Dr Sanjay AroraFounder and MD of Suburban Diagnostics

  • Dr Sanjay Arora is the Founder and Managing Director of Suburban Diagnostics India Private Ltd (SDIPL) since 1994.
  • Network labs and diagnostic centers across Maharashtra, Goa, MP and Chhattisgarh.
  • Serving over 9000 patients daily with a team of 1200 people.
  • Accredited by NABL and CAP (College of American Pathologists).
  • SDIPL provides Comprehensive Diagnostic Services including Pathology, Radiology, Cardiology and Preventive Health Checkups


1. What is the mandate given to you by the Board?

Staying medically relevant, impacting health outcome, unburden healthcare and profitable growth

2. How much of that has been achieved?

We continue to build testing capabilities that will keep us relevant and accessible, in adding value to the medical fraternity and consumers. This is work in progress as we have seen spurts of growth alongside a ‘U’ curve in our profitability. We are now on an upward curve in both testing capabilities and growth with profitability.


3. What are the key challenges your organization is facing? Both immediate and long term. And what steps you are taking to overcome?

Skilled professionals outside the core medical domain continues to be an evolutionary process. We also find human resource scarcity in few areas of medical specialties like radiology and paramedical staff in diagnostics. Standardization of services across a distributed network is another area of improvement. The diagnostic market is fragmented and standards for the industry, while defined, are not enforced. This eliminates any entry barrier for new entrants making for an unregulated marketplace.

We have set up our own paramedical training institute, and a lot of internal focus on training to overcome the human resource challenges.

We are also working with industry bodies like NAT Health for bringing more regulation into the system.

4. How have the Pandemic/technology/globalization/economy affected your sector?

The pandemic has brought a lot of focus on healthcare overall and diagnostics in particular. Everyone knows what a RTPCR test is. Diagnostics has the ability to impact over 70% of medical decisions at less than 10% of overall cost, as well as span the entire health continuum of a patient. The positive attention towards individual health and diagnostics augers well for the industry in the next decade. I believe diagnostics has the ability to make a paradigm shift in healthcare by focusing on early diagnosis, at a stage where cure and even prevention is possible.


5. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw the balance between home grown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?

We have a healthy mix of home-grown talent as well as lateral hires. It allows for an opportunity to learn from each other on the nuances of the healthcare industry while adopting best practices from more evolved industries. We look at hiring people with the right attitude towards precision and care, while giving an opportunity for upskilling and career progression. Our leadership team includes 50% home grown talent and 50% lateral hires, with over 30% women representation. Overall, we have close to 60% women in the organization.

6. How does your organization identify and develop future leaders?

Leadership development is an ongoing learning process. As a founder, I am constantly trying to become a better version of myself by being involved with various leadership programs. I share my learnings with my team which helps them as well.

We are looking at building a structured leadership development program from middle management up to senior leadership.


7. Every crisis is a learning opportunity, what lessons have you picked up from Covid?

The lessons from covid include leading from the front to bring a sense of solidarity when facing fear and the unknown. Of binding people with a common sense of purpose. Of learning the importance of agility in thinking and inclusive leadership. Of learning to prepare for the future – our investment in molecular diagnostics few years ago made us relevant during the pandemic. Of resilience and persistence (of effort), in getting where we want to be – from 150 PCR tests per day to 4500 tests per day within 6 months. Of looking after yourself and your team, to enable you to look after the things that matter. Of building trust as the foundation for empowerment which eventually leads to outcomes and results.

8. In a world full of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity (VUCA), innovation has become one of the most important factors to transform a crisis into an opportunity. How do you promote Innovation?

Covid has taught us the importance of always staying prepared. As we enter a new decade, what can we do to stay relevant until 2030? Technology and innovation go hand in hand. I have taken the ownership of driving innovation under my wing, while the day-to- day operations are handled by the professionals.


9. How do you define and practice leadership?

Leadership for me has been a gradual learning process, initially learning mostly from my mistakes. However, as I met more leaders, I learnt by trying to emulate them. I am a constant student of leadership and have had the opportunity to be coached by some global gurus. I use these inputs with me team and encourage them to do the same with their respective teams. I am constantly trying to be a better version of myself.


10. We see many Indian leaders on the global stage. How can more Indian leaders become Global Leaders?

Indians have done well at the global stage, with many IT companies and consumer companies led by global Indians. We bring a good sense of humility and the desire to learn as our core values. However, we can perhaps get better by learning to manage our emotions. While emotional intelligence is essential for a leader, it should be tempered.


11. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you learned from and/or that got you where you are today?

When I started my company, the first 10 years was a huge learning experience, especially since I had never run an enterprise. Doing things with my own hands was the biggest learning experience for me, that holds me in good stead every day.

Getting out of my comfort zone to grow the business – when we started our first comprehensive diagnostic center, 10 years after our inception, I had to move from behind the microscope to the other side. This was the trigger for our growth and expansion, both with people and infrastructure.

When we received funding, we had to grow rapidly. We made a lot of mistakes by not listening to our instinct and focused only on growth, letting profitability slip. No one knows your business better than you yourself.

12. What message would you like to share with young professionals?

Young professionals today know what they want – it is important to connect them with a sense of purpose and discipline. They are technologically native which is a huge advantage. However, keeping a focus on human relationships is equally important.