By 1997, Thumbay Moideen had been travelling to the UAE on business for five years. A third-generation businessman, he was well aware of the Gulf state’s growing acumen for money-making opportunities.
But it was not until a chance meeting with the ruler of Ajman, Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, that the middle-aged father of two decided it was time to move.
“It was an accidental meeting with His Highness,” Moideen recalls. “Back home my family is into hospitals and education — these two industries are very important for a country. So during one of my discussions with His Highness I was highlighting that you need these few things, they’re very important for a country.
“And I said my family is into schools and hospitals, so he said ‘why don’t you do something like this [in Ajman]’.
“I got a shock, really. He said ‘I’ll support you and encourage you’, so I jumped at it. I brought a few consultants; we surveyed the market. Once we realised it was going to do well we jumped at the project.”
The result was the first teaching hospital and private medical university in the UAE, and possibly the Middle East, in 1998. The Gulf Medical University and the related hospital would nurse the country’s need to supply its own doctors, an expertise almost entirely imported at that time, while also treating the sick.
Each doctor employed by the hospital would teach at the university, where pharmacy, dentistry and medicine are the key faculties. An expansion in recent years has seen the university, spread across 25 acres, also run medical conferences.
Thumbay Group, owned entirely by Moideen, now has three GMC Hospitals, one each in Ajman, Dubai and Fujairah, as well as the GMC Medical & Dental Specialty Centre in Sharjah. Further hospitals in Dubai, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah are under construction and Moideen says a large hospital being built in Bangalore will become a teaching hub in India.
“This new kind of model we’ve created — which has succeeded — we’re repeating. I think this could work everywhere,” Moideen says of the teaching hospital model, which has become common in many Western nations.
In the past 15 years, the company has expanded to also include pharmacies, diagnostic centres, optical shops, the Nutri-Plus health food shop franchise, health clubs and a new research centre covering both community and laboratory research.
With real estate and development subsidiaries, the group buys the land and builds each of its facilities, making them wholly owned by Moideen.
“Frankly, we have the whole range now in healthcare and education in the medical field,” Moideen says from his large office at the university. “There are lots of healthcare providers in the country but you don’t have someone who’s into this range; you’re talking education, you’re talking research, the whole range we’re doing now.
Article continued on next page...