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04/02/2018 - 07:00hs

Giant of the health sector is of Lebanese descent

Paulo Zahr began his career as a dentist and now he manages the largest chain of dental clinics in Brazil, OdontoCompany. He also founded PartMed, a private medical care business that charges popular prices.

São Paulo – He’s a healthcare expert, but also has the business acumen typical of Arabs. With these two skills a son of Lebanese parents earned wide recognition in Brazil when merging entrepreneurship, dentistry and medical sciences. Paulo Zahr went from dentist to multimillionaire business owner in the healthcare sector in nearly 30 years. Currently, the son of Lebanese parents manages his two success businesses, OdontoCompany, a chain of dental practices charging popular prices, and PartMed, which offers private medical care also at popular prices.

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The Lebanese origins brought business acumen and the passion for healthcare

His parents came to Brazil in 1956, from Beirut, Lebanon, and went to love in São José do Rio Preto (454 km from São Paulo). His mother was a homemaker and his father owned a clothing and fabric store, in which Zahr would help with sales. “Since I was a kid I played and helped at my father’s store, I was a good salesman,” said Zahr in an interview to ANBA.

In addition to this business talent, Zahr also inherited the family’s passion for the healthcare area. “My parents always encouraged me to have a career in the healthcare area, the great dream of an Arab family is for a child to become a doctor,” he said. The entrepreneur says that “In Lebanon, dentist is the doctor of teeth,” he said on the status shared by both professions in the Arab country.

Zahr graduated in Dentistry in Presidente Prudente (559 km from São Paulo) in 1989, and, in 1990, opened his first dental practice in São José do Rio Preto. There, OdontoCompany was born and began its entrepreneurial journey. At the time, he noticed that many low-income patients didn’t have access to expensive treatments, such as orthodontic appliances, dental prosthesis and implants. That’s when he decided to implement a payment method that would fit the needs of these people.

He began to offer installments as payment methods for his clients, with the more expensive treatments being paid in up to 30 installments without interest rates. In the first year, over five thousand orthodontic appliances were sold this way. Gradually, the practice became a company and began to grow. “Many colleagues approached me seeking tips to apply the same business model, widely used until today,” he said.

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The franchise net PartMed already opened 24 practices

In 2010, Zahr met business owner José Carlos Semenzato, founder of a holding company of franchises. He then stopped working as a dentist to devote himself fully to a career as an entrepreneur. Along with Semenzato, he founded the OdontoCompany franchise net and the business boomed. Currently, the country’s largest chain of dental practices has 425 units, with 300 in operation, six million assisted patients and BRL 220 million (USD 70.25 million) in revenues in 2017. Per day, nine thousand people are treated by the chain.

Semenzato and Zahr opened recently a franchise net of private medical care, which also charges popular prices and offers installment payments, PartMed. The medical care chain has 70 franchise contracts, with 24 units opened until the end of January. The company registered BRL 2 million (USD 640,000) last year. “We are registering an average of four to six units being opened in a month, and we already reached 1,600 patients per day,” said Zahr.

Currently, OdontoCompany franchises are operating in 20 Brazilian states, and a major trend is to open practices in malls. “The idea came up because it’s a place that offers convenience and safety for the people, who go to malls for different services such as grocery shopping and gyms,” said Zahr. The chain already opened 10 units in malls, mainly in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani

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