Sultan Batterjee: Hospitals have always remained our strength Health care in KSA: One of the best in the region
HEALTH care, education and construction are considered to be among the most essential and vital sectors for the infrastructure of any country. These three areas have thus become the focus of attention for IHCC, major business entity.
Sultan Sobhi Batterjee, CEO of IHCC, is actively involved in different business organizations and working hard to fulfill the desires and aspirations of the people locally and also regionally.
He serves as the president of Lifestyle Developers Ltd., chief inspiring officer and chairman of Tawasol IT, both of which he founded.
He is the vice president, business development and board member of Saudi German Hospitals Group as well.
In fact, Batterjee has played a vital role in establishing IHCC, a world-renowned turnkey design and build solutions provider that specializes in health care, education and mixed-use development projects in the Middle East and North Africa.
Batterjee brings vast experience to IHCC through his association with leading global companies, including Merrill Lynch and Lazard Investment Banking, both in London, and Encore Management in Geneva.
Enriching his experience, Batterjee is also actively involved in a few other organizations.
He is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) in Saudi Arabia, the Young Arab Leaders Society (YAL) in Dubai, the Project Management Institute (PMI), TechWadi, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( JCCI), and the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI).
“Our business is based on three pillars: health care, education and mixed-used projects,” Batterjee told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
“Hospitals have always remained our strength,” he said in an obvious reference to Saudi German Hospitals Group, which has established health care facilities in the Kingdom and also in other parts of the region.
“We do projects in health care and education. We are into designing and building projects. Being a turnkey solution provider is our forte."
Batterjee emphasizes that Saudi Arabia’s health care is one of the best in the region.
During the unprecedented boom, the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd invested a lot in health care. "That is how you find so many health care facilities developed in Saudi Arabia than any other neighboring country in the region. The Kingdom’s heavy investment in health care infrastructure has left all the other countries in the region far behind," he said.
"Also, our private sector plays a vital role in Saudi Arabia. Health care is one of the strongest and biggest in the region. This is because the private sector has been playing a major role in this field alongside the public sector. The private sector has always received the much needed government support, which has turned into an excellent working relationship over the last 50 years," he said.
Batterjee reminds us that devel- opments have to keep pace with the ever-growing populations.
The Saudi population has grown dramatically over the last 10 years, reaching a figure of almost 30 million.
“Ten to 15 years ago, we were only 15 million. In the 10 year period, we have almost doubled.”
With the rising population, the need for health care is constantly growing. Added to this is the fact that known and new diseases are now around.
This has necessitated the introduction of more specialties on the part of health care providers, he said, adding: “Health care was of general nature in the beginning and now it is switching to more specialization. It is becoming
more a specialized industry. That is how you now find more cancer centers, more cardiac centers, more centers for women and children.”
A rapidly emerging trend is that the industry is increasingly moving toward rehabilitation, home care.
Referring to the current period of boom, Batterjee said: “The Kingdom is witnessing its second boom and so we see the Kingdom investing a lot of money in health care much more than before.”
After all, Saudi Arabia ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of investments in health care and education. That is how, the concept of medical cities has been introduced, and major health care infrastructure is being built in cities and rural areas.
Going by various facilities that are coming up, Batterjee believes that Saudi Arabia has a great future in terms of health care. “But this poses a challenge — the challenge lies in managing all these health care projects, especially when billions of riyals are invested in them and they all will be ready for launch in the foreseeable future.”
Batterjee predicts that Saudi nationals will have a big role to play. Talking for himself, he added: “We have a lot of experience as a turnkey solution provider in the health care sector, especially in design and construction. We have completed projects in the health care and education fields worth more than SR2.5 billion in the past years. We have thus gained a lot of knowledge and experience, and developed them in the past few years. Now, it is our duty as a company and as a Saudi citizen to give back to the country by sharing our experience and know-how in terms of development.”
Batterjee expressed his keen desire to work more on infrastructure projects and the actual systems of health care.
“We want to share our experience of planning and equipping in these projects. In particular, we want to share our experience of what we have done in Dubai. In Dubai, we have learned a lot with international standards in health care. We have learned the concept of medical cities and medical tourism. We learned of health care tourism from the projects we built in Dubai,” he said, adding that health care tourism is a very important subject and should get its due place.
“We want to implement this in Saudi Arabia. We believe Saudi Arabia does not need international health care tourism. It needs local health care tourism,” he said.
For example, Batterjee said: “We want to do good projects in Riyadh and Jeddah in health care. We want people to come from different rural areas to move around the country. This is called health care tourism.” Batterjee said: “From our point of view, we are keen to fulfill, explore, educate and transfer the knowledge we have. So we consider ourselves duty-bound to promote what IHCC learned outside. We have to bring this back to our country. After all, it is the duty of all Saudi nationals to give back to their country — the country that has sent them abroad for higher education only to serve their beloved country.”
Saudi youth, the upcoming young generation has a lot of potential, Batterjee says.
They are more diversified. They are more exploited to different countries. They are more educated than those in the previous generations. They can compare themselves on the Internet and social media. They are linked to the real globalization platform.
Saudi nationals are not living in villages or small areas any more, but they are part of the global world now through social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. All these things are raising the standards of Saudis and making them know their rights.
Batterjee stresses on education, which is the core of foundation.
“Without education, you cannot go anywhere. The Saudi government provides financial support to students. More than 100,000 scholarships are given to Saudis for studying abroad. All these people are now coming back. It becomes their duty to give back to the country. Equally, the country, which has invested in these people, should find the right places for them when they come back. So it is two-way situation.”
Turning to the country’s rich natural resources, Batterjee said: “We have oil but, more importantly, we have human capital that many countries are envious about. Saudi youth is the real treasure of the country. They are more educated than their counterparts in the previous generations. They are on the real global platform.
The government is focusing on education by developing schools, colleges and universities all over the Kingdom. The focus has also been on specialized education over the last five to 10 years.
“Under Education Minister Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, we will see more focus on education with more avenues opening. Human capital is the treasure of the country. Saudi Arabia is investing in human capital in order to take the country to the next level.”
Saudi Arabia is also focusing on SMEs so Saudis can become entrepreneurs. SMEs create more jobs in every country.
“We are in the golden era now. We are growing with human capital. The world is becoming more globalized due to the social networks, Batterjee said emphasizing that Saudi women are playing an important role in the Kingdom’s development. They are well educated, professionals and are more committed to their jobs. They come on time with a mission to work and I feel that they have very strong future.”
He says Saudi women have now become part of the household income.
They are entrepreneurs and many SMEs in the Kingdom are owned by women. They will make a major impact in the economy.
They are very active in social media using various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.”
Batterjee also referred to his involvement in Lifestyle Developers, which is filling the gap in the Saudi real estate market, particularly among the middleincome group and young professionals, through various projects.
The quick success of residence projects reaffirms the company’s conviction about the market’s need for homes that are affordable while integrating the components of luxury living.
Al-Zahra and Al-Nahda Residences have set a new benchmark in the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia as a residential community that integrates the amenities of affordable luxury living spaces.
As Saudi Arabia struggles to overcome the housing shortage, the Ministry of Housing has taken the lead by allocating SR250 billion to provide low-cost housing to the people.
“Because of the short supply of houses, rents are very high at present. But once the housing crisis is resolved, the rents will come down,” he said.
The approval of the mortgage law will also have a good impact on housing sector. It will help in providing liquidity to buy houses. If more liquidity is available then more housing needs to be built, Batterjee said.
Lifestyle Developers’ projects have received an encouraging response as they provide better housing for the community.
“We have various projects in the country and abroad. We have three projects, one each in Jeddah, Egypt and Ajman. We also have commercial projects in Jeddah, Asir and Egypt."