02 Feb In Conversation with Dr. Parveez Ubed
What has been the journey like for you?
After completing my post-graduation in 2007, I started my career in a general hospital where I worked for 3 months but soon realised that this was not what I wanted to do. So, started working with an NGO and a year and over 10,000 patients later, I decided to move on to working in the government sector. It was this experience that crystallised into the single principle on which we based the operations of ERC. I realised that the base-level of the pyramid needs to be treated like a market and with dignity. For many of us, buying a pair of eyeglasses only boils down to what kind of frame should we buy for the budget that we have. There is a large segment of the population that cannot even afford them. Today, ERC has provided services to more than 1.5 lakh people in Assam and the rest of the North East. After starting two hub hospitals in Nagaon and Sivasagar, ERC started its third hub in Tezpur on 25 January 2018. This hub will cater to the needs of Sonitpur district, saving residents the need to travel long distances and spend a lot of money to get good quality eye care.
Many congratulations Dr. Ubed for the launch of the third hub in Tezpur. What was the founding vision of ERC?
I started treating patients from home and also used to drive to villages to treat. Till 2015, I was the only ophthalmologist while today, ERC now over 6 ophthalmologists, 25 optometrists and 100 people working full-time. I guess the founding vision was not just helping people but investing in the right people then whom I could trust and work with to achieve the ERC vision. We all come each day to work simply because we find happiness in what we are doing. Our broad mission has always been to provide accessible, affordable and quality eye care to our patients.
What were the challenges and how was ERC supported?
We have faced our share of challenges. ERC needed substantial capital to manage its operations. You know then, there was support from investors like you (Ennovent). The first round of funding put us on the map. ERC opened up our first and subsequently second hospital, and with the follow-on investment now, we had the recent launch of the third hospital in Tezpur. Other challenge would be finding the right people for the job. Due to the scarcity of trained manpower in the North-East region. We have now our own internal skill development programme where locals from Assam and neighbouring states are selected and sent for technical training outside the North-East. We have trained more than 25 people under this programme so far, who are all now working with ERC full-time.
What would you define as success for ERC and how do you plan to get there?
I’ll have to say that way we operate has helped us stay ahead of the game. Throughout this journey, we went about with a simple business model – we asked patients what they can pay for the treatment required. We would then take this quote and figure out if it was a doable sum. Our system of operations is structured to be — simple, intensive and impactful. Today, ERC has a local team of more than 100 people, with 7 eye surgeons who have received training at and worked in various eye hospitals across India and Nepal, with a combined experience of more than 65,000 eye surgeries.
Talking about success would be too early, as we have a long way to go and this is just the beginning. We are looking at expanding across the border — countries such as Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. We share similar cultural roots, making it easier to set-up base and hand out eye care in these regions. In the long term, we see ERC expanding across South-East Asia.