Kerala has several ayurvedic resorts offering various life style treatment combining the age old ayurveda treatment practices with business of tourism. However, Dr A V Anoop, Managing Director of AVA Cholayil Group, has set up a full-fledged 110-bedded multi-speciality hospital in Kochi that combines the ancient science of Ayurveda with diagnosis done through modern equipments and devices. Dr Anoop is part of a family with a 400 year old tradition in ayurveda and he was instrumental in reviving the Medimix Soaps that had gone into closure 36 years ago. He told Sreekumar Raghavan of Corporate Ethos that the new hospital venture is the AVA Group’s effort to give back something to the science of Ayurveda after creating a world famous soap brand, Medimix, using the wisdom handed down from generations in India.
Dr Anoop is a versatile personality having taken the lead in diversifying the business with the acquisition of Melam food brand and quite successful in film production and real estate business. Excerpts from the interview:
# AVA Cholayil Group is known world over for its flagship brand Medimix, the premier ayurvedic soap in the country. Now, what was the motivation behind launching a full-fledged integrated ayurveda hospital, Sanjeevanam?
We belong to a family that has a 400-year tradition in Ayurveda. Our ancestors were all ayurvedic practitioners. The founder of Medimix soap Dr VP Sidhan was an ayurvedic doctor and had done research in this ancient system of medicine. Medimix soap itself contains 18 ayurvedic medicines and our group grew on the strength of this brand, enabled us to make money. This concept of a hospital was born when we thought of giving something back to ayurveda based on which we achieved so much growth. This is not meant as a profit making excercise. Our intention is to popularise ayurveda in an ethical manner giving treatment to only those who need it, not mislead them. In modern medicine, hospital services have become corporatised and money minded.That is why we didn’t start an ayurvedic resort like other business groups have done. Although there is potential for blending it with tourism industry. We have a boating facility nearby which can take you to Marine drive and back.
# What is the philosophy behind Sanjeevanam?
As I told you, the objective of this holistic medicine project is not money making. Our intention is to give back to ayurveda something in return and that benefits society because our group has grown on the strength of ayurveda. We expect the IT industry nearby to use our services as many of them work for long hours in front of computers and develop lifestyle problems. We are also looking at patients coming from abroad to use our services and they can also combine sight seeing. Health is not the absence of disease. It is when your mind, body and soul are fully healthy you attain wellness. The meaning of Sanjeevanam means rebirth, this is a place where you can get a rebirth in terms of health and vitality.
#There is a controversy over a proposal by the government in Kerala to give training in surgery to ayurveda doctors? How do you view this development?
Now surgeons in USA and other nations have recognised the contribution of Susruta to art of surgery 2000 years ago. For eg. Dr Michael Caskey, Cardiac Surgeon from Texas has spoken about the principles of surgery set out in his original manuscript. Surgery was performed by Susrata when it was not heard of in Europe and also done without giving anaesthetic.
However, present day ayurveda physicians are not familiar with surgery. When we are integrating modern medicine in our hospital, we are using their best in class diagnostic devices and expertise. Our Medical Director is an orthopaedic surgeon Dr P Ravi. We are not combining allopathy and ayurveda. There are certain treatments not possible in modern medicine which Ayurveda can handle better. But there are cases which we can’t handle, for eg. a patient who has met with an accident and needs drastic help to save his or her life. We have to refer such cases to a hospital that provides modern medicine and surgery specialities. Integration of medicine doesn’t mean a patient taking medicine from different systems at a time. We don’t prescribe allopathy medicines.
#What is different about Sanjeevanam compared to other ayurveda treatment centres?
We have about 60-70 doctors and therapists here. Here we have done introduced the concept of ‘Consultancy’ as in allopathic hospitals. A specialist based in Thiruvanathapuram or Kozhikode or any other place can use our consultancy room, diagnostic and treatment facilities and this gives our patients a better choice of specialists to consult. We also have a facility to make our own fresh medicine here based on the ingredients we have sourced. A branded medicine may have ingredients in a particular ratio and volume and if a patient needs a particular ingredient more or may be less, we can customise the medicine in our hospital itself.
#What about the availability of the quality herbs to make drug formulations?
We have sufficient supplies of medicine and some farmers are cultivating herbs for us based on our requirements. However, generally speaking there is a huge variation in quality of medicine available.Medicines used in hospitals go through 53 checks and differences may arise due to quality of herbs, expertise of those preparing it and in what quantity ingredients are used. When it comes to branded medicine some manufacturers are more conscious about price than quality. That is a big issue. For eg. gulgulu, sometimes we are afraid about the genuineness as outwardly it is not easy to recognise a genuine and a fake one.Government is promoting cultivation of herbs and giving incentives, therefore, getting herbs and medicinal plants may not be an issue. The real issue is with respect to its quality.