- Shamim Nabuuma’s inspiring shift from being a medical student to an entrepreneur is driven by a strong purpose.
- She stresses on the importance of being different and creating change and generating genuine impact.
- One major piece of advice that she shares is to follow your passion to be able to bring change.
- She believes in the fact that it is important to keep up with the trends and understand how to best optimize our service.
1. How did you start as a health tech entrepreneur?
I started as a medical student. At that time, I would print flyers and chase prospective clients. Many clients and even some of my classmates doubted my seriousness about being both a medical student and an entrepreneur. Everyone thought I should be in class, but I didn’t agree. I was ahead of my time and only attended lectures and activities that were most important in college.
I thought that if others could become entrepreneurs, I could be one too. So, I began looking for inspiration from successful people and studying their life habits. Moreover, I reflected on how I can approach and process my healthcare business differently because, if I didn’t do anything different, I would just be like any other person.
Overcoming geographical boundaries brought a major shift in perspective for me personally. The fact that I can be an entrepreneur beyond my country, Uganda, has motivated me to generate impact in neighboring countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and eventually the rest of the world.
2. How can businesses act in times of government changes and instabilities, especially in Africa?
In business, competition is always hard, but we all need to bring money to the table and help our communities and countries, especially during unstable times. As an entrepreneur, I believe I have a responsibility to give back to my community and make an impact on my people.
I foresee myself implementing this thought in multiple ways, such as creating jobs, improving healthcare services, and assisting them with ways to preserve food in unstable conditions. I strongly believe that changes in the government must not stop the change that we wish to create. We have to be the ones who help people and give taxes back to the government to improve other people’s lives.
3. Do you think Africa can accommodate the changes happening in the world right now, in terms of healthcare and agriculture?
I believe Africa has already changed in many ways and is still changing. Disasters such as COVID-19 and wars have altered how we deal with many things here. I think medical students should have a tech instinct for the healthcare sector because the future is in technology and what it offers.
As for the agricultural sector, we should innovate and think of different ways to potentially help farmers. Additionally, businesses must be aware of relevant information concerning agriculture to stand by farmers until they have the money at the time of harvest.
Africa must now have AI technologies that can promote a revolution that we’ve never witnessed before and that we can use to improve our lives. For example, if farmers are waiting for the rain and the rain doesn’t come, they’ll lose their crops and the source of their money. Instead, we have to adopt technologies that can forecast the weather to control the farming process rather than depend on unstable factors.
4. Why do you prefer to be called an entrepreneur rather than a doctor?
Despite the immense pride of being a doctor, this profession was the third-best career option that I could think of. While becoming an entrepreneur was much better, the idea of a health-tech entrepreneur intrigued me to my core. And becoming one eventually has been the best achievement.
I feel that, as a health tech entrepreneur, I can serve 100 patients daily as compared to a medical doctor who could serve only 10. As a health tech entrepreneur, my vision is to be able to reach as many countries as possible with my healthcare services.
5. It can be hard to keep employees motivated. How do you do it?
There’s one story from Michael Bloomberg that left a huge impact on me. When he started his own enterprise, he would always ensure that the office was stocked with food so that people could access it whenever they could. As leaders, we need to keep finding ways to keep the employees motivated at work by training the management on the welfare of employees.
It’s pertinent to make them feel at home. I learned a lot from Michael Bloomberg, who taught me the subtle art of managing people. Through our interaction, one thing that stayed with me was that people have different ideas and opinions. People have different reasons for working, and some may not be candid about sharing theirs.
6. Do you have any advice for young people who want to start their own business?
People usually start businesses because they have failed to find jobs. But you should not start a business just because of that. You should pursue your passion and do what you love. It’s only then that you’ll succeed and be able to compete with all the businesses out there.
And remember to act quickly instead of only talking and thinking without doing. Don’t say that you’ll start tomorrow; start today. Do something, even if it’s minimal, like putting flyers under the doors. Rest assured that it’s the small, accumulative acts that will get you where you want to be someday.
7. What have you learned from your journey that you want to share with young people all around the world?
As young people, we face the challenge of not understanding that everything we build takes time to grow. We usually want things to grow fast, which is not realistic. It is a journey—everything happens step by step. Rome was not built in one day. Every day we need to read something new or browse the web to keep up with the trends and understand how to best optimise our service.
Another major life experience that broadened my horizons was when I applied for the Tony Elumelu training in 2018. This training taught me a lot, exposed me to many business moguls, and empowered me to improve my skills. My creativity was challenged, and my knowledge of possibilities expanded due to conventional working at the hospital.
I learned that services could be provided on a global scale. There is this one Hindi song I wish I could share with you. It has a line about the beads that inspires me tremendously: “Love what you do, and whatever you do, give your best in it.”
8. How are you bridging the technology gap in Uganda?
We have been extensively working on various factors to improve the technological landscape in Uganda. CHIL Hospitals serve as the hub, providing medical expertise and other resources such as
local clinics, school sickbays, and group mobile telemedicine camps.
For local clinics and school sickbays, nurses at the spokes are trained to use the technology and initiate e-consultation sessions with our e-doctors whenever they get patients. The e-doctor recommends the apt test be done, after which an e-lab test form is written and uploaded to the patient’s electronic medical records account.
Similarly, for organised women groups, our mobile telemedicine team moves to these customers on their meeting days and initiates e-consultation calls with our e-doctors. Along with that, group members found that further management needs are referred to our hubs or nearby partner hospitals with the capacity to handle the cases.
What sets our model apart from other telemedicine companies is their desire to build empires, treat patients themselves, and run their own e-pharmacies. In contrast, CHIL is an ecosystem that aims to empower local and rural clinics, enabling them to offer services comparable to those of renowned healthcare service providers on the continent.
We envision a future where these clinics, along with school sickbays in Africa, can compete with high-class hospitals in terms of the quality and quantity of services they offer. While many in this field strive to establish vast empires, taking full responsibility for patient care, we are not just another company but rather an ecosystem builder led by the belief that empowering local and rural clinics is crucial to transforming healthcare in Africa.
Shamim Nabuuma’s courage and focus towards creating better healthcare despite facing challenges serves as an inspiration for many. Her entrepreneurial triumphs are instrumental to a positive change in the health sector in Uganda. Change-makers like her are flag bearers of creating a movement rooted in the betterment of society. From her life journey, what substantially stands out is to not procrastinate the change that you know you can create.