Three years ago homecare was unheard of in the Abu Dhabi health services sector and so Al Shakaili established Venecia Health Services in 2010 to address the need he had identified.
Original Broadcast by Zawya BusinessPulse 21May13
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In most countries around the world, health and education services provide a raft of entrepreneurial opportunities. Emirati entrepreneur Ibrahim Al Shakaili suspected this to be the case in the UAE’s capital –so set about conducting market research in the two sectors and identified a niche in the health sector. Three years ago homecare was unheard of in the Abu Dhabi health services sector and so Al Shakaili established Venecia Health Services in 2010 to address the need he had identified.
“I started with the concept of training and consultancy and was advised by friends that home care was the new aspect to focus on, something we should start to look into, so we did our initial study and found that the market is thirsty for home care. Now, we are the pioneers of home care in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
Venecia started with three to five nurses – a number that has grown to more than 30, in addition to 65 staff members. It currently provides homecare for 30 patients, as well as running a fully-equipped physiotherapy rehabilitation center based in Abu Dhabi. Some of its homecare patients require 12 to 24-hour visits by care workers and, in the near future, Venecia will be serving 120 patients in Al Ain alone. So how will Al Shakaili achieve this? Firstly, he said, he ensured Venecia was established as a brand rather than a single unit – this provided the initial scope for expansion. Secondly, he has put a specific expansion plan in place.
In phase one, the company is expanding to a number of different locations around Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, redistributing its policies and procedures. A second growth stream expansion drive will see its service space adapt to its newly expanded environment. Currently the company receives referrals from hospitals for patients who require care. While Venecia can appoint a nurse or physiotherapist to conduct care at home, Al Shakaili added that he will soon be able to cater for certain niche services; such as ambulatory transport and patient escort facilities.
The company will also be expanding its offering to include an a la carte menu of services. Ideally, Al Shakaili said, this will extend its network further into the market, above and beyond the Thiqa patients it currently services. “The market is big – bigger than Thiqa – and there are lots of people that require the service and they’re not covered by insurance. We’re thinking of the different methods by which we can support the needs of home care services,” he said. The gap in the market for this, he continued, has arisen due to the numerous different health insurance packages, with each package covering different health needs. For example, one insurance package might cover homecare and physiotherapy, while another may not.
While his brand may be taking on the health market competitively, the entrepreneur doesn’t originally have a medical background, having studied geographic information systems (GIS) in Australia. He worked for the armed forces in this domain for a while, and then continued in his career in an outsourcing arm of the forces that focuses on business development. While the latter helped him develop the business acumen he needed to establish his brand, engineering “gave me the tools to manage my life”, he said.
So what advice does Al Shakaili have for start-ups and entrepreneurs, or those looking to break into the market? “My main advice is first of all to follow the strict regulations of HAAD [the Health Authority Abu Dhabi]... The second thing is that quality of services is a number one priority. There are a lot of providers, but at the end of the day the one who stands out is the one who provides the best service; and you always have to think of the welfare of your patients.”