Dentistry Has Too Much To Offer, It Has Everything: Dr Arsalan Riyaz
Dr Arsalan Riyaz, with his private dental practice, a successful food business and a family life in harmony, is an inspirational reflection of the true meaning of ‘Dentistry & Beyond’. After graduating in 2003 from Baqai Dental College, Dr Riyaz practiced at several private clinics before he dived into the corporate life in 2010, when he joined 3M. Meanwhile, Dr Riyaz established his own dental practice. In 2017, Dr Arsalan Riyaz ventured into the eatery business when he launched Jucy Lucy after the brand gained immense popularity and success at a food festival.
Briefly tell us how a typical day goes by in your life?
Dr Arsalan Riyaz: I have a relaxed day. Nowadays it is summer vacations, but my usual day starts with dropping my son off to school. Then I head to work, to the restaurant. Spend some time there. Then after bringing my son back home from school, I start off with the practice around mid-afternoon. From there it is just the normal routine; running about, doing the chores, taking care of the child, giving time to my wife. Basically, just household stuff.
When and why did you decide to pursue dentistry? What did you find attractive about this career choice?
AR: I was more influenced by the surroundings. Couple of my friends who were with me, wanted to pursue dentistry. They had had exposure to this profession in other countries. Talking to them I realized that medical profession had more to offer than just being an MBBS doctor, or a surgeon.
Dentistry had too much to offer, it had everything. Of course we did not know about it then, but once we got into it; from the prep for the university to actually getting into the program and the getting out. It was a wonderful experience. I was blessed to have friends who directed me to becoming a dentist.
From dentistry to corporate life at 3M, and now a combination of food and dentistry. Share your experience.
AR: A wonderful experience actually. I mean I never left any of it. I am a dentist by profession; I will always be a dentist. It is in my blood, it is my passion. Clinical work is still what runs through my entire day’s routine. My clinical experience actually started with my corporate experience. I was clinically training people initially when I joined the corporation: 3M. I have worked with 3M for good 8 years. From there it was a learning curve; the corporate experience really enhanced my vision of how things are globally. Because we were practicing dentistry in Pakistan only, learning what was happening over here, but the exposure coming from the corporation, globally, was very good. It helped me to make new friends that are now my business partners; corporations taught me how to make good teams, in order to be able to rely on others as well to achieve your target. The beauty was that it kept me learning through each and every day. Once I left 3M, I ventured into the food business: Jucy Lucy. It was a very good experience and from there it just was never looking back.
I still am a businessman, I still am a dentist, and I still have my food business going on. It is just something that I now manage very easily.
Why do you think only practicing dentistry did not seem enough? Was it because of too much saturation or unsatisfactory return?
AR: For me it was not about whether it was rewarding enough or not. It was more about the fact that I wanted to do a lot of things; dentistry was just a part of it. I still have new projects coming up. They are not related to dentistry, nor are they food related. They are completely different projects. Life is a learning curve, you keep on learning and moving on. My motto in life is that “Money is the by-product of what you do,” so do whatever you do well and money will follow. Eventually you will get there. Life is very rewarding.
So dentistry, my corporate job and my restaurant are all part of my life, and they are going to turn into something different after some time. Go with the flow, do not just stand there and think that if you do not have a practice you would not survive. But yes, do what you are doing very well; learn it, apply it, and see where it takes you.
Did you always know that at one point you wanted to venture into the eatery business, or was it in spur of the moment? Tell us a little about your Jucy Lucy journey…
AR: Jucy Lucy started off as a weekend project. Just a couple of friends wanting to kill a few days, doing something fun. The Karachi Food Festival was around the corner, and my friends and I thought of putting our product out there. We did not have any concepts at that time, it was an immature idea. Eventually when we came to narrowing our options down, we decided on burgers. Thanks to a few good friends that were, and still are, part of the team; they came up with the idea that this is how we should go about it. From there the entire journey started; from managing that festival, where we served more than 5,000 people in three days. The success gave us the idea of turning our short-term project into a serious business. After seven months into the journey, we had narrowed down to our first location, and we never looked back.
Dental practice or Jucy Lucy; which of the two consumes most of your energy, time and effort, and is that by choice?
AR: Everything is by choice. I have a lot of time in my day right now. By the end of the day when I go home, and I am relaxing, reading a book, watching TV or checking out my phone, I feel like I am wasting my time throughout the day. Once you start doing something that you are good at, it becomes second nature to you; there is no effort behind it any more. It has almost been 3 years to Jucy Lucy now, but when we started out with it, all of my time and day would go to it. I was going home at 3am, and I was back at work at 8am. Even when I was starting my practice, my whole day would be about it. So once I am in it, it all becomes about that particular project, and I give it my 100%; I make sure that I know each and every aspect of it. I remain involved with all my projects from the day they were conceived at to their execution and smooth functioning. But once it starts running and I have handed it over to a good team, then I just talk to the team and that is how we manage it. So I have got a good team in place that is where my corporate experience helped me out. I am able to put my faith in it, and the team takes on from where I leave things with them.
Q7. What is more enjoyable; flipping burgers or restoring smiles?
Answer: Now, I do not flip burgers anymore because I have got a good team for it.
It prefer making smiles. It is a very rewarding profession to be in. Dentistry has taught me one thing, which is to always be very patient in both, your life and your profession, to deliver the best results. Be patient. Good things will happen.
Did you or do you ever consider quitting one for the other?
AR: I took the decision of quitting my corporate job. I quit my corporate job for two reasons, first being that it was becoming too monotonous. I did not feel like I was getting anywhere with it anymore; there was nothing exciting or new happening for me. For to me to keep things interesting is to keep learning at my job. The best part about dentistry is that there is always something new to learn. You continue to meet new people and learn. There has not been a single year that I have not learn new things in dentistry, considering that I have been practicing dentistry for 12-15 years now. I have taken all the flavours from dentistry, from the niche to the very starting level. There is always something new to learn.
Introduce the viewers to the concept of ‘Dentistry and Beyond’ using your experience. How important do you think it is to not feel limited by your degree, and to pursue your dreams beyond your profession?
AR: We will always be limited by the situation or by the surroundings that we have. Our degrees will just be a piece of paper till we actually apply what we have learned, until we have gotten the results by delivering a service to somebody with our education or experience. So ‘Beyond Dentistry’ is about what you want to do at the end of the day. There is always an artist, a chef, or sportsman inside you. You know what, just do it. What is stopping you?
Monetize your degree, yes. Make money out of it the way you feel it can, and do anything on the side to keep yourself passionate about your life. Life is always rewarding; it depends on how we look at a situation and get the best out of it.
So what is the best part about running an eatery?
AR: it is all about spreading smiles. Same is with dentistry, where you want the patient to smile back, which makes your journey fulfilling by the end of the day. It is the same at the restaurant, you see families and friends coming in and getting together at the table, enjoying the company, the games and the food, and walking out with a smile. So Jucy Lucy is not just about food any more, but about family time, something that people look forward to when they want to meet up with friends at a place that makes them feel comfortable just like home.
Do you consider yourself a foodie? And is it safe to assume that you’re more of a burger person than a pizza person?
AR: I am definitely a burger person. I like my pizzas, I am very particular about them, but there will never be flipping a coin about it; it will always be a burger for me.
I am a bigtime foodie, yes. I have experienced almost all the places in Karachi, and I am still discovering. I take food blogs very seriously; I follow them and take their advice. Actually my wife is more into food than me. She narrows it down for us, and we go out and try the best places in town. I am so glad that I am living in Karachi, it has the best food to offer and a vast variety of it. There is always some place new around the corner that is keeping your interest up.
Being a doctor treating patients, and then also finding time to serve the best burgers in town… Have you been able to fairly balance work, work no. 2 and friends & family?
AR: By the end of any day the most important thing for me is spending time with my family that takes precedence over everything. Until and unless it is an emergency, I can cancel my patients, I cannot go to Jucy Lucy and just be with my son and my family, because that certainly is the most important thing in the day. So I think it is a balanced day between any of these choices.
Tell us about other interests and hobbies that you have?
Answer: I have had a lot of hobbies. I still make time for them. I used to collect paintings for the longest time; I enjoyed my time with my frames. I used to trade them. Back in my school and college days, I used to collect stamps; I still have them. I was a lot into books, fiction mostly. I also used to do digital photography for some time, doing whatever my camera would allow me to do. Every hobby that I had, really helped me with my career and my life; from developing the aesthetic sense to actually finding the right time to do what I needed to do to get the best results out. Nothing could be done in haste.
What helpful suggestions do you have for the new generation of dental surgeons? What should their priorities be?
AR: For fresh graduates I would advise that make your priorities right. You should know that whatever degree it is that you are pursuing, at the end of the day it is your hand that works inside the patient’s mouth. Your manual skill is the most important thing. So be good with your clinical skills; learn the new ways, learn with technology. In our times, YouTube was in its developing stage, so it was not offering that much clinical education. I have polished my clinical skills using online tutorials and by talking to people on webinars. So your home not offers you a complete education skill set if you want it.
Travel! In dentistry you also learn by travelling, you learn by interaction. You interact with people around and beyond you, and you learn clinical dentistry as well as the business of dentistry. You do not need to work more to make money from dentistry, you need to work smartly. Learn that, make your patients happy and you would be happy by the end of the day as well.
Lastly, please share your comments regarding the menace of quackery and SHCC’s campaign against it?
AR: We need to see how the world has tackled these issues. Quackery has always been a global issue; it was there in the British time and it still is there in the developing countries of the world. It is all across the world, because healthcare is expensive, and it requires a certain skillset to be delivered. Considering the population size of our country, we do not have enough registered dentists. We have nearly 20,000 dentists registered in our system, but how many of them are actually practicing? Not even half of them. So we are talking about 10,000 dentists against just the population of Karachi, the numbers do not match.
Quacks are actually providing that platform where a person can get in and get some treatment, get relief and then move back to their daily life. I am talking about a daily wager who is not earning more than Rs500. So it is not just about eliminating quackery but eliminating the need to go to a quack. The quackery business only thrives where the real business has failed to offer any relief to the patients.
What can be done about quackery is very simple; you teach the quacks basic sterilization techniques. That is a start. You need to teach them to refer complicated cases to proper specialists. Bring them into the society’s network; give them space so they can be recognized on some entry point level, from where they can enhance their skill and move forward. However, that does not mean that quackery is justified, but you need to realize what the quacks are offering back to the society. We need to think about the patient first, quackery will eliminate itself.
...and do you think the new smartphone app Authentik can help in eradicating the quacks while endorsing qualified healthcare providers?
It is a wonderful application. Authentik is something that your patients can actually benefit from. It is a tool for general masses to identify the right person to go to, considering that a lot of infectious diseases are out there. We need to have a drive for masses to know that a qualified dentist is not just a person who has a good clinical skill set, it is someone with a well-managed practice as well. Authentik is an excellent application; it is a step up from being invisible to now becoming visible to your surroundings, so people can search you out and see what your qualification is and then come to your practice. It is beautiful application that I would advise everyone to follow through.