Ahmed Nashid | Founder and Chairman of ADK Group of Companies

Visionary pioneer of the healthcare industry of the Maldives, Mr Ahmed Nashid is the Founder and Chairman of ADK Group of Companies. As the recipient of this year’s Corporate Maldives Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr Nashid sat down with our team to chat about his journey — the challenges he has faced, the innovative approaches he takes in his business, and the various fields ADK Group has diversified into.

What inspired you to enter the healthcare industry, and what was your vision when you first started?

I have always had the desire to establish something of my own. My primary objective was to become self-sufficient so I do not need to depend on others, especially when it comes to providing for my family. Both my parents were my role models; they both worked very hard to meet ends. I learnt at a very young age that the key to success is through hard work and that nothing is impossible if you are determined.

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After leaving school, I strived to find a job to earn and save, to start something of my own one day. Building a vast business empire was neither my goal nor my plan when I entered the healthcare industry. I got into healthcare when I met Dr Pandian by chance and through our conversation, I shared my interest and vision in opening up a clinic in Male’ and offered him to work with me. I am ever so grateful for him for accepting my offer. When I started operating the clinic Dr Pandian was the first and the only doctor, and he played a key role in the conception stage to the transition into a full-fledged hospital — ‘ADK Hospital’ that you all know today.

I started my career in the merchant navy at the age of 17 and a few years later I met my future wife. It was she who encouraged me to leave my profession abroad and explore what I could do at home with my family. Taking her advice to heart, I was able to share my vision with Dr Pandian and convinced him to start the clinic.

In 1987, I obtained the license to run a clinic, then there were no specific regulations or guidelines on running a clinic. I didn’t want to confine my service solely within the boundary of a small clinic; I aspired to expand it to a more comprehensive medical care institute on a larger scale in the future.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced early on and how did you overcome them?

Lack of regulations in healthcare was one of the biggest challenges we faced at the start, even after 8 years of service when we transitioned from a clinic to a hospital, and it still is even today after 36 years. However, I must admit that with the passing of certain bills such as the ‘Healthcare Professional Act and Health Administrative Act’, we are seeing some progress in this regard.

We require varied specialities of healthcare professionals and technicians to provide quality care in a hospital setting, to find different specialities for the smooth functioning of the hospital in the niche fields and to recruit and sustain them. Developing strategies to attract and retain them is also not an easy task. Juggling and balancing the budget without compromising the quality is the major challenge we face given the high costs associated with medical equipment, staff salaries, and infrastructure maintenance.

In life, everything comes with challenges, and overcoming them takes a lot of time and effort. It’s tricky to always identify what is feasible, to allocate and manage resources efficiently and effectively within the limitations. In such situations we try to be proactive and innovative with a strategic mindset; be resilient to face setbacks and remain persistent in pursuing solutions. It’s crucial to maintain a positive attitude and inspire others to stay motivated during challenging times, especially in this field when the stakes are so high. Collaborative teamwork and fostering good relationships with other stakeholders like government authorities, healthcare professionals, and society members are vital to overcoming challenges. For instance, overcoming the recent COVID-19 pandemic is an inspiring example of such an effort.

What innovative approaches have you taken to improve healthcare access and delivery in the Maldives, and what impact have they had?

One important aspect to note is that healthcare is not just a product; it is a service. Therefore, we recognized the need to strike a balance between infrastructure development and investing in human capital, an area that was not given much attention then.

As a result of investment in human capital, we now have a team of highly skilled neurosurgeons, cardiac surgeons, and doctors of many other specialities and clinical fields, all trained with our support. This substantial investment in the development of healthcare professionals has positively impacted the quality and accessibility of specialized services within the country and has contributed to building public confidence.

As service providers, our current approach is to move away from traditional to more patient-centred care and service. To foster a culture of patient-centric care within the hospital we prioritize patient needs and satisfaction and try to encourage open communication, empathy, and respect among staff members towards patients and their families. We regularly assess patient feedback and address those issues to provide quality and patient-centred care, which is very challenging as it is a relatively new approach in the country.

Moreover, we are also developing areas which require more, and new investments based on the needs and demands of society. Over 36 years, we have carefully observed the areas with the greatest deficiencies in available healthcare services and directed our efforts towards addressing and continuing to address those needs. By continuously evaluating our practices, finding innovative solutions, and prioritizing patient-centred care we strive to maintain a balance between patients’ demands and fiscal requirements, and thus we have been able to make practical and significant improvements in delivering innovative healthcare services.

How have you been able to balance the business aspects of running a successful medical company with the need to provide high-quality, patient care?

Balancing the business aspects of running a medical company while ensuring high-quality patient care is indeed a challenging task. Our healthcare system provides services to individuals from various income levels, including middle-income, high-income, and ordinary individuals. While some patients may require extensive investigations and can afford them, others may find them to be costly and excessive. However, regardless of the patient’s financial situation, the nature and condition of their health can never be compromised.

To enhance our services and make them more efficient, we are continuously focusing on reducing the duration of hospital stays, consequently reducing the overall patient bills. For example, we were pioneers in introducing laparoscopic surgery, which significantly reduces the number of days patients need to stay in the hospital compared to conventional open surgeries.

Our approach involves considering both the cost and affordability of services while ensuring the highest standards of care. However, a significant portion of this burden has been addressed with the introduction of our national health insurance scheme. Through this scheme, everyone receives coverage, alleviating some of the financial difficulties patients may face.

Our recent introduction of ‘The Wellness Club’ is a good example of a balance between the business aspect of the company and focusing on patient wellbeing, because preventive healthcare is always better than cure. Over the years we have had programs on educating our society on healthy lifestyle choices, health awareness and health screenings towards achieving a holistic approach.

ADK Group has evolved and succeeded in several other significant fields. Could you tell us a little bit about these ventures and how the idea of diversification came about?

Diversification is a prudent strategy for any business. By engaging in multiple sectors under ADK Group, such as pharmaceuticals, general trading, logistics, education and tourism, we create a more resilient business portfolio. In an interconnected global world when we are faced with man-made crises and unforeseen natural disasters, it is quite risky putting all your eggs in one basket.

When one sector may experience a slowdown, another sector may be flourishing, which helps to mitigate risks and maintain stability. This approach has guided us in pursuing opportunities where we can afford to invest and contribute to various businesses, thereby allowing for mutual support and growth. Diversification ensures that if one sector faces challenges, we have other areas to rely on for support. Each business sector has its own dynamics, and by diversifying, we can balance the performance of different ventures.

Overall, diversification has been a fundamental principle in our business strategy, providing stability and opening doors to new opportunities across different industries.

What do you consider to be your greatest personal achievement?

Having over 1500 staff working under the umbrella of ADK Group, and being able to support not just the induvial but the well-being of their families, is something that gives me a sense of great satisfaction and achievement.

Having said this, my greatest personal achievement by far is navigating through the challenges of the demanding world we live in today. Despite the toxicity that surrounds us, I have managed to create a harmonious and loving family. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, amazing children, and supportive sons-in-law who bring immense joy to my life. They are my greatest source of pride and accomplishment.

What’s in store for the future of ADK Group? What’s next?

In the Maldivian market, there are still numerous opportunities to explore. The field of healthcare, in particular, offers endless possibilities with new innovative technologies and evolving treatment methods. We see ample room for improvement and growth in this sector.

One recent accomplishment is the development of Oaga Art Resort, which was both challenging and rewarding. We have introduced a unique and fresh experience for our guests. Our vision is to expand the Oaga Resorts brand and take it to the next level. We aim to establish it as a leading local brand, providing a wonderful blend of authentic local experiences and international five-star service.

While we are aware of our limitations, we believe that success often starts from humble beginnings, just like many renowned businesses that originated in garages. In the healthcare industry, for instance, we started with a small clinic, and over 36 years, we have become a leading healthcare provider. Similarly, in tourism, our journey has been challenging but fruitful, as we finally entered the market after 20 years of persistence.

However, we acknowledge that there is still a long way to go. We have a five-year plan in the tourism business to bring all the different experiences together, including local heritage, culture, art, and much more. Our aim is to create a beautiful brand that people will love and trust. We are excited about the future and the opportunities that lie ahead for us.

When reflecting on my journey from a humble beginning to what I am today, I am extremely grateful for the contribution made by my sincere and hardworking staff throughout this venture.

I have never forgotten the blessings from Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. I am grateful to Him for all his blessings.

‘This is by the grace of my Lord’, ‘Hadha min fadli Rabbi’ (Quran 27:40).

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