India’s Trusted CEO’s 2018: Dr. Sunil Chandy, Christian Medical College, Vellore

India’s Trusted CEO’s 2018: Dr. Sunil Chandy, Christian Medical College, Vellore


Offering cost- effective, affordable, ethically sound  healthcare to all , with special focus on the disadvantaged. 

Dr. Sunil Chandy
Dr. Sunil Chandy

What is the big idea behind your business?

   Started 118 years ago as a one-bed clinic in  response to the needs for women and children in rural Tamil Nadu, the institution has grown to become one of India’s largest private not-for-profit healthcare hub. The big idea behind the business is enshrined in its mission statement quoted below

‘ The primary concern of the Christian Medical College, Vellore, is to develop through education and training, compassionate, professionally excellent, ethically sound individuals who will go out as servant leaders of health teams and healing communities. In the delivery of health , CMC Vellore provides a culture of caring while pursuing its commitment to professional excellence. CMC is committed to innovation and the adoption of new, appropriate, cost effective, caring technology.

CMC reaffirms its commitment to the promotion of health and wholeness in individuals  and communities and its special concern for the disabled, disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?

    I agree.  Volatility is a surrogate marker of the rapidly changing market dynamics which is subject to political, economic and value changes in society .  In my leadership tenure , the following volatilities were encountered , and dealt with

  1. Economic Volatility : unexpectedly brought in by the demonetization and GST policies. Responded to it by asking the question, “how does it affect my clients”?  The negative impact of it was offset by ad-hoc executive decisions to waive the shortfalls, in order to keep primacy of care above monetary gains. Promissory notes, nil-advance admissions and other measures helped to retain customers happy, attend to their urgent life and heath needs . Trust helped to motivate patients to make staggered payments. Goodwill ensured our business thrived eventually 
  2. Political Volatility : is unavoidable with change in governments. My approach has been to stay focused on the non-negotiable  mission, vision and values .The  needed changes must not alter the foundational values when adaptations to new policies are made. Primacy of purpose and transparency of administrative conduct helps in leadership and this has been my approach. Resilience without compromise of core values is how I would summarize my response.
  3. Professional Volatility : The profile of practice is rapidly changing . Technology and patient expectations have undergone a sea change . The paradigm shifts of today challenges the status quo and our existing systems . For example, the down-pricing policy on drugs and devices has changed the dynamics of patient care. The attrition of manpower has also been a problem of volatility. New strategies of faculty retention were devised to improve recruitment, retention and retirement.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers?

In my understanding, I do not have ‘customers’ in my business. I have ‘people’. Our strategy to holistic,  not reductionist.  Every person seeking our service is a whole person with a body , mind and soul .  He/She comes in multifaceted distress and needs to return not just cured, but healed. Above anything, he/she needs to recognize reliability, honesty and trust in us . This is the work-ethic that is streamed across the cadres.  On that platform, care must be all-comprehensive that includes his/her affordability, culture , time available and follow-up. Our care extends from pre-hospital care , clinical care to even after-life care( those who  pass on) . A ‘customer’ when he leaves the hospital delighted , becomes your goodwill ambassador and brings in more patients. This obviates the need for bill-boards and propaganda which is unethical but currently the practice  to generate business. 

What was your first paying job?

Internist medical officer in a small rural hospital in Raxaul , Bihar in 1984 at a salary of 1300/- INR per month

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?


Formal: 1) General Service Board – a forum for non-teaching staff to interact with CEO

2) Junior Medical Board – a forum for junior medical staff and residents

3) Medical Board – a forum for senior medical faculty

Informal : 1) Birthday meeting everyday with employees on their birthdays.

                  2) All Staff Retreat – once a year in a non institutional location

                  3) Picnic with Class C and Class D employees

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?

“Listen to all , but the decision must be yours as the CEO . Make decisions and be responsible for it”.

What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?

I am not an entrepreneur in its classic sense of personal investments. However , in my tenure I have ventured into idea- entrepreneurship. These are

  1. Three level Road Traffic Accident Trauma Care with free golden hour care.
  2. Alpha Clinic – a walk in, no appointment, private cashless clinic .
  3. Silvergate – a walk in hub for total pre-hospital care .

What has surprised me –  1) That Status Quo is a much stronger than Change                                2) That you win enemies and lose friends in the process

                           3) That entrepreneurship is driven singularly, but executed together

    4) That  the fruits of entrepreneurship has a social dimension.

What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progress

  1. Regular refreshers on the core competency and admin experience – core knowledge
  2. Attend every Leadership Course that I could – leadership profile
  3. Extra-institutional public speaking – You Tube – helps with communication   
  4. Issue based writing – medico social topics – LinkedIn – broadening  horizons
  5. Up-dating association memberships – Royal College of Physicians – profile
  6. Accepting examinership from Universities – academic development

Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?

No one will care how much you know , till they know how much you care.

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