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BW Businessworld

A Game Of Passion

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In his early 20s, Shivinder Mohan Singh would mask his real age to look mature. At 36, the managing director of Fortis Healthcare is among corporate India's youngest leaders. He has been managing the business along with elder sibling Malvinder, and people take him seriously.

In his New Delhi bungalow reflective of Southern Californian architecture, and over a bowl of spinach soup, Shivinder denounces the notion of following any managerial methodology. "I am a firm believer in not running by management clichés," he says. "Everything can't be boxed into simple terms. My take on what I do and what I expect from people within the organisation is passion in what they do," explains a self-confessedly impatient Shivinder.

It is the kind of passion that he sees in the people who inspired him with their vision: Dr Prathap C. Reddy of Apollo Hospitals and Dr NareshTrehan of Medanta.

The company's strategy, however, has come under some criticism. The acquisition of Fortis's international business, for instance, was panned by analysts in September this year. The objective of the Rs 3,150-crore deal is exploiting long-term operational synergistic benefits, but analysts worry about the profitability of the international firm. The company's stock price has also crashed — from Rs 149 on 19 September to Rs 98.10 on 15 December.

But Shivinder is undeterred. "My hope is that there should be a strong Fortis spot within a radius of 150-200 km across India," he says. "Part two of that is making available a health facility within 30-40 km." He believes they could potentially be an emerging markets organisation, very strong in markets where healthcare is not as developed and where cost is an issue.

"Shivinder's domain knowledge and his ability to cut through complicated issues backed by his sharp problem-solving skills are his greatest assets," says Sunil Godhwani, who heads Religare Enterprises promoted by the Singh brothers. Godhwani also points to Shivinder's people management skills. Take the Wockhardt acquisition. "The entire process, specially around people integration, was completed very professionally," says Godhwani, a family friend for years. "Vishal Bali, who was the CEO of Wockhardt is today the Fortis global CEO; that demonstrates Shivinder's ability to empower his colleagues and pick the right man for the job."

So what does Shivinder see his job as? "I believe if you want to do more things in life, you (should) rather have someone else do what you can do," he says. "Right now, I'm just eyes and ears and basically a touch-point for everyone, meeting doctors, patients and the management."

And he has fun doing it. Over the supper table is a life-size painting of four young boys by renowned artist Jitish Kallat. "That's a special one," he says. "I have four young boys and this reflects all the badmashi in our house."

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 26-12-2011)