With about 2.7 crore babies born in India annually, the $4-billion birthing and maternal care industry has assumed significant focus, and with an estimated 15% compounded growth rate, is expected to touch $8 billion in the next five years.
Healthcare providers are veering away from the local nursing home and hospital-delivery format to “high-end, premium boutique birthing centres” to cater to “the service and quality needs of a younger generation of Indians”.
“People know that pregnancy is not an illness, so it should not be clubbed with other specialities in the hospital. The reason for the growth of these chains is that people see birthing as a sort of an experience and are willing to pay for it,” said Rana Mehta, executive director, PwC India.
Over the last decade, birthing centres such as Cloud Nine, The Nest, Motherhood and Cocoon have mushroomed in cities such as Bangalore and Chennai. Established hospital chains such as Apollo Hospitals Enterprise and Fortis Healthcare, too, have created their own offshoots, The Cradle and La Femme, respectively.
The Cradle offers rooms ranging from deluxe to suite range from R80,000 to R1,10,000, while La Femme’s rates, depending on the type of room, range between R67,000 and R2,51,000. Cloud Nine charges between R80,000 and R95,000 for its services.
“From a financial perspective, the returns are more efficient. Hospitals require high capital investment which translates to a longer return period. Formats like Apollo Cradle require lower capital, thus offer a better ROCE (return on capital employed),” said Neeraj Garg, CEO, Apollo Health & Lifestyle.
“We are focused on the population that recognises the importance of clinical excellence but also seeks a personalised experience,” Garg added.
The R13,400-crore Apollo Hospitals has a chain of 50 hospitals across the country. It established The Cradle operated by its fully-owned subsidiary Apollo Health & Lifestyle in 2003. It operates Cradle as a standalone and a “womb-within-a-hospital” format.
The typical investment for a Cradle facility would be R15-20 crore depending on the final size of the facility. The chain does not buy land but leases it. With two facilities already functioning, the Chennai-based healthcare provider is looking to establish 40 Cradles in the next five years, not including the ones initiated within existing Apollo hospitals.
“In the large metros like Mumbai and Delhi, we will have multiple centres, like in Bangalore where we are opening our third Apollo Cradle soon. In Mumbai, real