Shajir Ghaffar is the chief executive for Dubai and Northern Emirates at VPS Healthcare. It was in medical school that Mr Gaffar, now 35, realised he was more attracted by the administrative aspects of running a healthcare group than practising medicine itself. After graduating from Gulf Medical University in Ajman in 2005, he interned at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City Hospital in Abu Dhabi and Mafraq Hospital, Abu Dhabi. He then joined Abu Dhabi’s VPS Healthcare as a corporate manager in 2008, after working at Samaya Day Care Surgery Hospital in Abu Dhabi and the Coastal Health Care Management in Qatar. Ten years on and the Dubai resident has risen up the ranks to become the company’s chief executive.
How do you spend your weekend?
I have two daughters, aged three-and-a-half and one, and weekends are for them and my wife and parents. We go out to the children’s play areas and to the movies. The last one we went to see with the children was Jungle Book.
How did you become a chief executive?
By the time I was in the second or third year of medical school, I knew I wanted to be on the management side, and not in a small doctor’s chamber. I am more of a people’s man. I became the corporate director of the group in 2009, and the chief executive of Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery in Dubai in 2013 (which is part of VPS).
What is your go-to gadget?
I use a BlackBerry and lately I am into Apple products. I use an iPhone and iPad.
What was the lowest point of your career?
You face multiple challenges when the organisation is growing. One situation I learnt from was during the aftermath of the 2010 crash of a plane going from Dubai to Mangalore, India. The same day Shamsheer Vayalil, the founder and managing director of VPS Healthcare Group, was flying back from India. Out of solidarity, we offered 50 jobs to the families of the deceased and eventually hired 42 people for our operations in the UAE and Oman. They are still working with us, and many have moved from the front desk to administrative roles (158 people died in the plane crash in 2010).
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
When I started out I was naive, but over the years I have learnt that you need passion, integrity and knowledge to grow and survive. As in a football match, not every kick will end up in a goal, but the right attitude and good teamwork will help you achieve your goals.
What is your most indulgent habit?
Eating out. Even though I am a doctor, I do not restrict my diet yet. I like to eat out with my family, and am fond of all cuisines. With so many restaurants opening in Dubai so often, you have many choices.
What do you have on your desk at work?
My desk is always clear, there is not much of clutter there. But I always have a laptop and one small diary where I write down things to do.
What can’t you live without?
My daughters, wife and parents.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I try to spend time with my family even though I have to travel a lot for work. But I also enjoy the travelling as I get to meet people and different business cultures, and learn from them. Lately, I am into a fitness regime. I work out five days a week, for an hour, from 7am to 8am. My office on Sheikh Zayed Road is 10 minutes’ drive from my home in Al Barsha. I am in the office around 9am, and how long I stay depends on the projects I am working on.
If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?
I thoroughly enjoy what I do and cannot imagine doing something else. I get to meet a whole plethora of personalities. My mother wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer. My sister is a gynaecologist. I, too, went to the medical school. But the administrative aspect of medicine attracted me. Though I was born in Kerala, India, we went to school in Saudi Arabia and India. And then went to the medical school in the UAE. From here, I want to grow to have larger responsibilities with the company.
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