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Thursday, 22 November 2018

Magda Habib, CEO and founder, Dawi Clinics

My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions because we simply can’t help ourselves. Extracts from our conversation this week with Magda Habib, whose decency and smarts long ago played a critical, if indirect, role in setting us down a path that made Enterprise possible.

Who am I? I’m Magda Habib, aged 51, wife and mother of three daughters and a business professional. I’m the CEO and founder of Dawi Clinics and an amateur triathlete.

Dawi Clinics is a chain of primary healthcare clinics. You know how you complained a few issues back that there are no primary care / family physicians in Cairo? I’m here to prove you wrong. Today, we’re running five locations and have plans to open more in 2019 across Cairo then spread to other governorates, including our first clinics outside of Cairo.

We want to be the first destination for all family members for all their healthcare needs, so we have internists, pediatricians and dentists available all day, every day and we complement this service with gynecology, dermatology, ENT, orthopedics and psychiatry. We also have lab sampling and diagnostic services on site. Our aim is to be able to diagnose and treat c. 80% of all patients who present at our clinic. This, together with easy scheduling, no waiting time, clean clinics and friendly staff who know how to coordinate between specialities and do follow-up gives people the care they need in a convenient setting.

I am a morning person, and my morning routine begins daily at 5am — maximum 5:30am. Until 7am, I’m usually in the kitchen talking and having coffee with my husband, preparing breakfast and lunch for my twin 14-year-old daughters and seeing them off to school. It is some days the only hour of the day when we have a chance to catch up. By 7am, all three of them are out of the house except my older daughter, who works and has her own routine.

When do I read Enterprise? I do read Enterprise every day at some point of the day, but unfortunately usually in the evenings after I come back from work and am unwinding on the couch before bedtime. I’m an avid reader, but the past 24 months setting up Dawi have been so loaded that I don’t have much mental energy left for something serious. So when I need to unwind, I read novels (I loved Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy) or watch TV series (Suits, The Crown and House of Cards). The last interesting business book I read before Dawi — and thoroughly enjoyed and would like to revisit — was Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality.

When everyone is out of the house in the morning, I do one of two things: If I have a backlog of work or something that needs a very high degree of concentration, I sit at my laptop with coffee and work alone in a quiet house for a couple of hours. Then I get dressed and go to the office. Otherwise, and more frequently, I grab my training gear and join my Maadi Athletes team for our morning triathlon training.

Maadi Athletes is a triathlon team. We swim Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, run Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and cycle on Fridays. This is my preferred morning. But it is hectic, especially if it is swim day, because I need all my work gear in a bag before rushing to the club. After training, it’s a quick shower and then I rush to the office by 9:00 or 9:30 max for an early meeting.

Fuul is an indulgence. On days when I don’t have very early meetings, I may take the liberty of joining my teammates for a quick fuul breakfast at Sami’s, the street vendor in Sakanat El-Maadi. It’s a delicious meal, especially in winter after a long swim.

I’m usually in the office until 6-7pm, then home for a couple of hours doing errands or helping with homework. I read or watch TV for an hour, then am in bed by 10pm.

I like building things, and Dawi Clinics is my third baby. I was employee number three at Raya Holding, where I helped Medhat Khalil build the company as a member of the executive team. I had a 14-year run there and left the company after it had gone public and grown to be about 7k employees. Then I co-founded Fawry, the e-payment network, in 2009 with Ashraf Sabry.

I hate when people call me a “serial entrepreneur.” I was super lucky to work with Medhat Khalil when the idea of Raya came up and I was super lucky that he gave me space to work and grow during the time it was developing. I also think I was super lucky to have been Ashraf Sabry’s friend and work colleague, so that I knew about his payment venture when he was starting it and he allowed my to co-invest and co-found it with him.

After the Fawry exit, I had vague plans of taking it easy. Within six months of that, I was already chin-deep in work setting up Dawi.

Why Dawi? I got approached by several people, either for corporate jobs or for new venture ideas. Nader Iskander, my friend and CEO of EME International, approached me one day with the idea of the “Starbucks of clinics.” He had seen and read about the chains of urgent care clinics that were growing like mushrooms around the US. The idea stuck in my mind, and as I did some research, I realized a standardized medical services chain is all about brand management, retail management, operational efficiencies, HR, SOPs, audit — all areas that I am good at. Nader (who is not an MD) and I started meeting with physician friends to discuss the idea, and that’s how we came into contact with Dr. Mairose Doss, my co-founder and partner. I tossed out the idea at a Christmas party in 2015, and she just loved it.

This was all in the run-up to devaluation, remember. The three of us spent the first six months of 2016 on research and our business plan — and then six months on fundraising. Nobody wanted to take the risk — it was a really, really bad time to be raising funds in Egypt. We found a window in trapped local liquidity and raised our first round from Egyptian high-net-worth investors. We had a company by January 2017 and had opened our first branch in Maadi by June of last year.

The investment thesis is about scale and patient loyalty. Outpatient, especially with a primary care focus, is a low-margin business, so scale with a focus on operational efficiencies and standardized service are key.

What do people not understand about your business? That they should not pre-diagnose themselves and head straight to a specialist. They need a long-term relationship with a family doctor who they visit whenever they have a medical need. Family physicians can diagnose and treat 70-80% of any issues you have.

This is a time of intense change in the healthcare industry. You’re already starting to see consolidation in tertiary care and diagnostics — less so in outpatient, but it will happen. The sector is just so fragmented. There’s a shift from being doctor-led to brand-led. There’s a growing focus on convenience, patient safety and outcomes. The universal healthcare act will take 15-20 years to roll out across Egypt, but it will bring change — and it is anyone’s guess how, exactly, the private sector fits into all of that. And, of course, there’s how tech will change our industry whether that’s in record keeping, AI, wearables or telemedicine.

I believe in the power of brands.

I stay organized with lists, lists, lists and more lists. The typical problem of having to handle urgent rather than more important matters is something that I still need to learn.

The best piece of business advice I’ve been given? Can I cite two? Medhat Khalil taught me that a “good manager makes themselves dispensable.” Build a team that is younger and more intelligent than you are and who can do the job better. It requires a lot of self-confidence to do this, but the long-term payoff is incalculable — you’re no longer just running the business, but have the freedom yourself to create and achieve new things.

The other is from Omar Samra, if you can call it business advice: It was at a talk he gave about his Everest summit climb: “Just take one more step.”

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