The year was 2006. At 7:30pm on a winter night, just as I was packing up to leave for home, the pipeline transporting oxygen from the gas plant in the back of the hospital broke. In an event of one in a million probability, the back-up pipe broke too. We had four hours of emergency-reserve oxygen—in cylinders—in the hospital.
Plan A: Bring in more cylinders, while the pipeline gets repaired. We rushed to implement this plan. Alas! It was late in the day, and the supply in Delhi was bleak. Bringing in cylinders from the storage plants outside the city would take a few hours. And it wouldn't be enough anyway.
My experiences and gave me two things: a restlessness to feel that I should start something of my own, and the confidence to actually do it.
We knew we had to get to Plan B without losing any time.
Plan B: Repair the pipe ASAP. Problem, it was too late in the day. By the time the welders would show up, troubleshoot the problem, and fix the leak, we would be out of the reserve supply.
My anxiety, which despite my best attempts to hide it, caught the eyes of one of the technicians—an in-house go-to guy for debugging software, servicing medical equipment, and most things in between and he said something. Not in words, but by dropping his backpack, rolling up his sleeves, and gesturing to me: let's go. Then he said out loud, very tentatively, "Ma'am, I have watched the welders enough number of times. We have the welding machine lying in the basement. All I need is a helper and a cylinder of cooking gas." What followed was nothing short of Herculean. Two of my technicians on a rickety ladder, 15 feet from the ground, one holding the cylinder and the other welding the broken pipe, for the next three hours, while I stayed at the bottom of the ladder—mostly for moral support. Meanwhile, I made arrangements for two backup workers so that they could work in 30-minute shifts and switch roles. Needless to say, we did not run out of oxygen. The welding was done in time, with an hour of reserve supply still to go.
Also, a new management principle was coined, "Leading from the bottom." Literally, and metaphorically.
The hospital was none other than Max Super Specialty in Saket, New Delhi. I was the general manager of the hospital. Coincidentally, at that time I was also a single mother of two, coaching one of them through a school-crisis over the phone while the gas pipeline saga—and my self-discovery as a leader—was unfolding.
Next morning, we did a small prayer ceremony and "prashad" at the hospital, and "celebrated" the deed of the night before. Later that year, the chairman's award went to my welding heroes.
Let's rewind the tape. My father was an engineer, and my mother, a school principal. Growing up in what felt like a very privileged upbringing—the pride and fiscal priorities of my middle-class parents were obviously well-placed—I finished my 12th grade in Ludhiana, and my medicine degree from Patiala, in 1988. After a series of short stints at various clinics and hospitals, I finally arrived at Max in 2002. Little did I know that this assignment and what was to follow would become my de-facto school for my leadership training. I started as the medical head at the new day care ten-bed clinic. Working very closely with the founder and chairman, I went on to launch and run each of the ten new hospitals of Max Healthcare, over the next ten years.
Some journeys in life are best undertaken to reach a destination. Some, on the other hand, are best done for the joy of the journey.
Alongside this intense journey, I also attended the General Management Program (GMP) at Harvard. My one learning from that: having the luxury of working with a demanding boss and a great coach has no substitute—Harvard included (despite all the phenomenal learnings I had during the GMP).
After this, I spent four years at Fortis—launching and running their flagship hospital, the FMRI.
My experiences and gave me two things: a restlessness to feel that I should start something of my own, and the confidence to actually do it. It would mean leading from the bottom up again.
I took the plunge and the financial risk, nearly a year ago, and launched a healthcare concierge service that eliminates the hassle from healthcare by addressing the key friction points.
Some journeys in life are best undertaken to reach a destination. Some, on the other hand, are best done for the joy of the journey. For me, the latter comes from simplifying life—part by my andaaz towards problems, and towards their source a nazar-andaaz.