28 May 2021 20:10 IST

Metropolis: Tried and trusted during tough times

The diagnostic company has been at the forefront of bringing latest technological advancements to India

As India continues to battle a virulent second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the healthcare infrastructure is straining to cope with the load of new cases. Aiding them in this strenuous task, right from the beginning, are medical laboratories which have undertaken the job of responsible testing and diagnosis. One of the first few labs to be commissioned for Covid-19 testing, Metropolis Healthcare, a leading chain of Indian diagnostic companies, has been in the forefront of the Covid-19 battle.

The company, which has its central laboratory at Mumbai, was first established as ‘Dr Sushil Shah’s Laboratory’ by Dr Sushil Kanubhai Shah in his garage in 1981. It rapidly gained a good name and began clinical research services in 1992. Dr Sushil Shah wished to bring to the Indian people the latest technological advancements; and reportedly, his lab was one of the first in India to offer thyroid, fertility and hormone tests.

Origins

But its real growth started in 2001, when the founder’s daughter Ameera Shah took charge and the company was renamed Metropolis. Her father had wished to grow beyond Mumbai and spread across India and she set about translating this dream into reality. Realising that just like her father’s lab, there were other reputed labs in other cities, she took the inorganic route to expansion.

Ameera Shah, Managing Director, Metropolis

 

The Home Service Vertical was launched even as Ameera Shah scouted around for possible independent labs to tie up with. The first such partnership happened in 2004 with Lister Laboratory in Chennai. Other partnerships followed with Sudharma in Kerala and Desai Laboratories in Surat. In 2005, when research showed that Sri Lanka was outsourcing its medical requirements to Singapore, Metropolis stepped in and offered good quality testing at cheaper prices in India. Nawaloka Metropolis at Sri Lanka was followed by a foray into the Middle East in 2006 and Africa in 2007. It would, over the years, go on to forge about 25 partnerships.

Metropolis’ USP was the technical expertise and research behind the number of tests it offered. When venturing into any new partnership within the country or entering another country, the company laid its groundwork carefully, studying the work ethic, quality of testing, consumer behaviour, pricing and local laws and regulations, and entered into agreements only when the ‘Metropolis’ stamp of quality was met.

This benchmark underlying its rapid expansion saw various hospitals outsourcing their medical tests to Metropolis. Even as it set up more labs within Mumbai, it continued expanding into other cities and countries.

Any laboratory worth its name needs to have excellent phlebotomists (collection agents) for proper and sensitive collection, tagging, handling, transportation and storage of samples; lab technicians for testing and data compilation; and experienced pathologists and doctors to analyse and give their conclusions for the report. While Metropolis had all these, the continued expansion necessitated the hiring of people for other purposes like customer care, marketing, purchase and management.

Bolstering growth

Even as employee strength grew, the company, with much forethought, went in for global accreditation of its laboratories. In 2004, it got its first accreditation from the National Accreditation Board of Testing and Calibration Laboratories, while in 2005 it got accredited by the prestigious College of American Pathologists.

The next and natural step was to integrate all its laboratories and ensure standardisation of tests - for early detection, diagnostic screening, confirmation and tracking — across them. It is said that diagnostic reports are the basis for more than 70 per cent of medical decisions and Metropolis, with its team of 200 doctors and pathologists, stepped up to offer accuracy, reliability and consistency. A standard operating procedure (SOP) was implemented, which includes a 149-step process and a three-step verification policy before a report is given out. This is in keeping with the founder’s advice to "Treat each sample as if it was (sic) your mother’s.”

From being a ₹7 crore company with just one lab and about 500 tests in 2002, the organisation has today expanded to become one of the leaders in its field with over 1,500 collection centres and a range of more than 4,000 tests, including specialised tests, performed across seven countries at its 125+ laboratories.

 

 

A Metropolis lab in Chennai

 

 

Results and reports from these laboratories are formatted and stored in an easily retrievable cloud-based information management system. Metropolis also has a downloadable app, through which patients can select tests, pay online, set the date for sample collection (the only physical part of the process), upload prescriptions, download reports and consult pathologists.

Metropolis also offers Wellness Solutions (executive health check-ups, employee health plans) and analytical and support services to clinical partners. Its clients include not just individuals and hospitals but also doctors, consultants and other network laboratories.

Metropolis reported a turnover of ₹856 crores in 2019-20. It recently acquired Chennai-based Dr Ganesan’s Hitech Diagnostic Centre Pvt Ltd with more than 30 labs and 60 collection centres.

Awards and recognition

Both Metropolis Healthcare and its charismatic MD have won many awards. While Forbes named Ameera Shah one of ‘Asia's Power Business Women’, Fortune India Magazine ranked her within the top 50 "India's Most Powerful Women in Business" in both 2017 and 2018. The company won the ‘Diagnostic Services Company of the Year’ award given by Frost and Sullivan in 2010. The World Consulting and Research Corporation named it “India's Most Promising Brand” in 2014.

But what is heartwarming is the number of CSR awards it has received, including the ‘Health Awareness Campaign of the Year.’ The company conducts camps and workshops and partners with several institutions to promote awareness and good health among different sections of society. ‘TruHealth’ is a wellness project comprising preventive screening and diagnosis and covering 36 cities. ‘Conquer PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)’ is an awareness programme targeted at women in the reproductive age.

 

 

 

 

Its ‘Too shy to ask’ gender awareness app for youngsters provides accurate information on delicate issues like sexual & reproductive health, vaccinations and more. This has won the eighth India CSR Award 2020 (India CSR Awards, 2020) and fourth CSR Health Impact Awards 2020 (COVID-19 Edition) organised by IHW Council.

‘Empoweress’ offers networking support and mentoring sessions for women business owners and ‘MedEgage’ is an academic program offering scholarships and assistance in research to medical students. Both of these initiatives have won the CSR Times Editor’s Choice Award 2020 at the National CSR Times E-summit and Awards 2020.