On the morning of 14 August, the board of directors of hospital chain Fortis Healthcare Limited (FHL) gathered in the company’s corporate office in Gurugram’s Unitech Business Park. The long third-floor boardroom they assembled in overlooks the elevated metro rail corridor that cuts across the heart of the National Capital Region (NCR). Unlike in times gone by though, no trains whizzed by. The Covid-19 pandemic had long since taken them off the rails.
The board passed six resolutions in quick succession, all signed off on by Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, the hospital chain’s managing director and chief executive officer. All of them revolved around the rebranding of the sprawling hospital chain, which has 36 hospitals and over 4,000 beds nationwide.
The board voted to stop the use of ‘Fortis’ as part of the name, brand, or logo of FHL and its subsidiaries’ hospitals and labs. They also decided to scrub the use of the chain’s maternity hospital and pathology lab brands—La Femme and SRL Diagnostics.
Instead, they resolved to rebrand the hospital under the name ‘Parkway’, for which they would obtain a licence from Parkway Holdings Limited (PHL). PHL is controlled by Malaysian healthcare giant IHH Healthcare Bhd, which acquired a 31.1% stake in the company in 2018. Another Fortis group company SRL Diagnostics—India’s largest diagnostics chain—would change to a neutral brand.
The final resolution left the fate of the hospital chain’s rebranding in the hands of India’s apex court. The board sought permission from the Supreme Court for all these ‘in-principle’ decisions that very day.
Overhauling a brand doesn’t usually entail knocking at the door of the judiciary. In an ideal scenario, this wouldn’t even be happening, Raghuvanshi tells The Ken. Fortis’ checkered history, however, necessitates it.
Fortis does not own its brand. Instead, it is controlled by the chain’s former promoters, brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh Malvinder and Shivinder Singh Business Today The Baba, Singh Brothers and the Squandered Rs 225,00,00,00,000 Read more , through a web of companies. These entities own the various logos and brand names related to Fortis and its subsidiaries. In essence, any and all of the Fortis brands could be sold off without FHL’s permission.
The duo has been accused accused Business Today How Singh brothers got into trouble - bit by bit Read more of running Fortis—and their financial services business, Religare Enterprises—into the ground. So much so that when IHH invested in Fortis, it was practically rescuing rescuing The Ken Can IHH help SRL finally scratch its 10-year itch?