From Google to Healthcare: Zoya Brar’s Journey

CORE Diagnostics opened its doors for business just over a year ago in May 2013. Since then, the business has grown in double digit percent, month-over-month. The company and the executive team has been covered extensively in the trade media as well as National dailies including Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Mail Today, CNBC, and e.Health  magazine. The most recent of these accolades is the “Healthcare Entrepreneur of the Year”, given to the founder and Managing Director, Zoya Brar, by the Doc N Doc group this past month.

We have asked Zoya to tell us her story.

“Building a startup is a mammoth task to begin with, but to add on top of that, a startup-in an industry that has never seen a leader under the age of 35, a work culture unaccustomed to Silicon Valley-like innovation, and a service where the consequences are literally life and death, and you have a completely different beast.

I could write about all the things that go into building a company like CORE Diagnostics but I wouldn’t have anything new to say. I could have made an intelligent guess even before I started and imagined 90% of the journey accurately. What I couldn’t have imagined is that I wasn’t only up against competitors or discerning customers, I was up against an entire society’s attitude and work culture.

It is hard being a founder, and even harder being a young woman in the healthcare industry.

Having worked only at one place, Google, I was spoiled to say the least. I almost took for granted the lack of hierarchy, the transparency of information, the easy flow of information, the lack of insecurity, and the high quality of talent at every level.

Then I was confronted by healthcare, a very hierarchical, un-innovative, judgmental and muddy industry. I mean, I knew theoretically that it was a different ball game, but practically, getting people to leave their fancy offices and hierarchical mindsets for a 9-9 startup job with a single-minded focus on building a high performance culture, was the biggest challenge. The mistakes were more consequential, the losses more significant and the bad news always more unbearable.

Imagine this – telling a pathologist that they have to “listen” to their technician, who traditionally reports to the pathologist, or asking the junior-most person for their opinion in a company all-hands meeting. Telling people with twenty plus years of experience that they would have no office, title, or privacy, that they would receive the same laptop as everyone else and they would have no additional perks. Putting together a group of people across all levels in the form of communal lunch, and getting them to communicate freely.

Or this – It is easy to rely on your intuition – you make a decision and are either right or wrong, you deal with the consequences and move on. This is different. For the first time in your life the consequences are bigger than you can imagine, tougher than you can comprehend and swifter than you can perceive. As you are being led, you are expected to lead.

Or this – A room full of eager eyes, all thirty plus years old, staring at you, with a question that apparently only you can answer. And as their leader you don’t have the option of deflecting the question or turning to someone else for a solution.

Or this – Telling a customer you made a mistake, and owning up to it. Hearing what they had to go through because of your misdoing and knowing that you can’t do anything to correct it.

Or this – Learning that your “perfect process” broke down. A problem you couldn’t have anticipated and knowing that there is no back-up plan.

Or this – Firing someone, knowing that their family depends upon them, knowing that having them around is more harmful than useful for the company. Taking a stand, compassionately.

Now imagine, being in one of these situations at least once a month, if not more frequently.

Yes it is hard being a founder, and even harder as a young, woman, but no one, not even those that have done it before, can prepare you for just how fulfilling it is to come out on the other side, smiling.”