For Sydney Cosmetic Sanctuary to be successful, Dr Rohit Kumar needed two things: his wife, Dr Nidhi Berera, to work with him, and the financial support of BOQ Specialist.
Most medical practitioners, particularly surgeons, tend to limit their follow-up visits to the particular operation they have just performed due to time constraints. That was true of Sydney plastic surgeon Dr Rohit Kumar who, like most of his colleagues, was focused primarily on his surgical results.
However, he wanted to be able to offer more. “What I thought was lacking in the market was a longer-term, holistic lifestyle follow-up, particularly in the cosmetic industry,” he says.
A few months ago, that vision came to life in the form of Sydney Cosmetic Sanctuary in the inner-west suburb of Leichhardt in Sydney. The practice provides cosmetic and plastic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, a day spa, stylist and more all in the one space.
What makes Sydney Cosmetic Sanctuary work?
“We like the concept of providing an all-encompassing service,” Dr Kumar adds.
“Not only do we provide the dentistry, the plastic surgery and the day spa element, but our patients can enjoy complementary services that enhance their operative experience.” These include hairstyling, expert bra sizing for patients undergoing breast surgery, and access to an internationally regarded stylist to help transform their wardrobe to suit their new figure.
If there’s a secret to the potential success of Sydney Cosmetic Sanctuary, however, it’s not just Dr Kumar’s abilities, but the partnership between himself and his wife, dentist Dr Nidhi Berera. They married in 2005 after meeting through Dr Kumar’s sister, who is also the chief operating officer of the practice. “We met while she was in Brisbane and we started dating between Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney,” he explains. “When we got married, we decided to settle in Sydney. It’s a one-hour flight away from Brisbane or Melbourne, where both our families are.”
Creating the partnership
Dr Berera is a graduate of University of Melbourne’s dental school. “I didn’t really think too much about a career choice when I was in year 12,” she recalls. “I was guided a little by the health sciences, and the thought of medicine. My dad’s a GP, so he said, ‘Medicine is a long track; why don’t you think about dentistry?’ So I thought I’ll try the first year, see how it goes, and I absolutely loved it. I made some really solid friends, and found it was a good mix of medical and health science, and using your hands and artistry in a certain way.”
As her career progressed, Dr Berera discovered a keen interest in the aesthetic aspects of dentistry. “I actually like helping people get back to health and functioning,” she explains. “I think one of the things that makes me sad is when people say, ‘I don’t smile because I’m embarrassed. I don’t like my teeth.’ You can always help someone. There’s so many different ways of helping people, and that confidence they get with smiling is really important. It’s a big part of the person.”
Dentistry also gave her the flexibility to work anywhere. When her husband’s training brought him to Sydney, she came along.
The vision for an ideal cosmetic and dental practice
Meanwhile, Dr Kumar’s vision for his ideal practice was forming in his mind: “Having spent the past 18 years performing general surgery and then plastic surgery, the thing I really wanted to focus on was a very patient-driven practice,” he says. “I wanted to have the ability to follow them on their journey and provide non-surgical help as well.”
Once settled in Sydney’s inner-west, Drs Kumar and Berera appointed Barratt Jennings Partners to help them find a property. Their goal was to find somewhere in the same area as they lived. With the help of consultant Ben Churven, they found another property, and were about to sign the papers when Churven called and said he had found their current site.
“As soon as we walked in here, we knew this had to be the place,” says Dr Kumar. “It had this beautiful foyer. And we met the owner, who is just an absolute gentleman and a pleasure to work with, as is his support team. It was almost as if it was meant to be. So, it was a pretty easy decision in the end.”
How to work with your partner
The bigger decision was whether to work together or not. Dr Berera was already working part-time in another surgery. “I never intended to work with my husband, ever,” she says.
“In fact, when he said to me, ‘I would like you to come with me’, I actually refused for a good four months. We have two young children, and I said, ‘There’s no way that we can have a family life if both of us are crazy busy setting up a business. It’s too hard.’ So I said no.”
Dr Kumar adds, “The reality is that I don’t think either of us wanted to work with each other in such close proximity. We’re 10 minutes away from home and then we’re back at work together again, so I don’t think either of us were initially very keen on that idea. Then the more we thought about it, the more it made sense.
Why cosmetic and dental are the perfect mix
“The fact that we have a cosmetic-driven plastic surgical industry, and we have a cosmetic dental industry, both of whom share a large amount of overlap in how we treat our patients and how we cross over our patients. It made sense to be together in the one place. It also made sense to share the costs.”
“Eventually, he twisted my arm, and I think I got to a stage in my career where I was ready to do my own thing as well,” adds Dr Berera. “I wanted to have my place, set my rules, do things the way I enjoy, so I said, ‘Okay, fine. Let’s do this.’ It evolved from there.”
“At the end of the day, once we put all that together we thought this is a fantastic idea. We really do need to do this together then the logistics came afterward,” says Dr Kumar. “The reality is that we’ve developed a roster where we don’t spend much time in the practice together. We overlap for one day. The other days, when my wife’s here, I’m operating. So, we’ve managed to make it work and still stay friends.”
Designing the practice
Once they started working with designers Space For Health to translate their vision for the practice, they realised they had more space than they needed. “We thought about whether to invite other doctors to share the space,” Dr Kumar adds.
“It allows cross pollination. It allows for the surgeons to have a consult with a plastic surgeon literally just by yelling across the hall, and it allows me to do the same. So, we set it up. It’s called Specialists on Norton, and it’s set up right next to us. They share a common waiting room, common reception desk, and they also work with the plastic surgeon if needed,” he explains.
Financing the practice
Drs Kumar and Berera’s BOQ Specialist consultants have been involved all the way, from the original discussions about purchasing the practice and working out what would be a reasonable price point, to the funding of the medical equipment and furnishings. “They were very accommodating,” says Dr Kumar. “They set up an escrow account which was running within 24 hours of me asking them to do it, and that allowed very easy purchasing. Everything in the practice other than my staff has been in some way, shape or form arranged with BOQ Specialist.”
Their two BOQ Specialist consultants are Luke Truscott and Paul Hastings, with Luke taking care of more of the business banking aspects, while Paul helps with personal banking products. “Anything I’ve needed or I’ve wanted to organise or pay very quickly, with tradespeople or furniture I bought, they have been able to organise that at the drop of a hat,” adds Dr Kumar. “My relationship with my two bankers has been exemplary.”
His vision for the future of the practice is a bold one. “What I would like to do in the next two to three years is to expand the Medispa, and I’ll be speaking to BOQ Specialist when it comes to financing that,” explains Dr Kumar. “And at around the four- to five-year mark, my plan is to expand the entire practice to provide an even more comprehensive experience.”
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