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Ryan Fernandes: Pioneering Growth and Brand Transformation in Healthcare

Driving Marketing Excellence and Revitalizing Brands for Sustainable Growth!

The Healthcare industry is a complex and every evolving field that plays a crucial role in our society. With advancements in technology, changes in regulations, and shifting demographics, it is a sector that requires constant attention and adaptation.

Ryan Fernandes, with his extensive experience and achievements, stands out in this industry. Having worked in the Middle East, Africa, the UK, and India for over 20 years, Fernandes has become a highly skilled professional in eCommerce and Marketing, leaving a lasting impact on the industry.

As a renowned marketing and digital strategy expert, Fernandes has a proven track record of fostering intercultural teamwork and fostering growth for Fortune 500 firms across a range of industries. His knowledge covers multiple industries, including FMCG, consumer technology, healthcare, and retail. This allows him to successfully negotiate challenging environments and produce outstanding outcomes.

In addition to brand building and transformation, customer loyalty and CRM, customer analytics, innovation and product development, digital transformation, and digital and performance marketing are some of the areas in which Fernandes excels. Every aspect of the subject is covered by his all-encompassing approach to marketing, resulting in complete strategies that promote long-term growth and achieve market dominance.

With a deep understanding of both business and consumer dynamics, Fernandes excels in communication, collaboration, team management, and stakeholder engagement at all levels of an organization. His strategic vision and ability to build strong cross-functional teams have propelled him to the position of Head of Marketing, Branding, and Communications in the GCC for Aster Hospitals, Clinics, Retail, and Digital Health.

He oversees a group of over 50 employees to 45 at Aster DM Healthcare who are in charge of implementing effective marketing strategies across various industries, boosting brand recognition, and driving revenue growth.

Join us as we delve into his remarkable journey!

Please brief us about yourself and your background before you entered the Healthcare Sector.

I am a seasoned Marketing and Digital Strategy professional, bringing more than two decades of success in spearheading growth for Fortune 500 companies across diverse sectors, including Healthcare, Retail, Consumer Technology, and FMCG. My proficiencies encompass an array of areas, including brand building and transformation, customer relationship management, customer analytics, product development, digital transformation, and growth leadership. Over the years, I’ve honed my communication, collaboration, and team management skills, allowing me to successfully engage with stakeholders at all levels of an organization.

Before my current role as the Head of Marketing for the GCC at Aster DM Healthcare Group, I held a series of high-profile positions across leading organizations. Notable amongst these was my tenure as VP – Marketing & eCommerce at Pantaloons (Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Ltd), where I led Brand Strategy, Campaigns, Digital, Social & Influencer Marketing, CRM & Loyalty program, Consumer Analytics & Research, and PR, while also having P&L accountability for Pantaloons D2C eCommerce business.

Before Pantaloons, I served at HMDGlobal (Nokia Phones) as the Global eCommerce & GTM Lead, overseeing the Global eCommerce strategy & business. My responsibilities extended to defining and building the organizational structure, budget, business processes, and platform architecture. I also played a crucial role in executing the eCommerce platforms across countries and leading the Go-To-Market Program for Nokia mass-market smartphones globally.

Earlier in my career, I held strategic roles at Microsoft and Nokia in the areas of Marketing Planning, Operations, and Analytics. In these roles, I was instrumental in maintaining regional profitability above target levels and launching high-end smartphones successfully.

My early professional journey also includes tenures at GSK Consumer Healthcare India Ltd and Nestle India Ltd, where I contributed to the relaunch of key brands, achieving market leadership in specific categories and initiating profitable strategies.

I hold an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta. Additionally, I have furthered my knowledge and skills through certification programs such as ‘Online Business Strategy and Financial Acumen’ by Microsoft-INSEAD and ‘Management & Leadership’ by the Nokia-Wharton Voyager Program.

Overall, my journey before venturing into the healthcare sector has been marked by continual learning, impactful leadership, and a steadfast commitment to driving growth through innovative marketing strategies. I am excited to leverage these experiences as I continue to contribute to the healthcare industry.

Please brief our audience about your company, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a prominent name in this industry.

Aster DM Healthcare is a large multinational healthcare services company with hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in India, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. It was founded in 1987 by Dr. Azad Moopen and is headquartered in Dubai, UAE.

Aster DM Healthcare has a network of over 885 healthcare facilities, including 32 hospitals, 127 clinics, 521 pharmacies, and 205 labs & PECs. The company provides a wide range of healthcare services, including inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, and preventive care.

Aster DM Healthcare is committed to providing high-quality, affordable healthcare to its patients. The company has been recognized for its quality standards by several organizations, including the Joint Commission International (JCI), the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH), and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). In 2022, Aster DM Healthcare was named one of the top 100 companies in India by Fortune India.

The company was also ranked as the 4th best hospital chain in India by the National Patient Satisfaction Survey. Linkedin ranks Aster amongst the top 5 preferred employers in UAE.

Aster DM Healthcare is a leading provider of healthcare services in India and the Middle East. The company is committed to providing high-quality, affordable healthcare to its patients and is constantly striving to improve its standards.

What motivated you to pursue a career in the healthcare industry?

Following two decades of occupying strategic leadership roles in Marketing, Go-to-Market strategies, and Digital Transformation within consumer-centric industries such as Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Telecommunications, and Retail Fashion, I found myself embarking on an unpredictable journey, profoundly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The global health crisis illuminated the need for a paradigm shift in how we perceive health and wellness, underscoring their importance and shaping them as top priorities for every individual.

While scrutinizing the healthcare sector, I observed that its modus operandi has traditionally been clinically driven – its primary objective being to restore health to ailing patients rather than espousing a holistic approach to health and wellness. Moreover, in the spectrum of digital transformation, the healthcare industry has been lagging in comparison to its consumer-facing counterparts. A comparative lack of emphasis on digital progression, paired with a lower investment quotient for enhancing digital consumer experiences, was quite evident.

Perceiving these elements, I identified a significant opportunity for growth and change. I recognized that the industry was at a critical juncture where it was ready to transition from a predominantly clinical focus to a more holistic wellness model, necessitating the application of modern marketing strategies and digital transformation methodologies. Therein, I found my inspiration to venture into the healthcare sector. The prospect of leveraging my expansive experience to drive this pivotal transformation in an industry so crucial to the well-being of mankind is a challenge that I am both excited about and prepared to undertake.

Currently, As the Head of Marketing, Brand & Communication in the GCC, I lead a 45-member team at Aster Hospitals, Clinics, Retail & Digital Health for the Marketing programs and demand growth across the Business Units.

How have you rekindled focus around patient care in your organization?

With the expansion of an organization, it is not uncommon to observe a growing emphasis on procedural efficiency and operational standardization, which may inadvertently cause a decline in patient-centered care. However, at Aster, we take immense pride in our commitment to ensure that our customers, and in particular our patients, are at the core of our operations.

We have undertaken a series of strategic initiatives to rekindle and augment the focus on patient care. One of these involved empowering our Customer Care and Service Excellence personnel with the authority and encouragement to go beyond the routine procedures to delight our customers. This was achieved through comprehensive internal capability-building exercises. These exercises led to the institution of internal reward and recognition programs designed to cultivate and motivate the staff to consistently prioritize patient care, thereby ensuring an organizational culture that puts patients first.

Simultaneously, we embarked on an extensive brand-building campaign under the powerful and resonating slogan, “Care is just an Aster Away.” This campaign was aimed at reassuring our patients of our unwavering commitment to their care while also showcasing our expansive healthcare network across the UAE. Our campaign activations spanned various media platforms such as Out-of-Home advertising (OOH), transportation, print, digital, Below-the-Line (BTL) advertising, and various events.

A hallmark of this campaign was leveraging the occasion of Aster’s 35th Anniversary to project our message of care onto the façade of the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. This event not only significantly enhanced our brand visibility and saliency but also instilled a strong sense of pride within our organization, renewing our collective commitment to living up to this promise of ensuring that “Care is just an Aster Away.”

In essence, by creating an organizational culture that values patient care above all and projecting this commitment through our strategic brand-building campaign, we have reinvigorated our focus on patient care within the Aster organization.