Hurlingham Eye Care Services
HECS Holdings Limited is a complete eye care service provider in Kenya that was born out of a partnership between two Kenyan eye doctors in 1997. The Eagle Eye Laser & Diagnostic Centre was established as a subsidiary of HECS Holdings Ltd in 2010.
HECS estimates that only 0.05% of the Kenyan population get their eyes regularly tested which is particularly crucial considering that the majority of optical health issues can be prevented if they are detected early. The doctors founded a chain of optical shops to provide patients with regular eye tests, glasses and lenses.
Following the successful establishment of the shops, the founders realised that there was no state of the art facility for the treatment of the medical conditions they identified during consultations. In fact there were no high quality laser eye surgery services available in Kenya at all, or indeed in East Africa, meaning Kenyans in need of treatment were having to go abroad to Europe, India or South Africa for treatment, creating a substantial loss for the economy.
Partnership with Jacana
The doctors decided to set up a treatment centre in Nairobi called the Eagle Eye Laser & Diagnostics Centre (EELC) which would offer medical diagnosis and laser eye surgery. In order to fund the equipment and the site for the centre, the doctors started looking for a partner. Having been rejected by the majority of Kenya’s banks due to the high-risk nature of the investment and the lack of fixed collateral to offset the risk, the next step was to try and identify a private equity company, and in 2010 they entered into partnership with Jacana’s East African team.
The relationship has been very successful, not only providing much needed financial capital to purchase the equipment for the company, but also providing Board-level management support to help put in place international standard operational and governance procedures, to restructure the company, and to free up the founders so they can take more active medical roles in the company’s operations.
The Centre is now fully up and running and as well as curing Kenyans suffering from poor vision or losing their sight from cataracts and other conditions, the Centre is impacting the country on a wider scale. By providing this service in Kenya, the economy is strengthened through the creation of jobs (20 so far and counting), stimulating the wider medical sector through the EELC supply chain and keeping the money that would have been spent on surgery elsewhere, inside Kenya.
To bolster the economic impact even further in the future, EELC will soon start offering tourism packages so Europeans can come to Nairobi to get their eyes lasered at the same standard, using the same equipment but for a lower cost, and then go on a safari with their new perfect vision. With the support of Jacana’s East African team, HECS has grown into a sizeable business. On average, HECS sees about 500 patients a month for consultations, and has treated 250 people with laser surgery to date. Since operations began, EELC has also treated over 500 cataracts and performed more than 1,000 other surgeries.
HECS takes its responsibility to the local community seriously. As surgery can be quite costly, the Centre provides pro-bono treatments for patients in desperate need. They also run eye screening sessions in the slums of Nairobi and are aiming to raise awareness of the importance of regular eye tests through marketing.
Dr Kiumbura, HECS entrepreneur, CEO & Co-Founder:
“When we decided to expand our business to create the Eagle Eye Laser Centre, we soon realised that we could not do it on our own. We approached several banks but they all said that it was a too high-risk investment and we did not have sufficient collateral to give a big enough loan for us. We then approached other doctors to see if they wanted to invest but we did not get enough interest. Then we heard about Jacana’s East African team, InReturn Capital, and decided to approach them. They were immediately interested and we got the ball rolling to get the investment approved. The process was fairly straightforward and we ended up getting the investment in July 2011, part equity and part debt. The equity means they have shares in the business and the debt part is a loan which we will pay back over a number of years, with much more favourable rates than we would have got from the bank!
It is not just the money we receive from Jacana. Of course this was our initial interest, but we very soon noticed that there is so much value in the assistance they have given us to improve the business. They have given us a lot of advice on management and how we need to professionalise the company. As the founders of the company were all doctors, I took the lead for the management but essentially we are medical professionals not business people. Now that we were growing big, getting more staff and seeing many more patients, we had to really professionalise both in how we handled patients, how we delivered our services, how we structured the organisation and so on. Jacana has provided the experts and expertise to help us do this. If we had had to pay for the professional services we received from Jacana’s expert Investment Directors, we simply would not have been able to afford it. The value their presence has had on our business goes even beyond what you can measure or express in monetary terms.
This really has been the best experience for us. I would definitely recommend Jacana to anyone. Of course, the entrepreneur also has to be open-minded and willing to allow other shareholders to come in who will require certain changes. But I think if they are, then definitely their business can benefit like ours has.”
Mr Kisoi Muli, 75, EELC Patient
Mr Muli from Makueni, East Kenya received pro-bono cataract treatment at the Eagle Eye Centre in 2011.
“My sight was very blurry for about ten years and I was not seeing at all clearly for the last five years years. In fact, I travelled to the Kenyatta hospital in Nairobi and I was told I had cataracts but it was very expensive for treatment. Luckily for me Dr Marco from the Eagle Eye Centre was my doctor at the hospital. She told me to come to the Eagle Eye Centre where they paid for me to have the treatment to save my sight.
“I wasn’t scared of the treatment. The treatment did a lot of improvements. I live by myself so I would not have been able to survive alone without this. Now I can go to the shops by myself and wash my clothes. Now I can see my seven children and my 60 grandchildren and great grandchildren! Before, I couldn’t cook or look after myself so I can say this treatment has changed my life. I tell my friends to come here and have the same treatment. There’s really a lot of improvement and I am very happy. The Doctors here are very different to other Doctors. I’d like to thank them and this clinic for what they have done for me. “
Mr Muli’s treatment was paid for by a pro-bono fund donated by a German donor and included several consultations pre and post-surgery, diagnostic tests, cataract surgery, eye drops and sunglasses.
Mrs Peninah Cheruiyot, 36, Patient EELC
“I had an issue with short-sightedness. If you were across the road from me I would see a figure but I couldn’t tell who it is and I couldn’t see the plate numbers of vehicles, that sort of thing. I wore glasses for over 20 years but they were very cumbersome. I think I had worn them so long so I got tired of them and I didn’t want the hassle of contact lenses.
That is when I decided to correct my vision permanently. When I heard about laser, I read about it on the internet but it wasn’t here in Kenya so when it came I said, ‘Wow! Why not try it? The process was fast. I came for the eye test to check whether I actually have the problem I claim to have and to see if my eyes were okay for the laser surgery. I was a bit nervous but they told me it’s very safe so I booked in for surgery. In just a few seconds it was done, actually before I knew it, it was done.
I am so happy with the results. For the first time, people can see my eyes direct and I also feel nice about myself because I don’t have to keep on wearing spectacles throughout. Now my vision has really changed; I can sit anywhere and still watch my TV. I am very comfortable, much more than I was before, yes. It has really changed my life”
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