Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru (ANK)

Mangaluru, Jul 2: Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, popularily known as Dr B R Shetty, is the founder and non-executive chairman Abu Dhabi-based NMC Healthcare, Middle East's largest integrated private health care provider, and chairman of UAE Exchange, one of the leading money transfer, foreign exchange and payment solutions company. He was listed in Forbes Asia Magazine as one of the top business leaders in the Arab world and also as one among India's 100 richest people.

Dr B R Shetty, who hails from Kaup in Udupi, was born to Shambhu Shetty and Koosamma Shetty in a traditional Tuluva family. A rare entrepreneur who believes in giving back to society in multiple folds, Dr Shetty is now engaged in the task of providing world-class hospitals to his hometown, in the form of Koosamma Shambhu Shetty Memorial Haji Abdullah Mother and Child Hospital and Shambhu Shetty Memorial Haji Abdullah Super Speciality Hospital under BRS Health & Research Institute Pvt Ltd, the foundations for which were laid by chief minister Siddaramaiah and President Pranab Mukherjee respectively.

In a first, the well-known NRI entrepreneur spoke in an exclusive interview to editor-in-chief Walter Nandalike on Daijiworld 24X7 channel's 'Public Challenge' programme.


Q: Congratulations on the grand foundation stone laying ceremony for the super-speciality hospitality in Udupi. There was a lot of objection regarding Udupi government hospital being leased to you. Do you feel that you commenced the project in the right way?

A: I know you (Walter Nandalike) since the inauguration of the first international flight from Mangaluru airport. Only we know the efforts made to make Mangaluru airport an international one. I wished to contribute in the making of Mangaluru International Airport. But there was a lot of objection. Later, the government of Kerala approached me during the construction of Kochi airport. I wholeheartedly helped them and today it is one of the best airports in the country.

In a similar way, I am contributing towards the said hospital due to the unconditional love I have towards my home town. My father was a municipal councillor and I had served as municipality vice-chairman. We have worked towards providing proper sanitary facilities, building concrete roads, schools, underground drainage and septic tanks which would improve quality of life within the community. I received the highest votes during the election for the second time and became vice-chairman for the second time.

In the bargain, I lost all my money, I was pauper. I took a loan from the bank. In order to repay the loan, I migrated to Abu Dhabi. I did not know anyone there, but thanks to the blessing of the royal family, I soon became the first outdoor salesman, medical representative of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, gave me an opportunity and praised me for my work. He asked me to take over his hospital and after achieving all the success, I repaid my loans. When I was the chairman of the municipality, I had visited the 20-bed Udupi Government Hospital. But now, the condition of the hospital is pathetic. I brought it to the notice of chief minister Siddaramaiah and sent him a proposal of 200-bed hospital. I wanted to make it a super-specialty hospital to offer treatment for the poorest of poor at free of cost. I am not here to convince people, but to contribute. People from my own party stood against me, but the chief minister and health minister extended full support to help me construct the super-specialty hospital.

Q: Do you feel that information about your project was not conveyed to the people in the right way?

A: Why should I convince people? Am I here to gain profits? If I had done the same thing abroad, I would have definitely gained profit. If I am doing something good for people, then why should I have to convince people? In Udupi there were not many good health facilities, so I opted to dedicate this hospital to the poor without judging anyone on the basis of religion, caste and creed.

Q: What message would you like to give to the people opposing your hospital project?

A: Just this - I am not doing for money. I want to give resources and good facilitites to the poor. There are less doctors now. We will hold talks and ensure that doctors in all specialties are available. It is my passion, and once all this is done, they will understand. I don't have to go to each house to say this.

Q: You had announced the Jog Falls project worth Rs 450 crore in August 2016. What is the current status of the project and how will it benefit people?

A: Jog Falls is a natural resource. On my last visit there, I was upset looking at the place. So I decided to take over and added it to my CSR project where we can harvest water for 365 days and utilise the resources we have got. Work is already in progress and a consultant has been appointed. Even the central government has granted permission for the project. I request the government to help me in adding cultural heritage, organic food, convention centre, hotels and villas, where a large number of tourists can visit. Rs 450 crore is set aside just to restore the water. The project cost might reach up to Rs 1,000 crore. Money does not matter, we need to give our best to the project.

Q: The Rs 1,000- crore 'Mahabarat' movie you announced ran into controversy. Some pro-Hindu outfit protested against the title of the movie in Kerala.

A: I am a blind follower of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and no doubt he is the number one Prime Minister and a leader in the entire world. He has taken India to greater heights globally. A person named Sri Kumar approached me to make a film called 'Mahabharata'. I was pretty excited and thought Modi would be happy. Sri Kumar said that the budget of the movie would be Rs 750 crore, but I increased it to Rs 1,000 crore as I felt that it should be the biggest film in the world in all terms. I dedicate this movie to Narendra Modi. I handed over the script to Modi for approval as nobody will know Mahabharata better than Modi. The movie will release in all languages including foreign ones.

Q: Before announcing the movie, you were seen in a small role in a Kannada film.

A: What is life? Life is a drama. Acting was my passion during school and college days. I have even performed female characters. Earlier, Tamil producer Bharathirajan approached me and offered me a role in his film, which I refused due to objection from my family members. Later, Harish Sherigar from Dubai asked me to play a cameo appearance in a song which was good and suitable for me.

Q: You were listed in Forbes magazine as one among the top business leaders. In terms of business, you are ranked high in the Middle East and globally. What is the difference between worldwide business and business in India?

A: There is a lot of difference. I have got 65 hospitals worldwide in Spain, Italy, Columbia, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Denmark, Brazil and other places. But people here oppose me. I should not become a victim, but go on doing my job.

Q: You had put in a lot of efforts for direct overseas flights from Mangaluru airport. The airport is developing now. The late Dr V S Acharya when he was minister had suggested that an airport should be built at Udupi under PPP model. Recently minister R V Deshpande took up the issue and said that a survey is under way regarding the airport at Udupi. Do you have any information on it?

A: R V Deshpande clearly knows that it is a B R Shetty project. Efforts are on as the land is already available for the airport at Padubidiri.

Q: Chief minister Siddaramaiah inaugurated the NRI forum at Dubai recently. Could you tell us the benefits of the forum for NRIs?

A: CM Siddaramaiah delivered a good speech and gained the attention of all NRIs present during the occasion. He is a good chief minister and loved by all. He never asked me for any favour, but only appreciated me for my good work. NRI Kannadigas will benefit a lot from this forum.

Q: During the year 2006, you had plans of constructing a ring road in Mangaluru through Ullal-Sasihitlu-Bengre-Suratkal-Panambur. What happened to the plan?

A: A proposal regarding the same was sent to the government, but no one showed keen interest towards it. I am still interested to construct the ring road here in Mangaluru, but need someone to take up the initiative.

Q: What is your message to young entrepreneurs who want to step into the world of business?

A: Be positive, be passionate, be happy and be tolerant which is very important. Think you can and think that you cannot, as both are right. Always believe in delegating and stagnating. Do not indulge in business for the sake of money. Start a business with a motive of social service and money and success will automatically follow you.

Q: Any regrets in your life?

A: No regret at all. I am very positive man and satisfied with my life.

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