Mutual fund houses to approach SEBI

    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.

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    FDI in Railways: specific areas in which the funding will help

    It is never too late to buy the latest and most modern equipment available, to get the job done in the Railways and the funding through FDI can help in this

    Recently, Moneylife carried a story on the prospects of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Indian Railways. As mentioned therein, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion had felt that the Railway Ministry's response to the draft cabinet note was confusing and therefore, it needed some more clarifications before further action could be taken. This is likely to take some more time, but in the meanwhile, it would help matters to review and consider what areas FDI participation would truly help India.


    According to information available, rail wagons are designed to carry a load of pre-defined capacity plus nine tonnes with leeway to load one more tonne without any overload penalty across the entire railway network, as per the interim budget, presented recently.


    The average load carried per wagon is about 62 tonnes though some wagons carry about 67 tonnes. As per a railway official, as reported in the press, a capacity creation of 15 million tonnes (mt) will account for about 30% of the 50 mt incremental loading that the railways aim to move during 2014-15. They have set a target to achieve 1,101 mt of cargo to be moved in this fiscal year.


    However, in order to carry higher load per wagon, the Railways need to invest in wagons, improve rail tracks and bridges. For this purpose, Railways propose a market borrowing of Rs12,800 crore against Rs14,000 crore last year, to procure rolling stocks, including wagons, locomotives and coaches. Should the need arise, they will revise the target and borrowing accordingly.


    One of the biggest problems that Railways have faced continuously is the issue relating to extension of rail-track laying, for which there are no indigenous technology or capacity. In fact, worldwide, there are only a few companies who can do this job meticulously and who are in great demand. The three principal companies are reported to be Harsco Corporation of the US, ETF of France and China Railway Shanghai Design Institute Group Company. The railway track laying machines are manufactured by the above three major companies, who, on obtaining overseas contracts, bring in their equipment, lay the track, complete their job on schedule, and take back the equipment, to another location for a new assignment!


    Readers may recall that for the Eastern Railway Freight Corridor, according to information available, there are 16 bidders, both Indian and foreign, but most of whom have taken supporting bids from two of the above named specialists in the field. This corridor is likely to be completed in four years' time after the award.


    According to an official of the Railways, as reported in the media, there are 35,000 route Kms that cover 70% of rail lines engaged in carrying freight allow for higher carrying capacity. The load per wagon will increase only by about 2 tonnes, as the routes currently permit 2 tonnes less loads per wagon. But to do so, Railways will have to make an incremental investment of Rs2,000 crore to replace old tracks and engage in upgrades in some areas.


    With these data in the background, it is hoped, that when the final directives are outlined for the FDI in Railways, the following factors will also play a vital role in the development:


    a) to engage in serious joint venture discussions to actually start manufacturing the track laying machinery in India itself - need and scope for continuous exists for a few decades to come;


    b) to have a separate joint venture with the same FDI (or the second company) to take contracts for fresh track laying and to renew the old and worn out ones that need to be replaced for improvement and safety;


    c) to have a separate organisation only for maintenance and repairs of all railway tracks in the country


    d) current passenger coaches are mostly (almost 95-98%) in single decks only; double-decker passenger coaches area novelty; since in many areas the traffic is high, double-deckers would help faster movement


    e) if Railways do not have a separate division for procurement of land in the proposed areas for laying tracks and stations, this should be established as a separate entity


    All these and more and innovative ideas will take at least a decade or more to accomplish, but it is time we set the goals right and focus to reach those objectives. Just in passing reference may be made that a few years ago, these track laying machines cost between Rs10 crore and Rs30 crore, and why these were not purchased by the Ministry of Railways is a serious issue that they can only answer, since these would be more expensive now. But it is never too late to buy the latest and most modern equipment available, to get the job done!


    (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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    5 years ago

    Undoubtedly Railway is the backbone of transport system of the India. Prompt decision making and implementation of above mentioned suggestion is the need of the hour.
    Productive Article.

    jaideep shirali

    5 years ago

    The suggestions are very useful, most importantly that we should seriously consider manufacture of track laying equipment. If we could make LCA, launch vehicles or ships, I'm sure that our engineers could make track laying equipment. As far as capital is concerned, if the Indian Railways spends less resources on activities unrelated to its business, more internal resources could be used instead of market borrowings. An increase in rail freight movement would really benefit our economy.

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