Healthcare and education imperative for country's progress: Nita Ambani

Updated: Nov 14, 2014, 09:32 AM IST

In an interview to Zee Media's Kaisha Hastu, Reliance Foundation Chairperson Nita Ambani talks about importance of healthcare and education in India.

Tell us about the journey of revamping Sir NH hospital to Sir NH Reliance Foundation Hospital.

In India, with a population of 1.25 billion people, I feel healthcare and education are imperative for our country's progress and for the well-being of the people. I started working on this hospital in March 2011. The heritage building has a legacy of 90 years and it was meant for the people of Mumbai and when I started to revamp this hospital, I wanted to concentrate on retaining the same values that it had been built for - Quality care for all the people of Mumbai.

There is no discrimination in the service to the people. Whether you are in the free beds or anywhere else in the hospital, the quality remains the same.
The motto is - Respect for Life - because every life deserves to be lived to the fullest and that was the driving principle in our minds.

We also have a little play school within the hospital in the pediatric floor, for all the kids who have to stay away from school for long terms. The baby centre is very close to the heart. The neo natal centre is an ICU for little babies and not only babies born in this hospital, but also the ones born outside can be brought in for care. Reduce infant mortality - That's the vision.

You also plan to make this the largest green hospital and are also following the PM’s directive of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan very closely. What steps are being taken?

It will be one of the largest green hospitals in India. We will ensure that there is rain water harvesting and recycling of water. Swachh Bharat is important as this hospital is right in the heart of Mumbai city and in a very crowded area, and we are insuring that we take maximum care in infection control within the hospital. So we have pneumatic shoots all over the hospital. We have shoots that take in soiled linen and disposables within the walls of the building so there is no human touch which will help in preventing spread of infection.

Also, there are separate shoots that bring in medicine and blood samples from one part of the building to the other so that there is no human touch. We also have 90 isolation rooms within the hospital. As the PM has been inviting everyone for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan we are trying our best to follow it!

You have also managed to bring on board 50 doctors and surgeons back from abroad.

It's heartwarming to welcome 50 doctors from the US and UK back to India. It has been great having them back who will give service to this hospital whole-heartedly.

There is also a mobile centre for which the PM congratulated you. Tell us more about that.

Mobile centre is an outreach program that we started in December 2012 and have reached out to 3.7 lakh people, who are from the weaker sections of society. We operate within a 7-km radius of the hospital. We take care of not only the medical needs but also educate people on preventive care. We want to take this all over Mumbai and start testing for oral cancer really soon.

What are your favorite features of the hospital?

It’s a digital hospital. It's future ready. Every bit of information can be accessed from your mobile. We use Cloud and 4G for collecting and storing records of all tests and patients. It's all digitalised but at the same time we haven't lost the human touch.

People here have sincerity of purpose and we want to enhance the human touch for both patient and their family.

We have used the best technology. The CT scan can be completed in one and half seconds and that helps in reducing radiation. Equipments for operation theatres are imported from Germany.

The Heritage wing is special because this is where it all began in 1925. When we first saw this building we started imagining as to how it looked at that time. This was a beautiful hospital but over time it had worn out. So we wanted to bring it back to its original look and dedicate it to the people of Mumbai. We brought back the stone and teak and maintained it and then added all modern technology into the building. So it's a great mix of the old and new. The pneumatic shoots had to be fitted with great difficulty, but we are proud of the outcome. 

The wife of Sir HN started the hospital in her husband’s memory in 1925. This hospital boasts of a rich legacy - Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel came here for the hospital's 25 anniversary while for the 50th-year celebrations we had Lok Nayak Jai Prakash and in its 90th year we had the privilege of having Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The elevator in the heritage building is the first public elevator in the city of Mumbai. We have restored it and it is now in a fully working condition. We found it lying as junk.

Tell us about your love for the Education sector.

When I got married to Mukesh, my only wish was to be able to work and that’s when I took up teaching. I used my maiden name - Nita Dalal when I started working after marriage so people didn't know I was Mukesh's wife. I cherished working and teaching is in my DNA. Mukesh was putting up a polyester plant in Patalganga 25 years ago and I opened my first school for the employees and children and that is when my journey started. We now run 13 schools with almost 16000 students.

My greatest learning has been to never compromise on quality and pursue excellence. All schools should be happy, so that kids enjoy.

What are the plans of the Reliance University?

We are looking at a full spectrum of courses in the Reliance University covering science, engineering and arts. Plans are on for this.

We also have evening classes with NGOs for underprivileged children at the Dhirubhai Ambani school. I want to use digital technology to bridge the gap between rural and urban India. Maybe hold classes for the remote villages through technology.

The sports rehabilitation centre is the most modern. Education and sports are my two greatest loves. Entry to sports happened by default, first cricket and now football.

Education and sports are both great imperatives. Sports can help in channelising energy in the right direction. Football is an exciting venture. We aren't trying to dislodge cricket, all we are saying is the more sports the better. With ISL we will be able reach to the youngsters who can pursue it and make it their profession. The ultimate aim is to see India play in the football World Cup.

I used to stream cricket matches even on holidays. In Kenya in the midst of wildlife I once streamed a match to understand the game, and even for football I had to learn the game to enjoy it. I learnt what a striker and a mid-fielder was in football and now I love the game.

Does Nita Ambani ever run out of energy? How do you give a 110% to whatever you do?

I enjoy everything I do, but one thing I enjoy the most is being mom to my fabulous three, as I call them. They are the greatest joy in Mukesh's and my life.
How are the kids taking the new role?

Isha graduated from Yale last year and worked in McKinsey for a year, and she is now back in India. She has now wholeheartedly jumped into Reliance GEO. Akash dreams and eats GEO. He has been working for a year. Anant is still a little too young, he is at Brown. He is passionate about wildlife and animals. They all have varied interests and very different from one another.

Anant has a zoo in the house. He saves animals from birds to stray dogs to even reptiles and they stay on. In Jamnagar we have this huge space where we keep animals that we have adopted.
I am not a foodie, and also dance to keep healthy and Mukesh is a foodie and loves Gujarati food. He is also a movie buffs while I don't like films.

What does Nita Ambani dream of?

I dream of my children and all children in general - that they should be healthy, get education and contribute in a better way to society!