SA couple opens first-of-its-kind hospital, hotel and spa – all in one

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Dr. Anushka Reddy, an aesthetic doctor with a special interest in anti-aging, and Dr. Mahesh Naidu, a physician in private practice at Robinson Hospital opened Vivari Hotel and Spa by Matis.
Dr. Anushka Reddy, an aesthetic doctor with a special interest in anti-aging, and Dr. Mahesh Naidu, a physician in private practice at Robinson Hospital opened Vivari Hotel and Spa by Matis.
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This is their pride and joy. It’s taken over 10 years to see their dream come to life.

Couple Dr. Anushka Reddy, an aesthetic doctor with a special interest in anti-aging, and Dr. Mahesh Naidu, a physician in private practice at Robinson Hospital opened Vivari Hotel and Spa by Matis situated in Featherbrooke, close to the Cradle of Humankind, north of Johannesburg.

The word Vivari is a Sanskrit word loosely translated as ‘uncovered’.

However, for Dr. Reddy and Dr. Naidu, the name Vivari is a coincidence, as it stems from combining their two sons' names: Vivari (affectionately called Viv) and Aryan (also called Ari).

A hospital is usually a place of recovery from illness. 

“We saw the need for medical tourism to be developed in South Africa and noticed it was particularly lacking in Johannesburg.

We strongly believed that we could convince international medical tourists to visit our facility for cosmetic or weight-loss surgery which would pique interest in the area and inject much-needed revenue into our economy through tourism and health,” Dr. Reddy says. 

“This is the first in medical tourism with an aesthetic surgery situated on the same property as a five-star boutique hotel,” Dr. Reddy tells Drum. 

“Not only does it provide a private and safe sanctuary for guests to recover from a cosmetic procedure, but it is also close to the historic and iconic tourist attractions and activities at The Cradle of Humankind.” 

Together for 29 years while working at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Dr. Reddy and her husband Dr. Naidu went straight into business and opened up various medical centres.

“But both these businesses and various others could not be sustained. We were up to our eyeballs in debt and student loans,” she says. She then worked overseas in the UK where she was able to pay off their debt. 

“The best feeling is to not owe the bank. At the same time, my husband qualified as a specialist physician and he became very successful in his career. We then got married and had kids."

Despite having successful medical careers, both were entrepreneurs at heart. When the property came along, that was over 20 years ago. 

“I was way out of my depth, I could not afford it,” she says. 

“Then it came onto the market, 10 years ago and that was a great opportunity to buy it. It belonged to the Becker family and was a sunflower plantation. When we inherited the property, it was a dilapidated, rat-infested property. It seemed like a good investment, but we didn’t know what to do with it,” she says. 

“My husband visited the property every day with builders and tinkered about until they came up with something beautiful. But we didn’t think that a hotel on its own would not make the cut, we needed something different.”

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Vivari boasts cutting-edge medical technology.  

“We have both Vaser ultrasound technology for body shaping and Renuvion Laser for skin tightening. The combination of these procedures works best for mummy makeovers,” Dr. Reddy says. 

“Despite not being in the hospitality or hospital industry, we are entrepreneurs at heart and restless souls who are always looking for opportunities. We realised that building a hotel on its own would just be the same old thing but a combination of a hotel with the hospital would probably be the most unique and innovative concept in South Africa,” Dr. Anushka says. 

“We also felt that the West Rand is underutilised and underappreciated and we wanted to drive traffic to the area as well as create jobs and improve the general status of the surrounding areas,” she adds. 

Vivari Aesthetics works closely with Vivari Aftercare for patients who wish to have post-surgical aftercare.

“Aftercare offers hyperbaric oxygen treatments to speed up healing, IV therapy to boost immunity, and lymphatic drainage massage to reduce swelling,” she adds. 

“In addition, our aftercare offers a comprehensive concierge medical service from pick up of medication to drop off at home after surgery within the greater Johannesburg area. The environment is safe and luxurious,” says Dr. Reddy.

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The hotel was named Croco Lodge when they bought it in 2012. 

“It underwent a complete refurbishment over a 10-year period that transformed the three-star property into a five-star property with a difference,” says Dr. Reddy. 

“We saw the need for medical tourism to be developed in South Africa and noticed it was particularly lacking in Johannesburg. We strongly believed that we could convince international medical tourists to come to our facility for cosmetic or weight loss surgery which would pique interest in the area and bring in much-needed foreign currency.” 

However, they knew there was a moratorium on hospital licences by the Gauteng department of health but pursued the matter with them and never gave up until they were granted a licence. 

“We built a department of health-accredited day hospital with state-of-the-art facilities that catered specifically for cosmetic and weight-loss surgery. We took advantage of the fact that we were closely located to a world heritage site namely the Cradle of Humankind and invested heavily into creating a five-star property on the West Rand that would rival any five-star property in Sandton or anywhere else in the world,” she adds. 

With 48 rooms and over 200 employees on the property, the hospital, hotel and spa features in the hotel would be the naming of various areas.  

“For example, Pecan Bar is so named because it is surrounded by magnificent 30-year-old pecan trees. The fine dining restaurant is named Brambles because during the building process the entire area where the restaurant is located was covered by thorny bramble bushes,” she says.

“However, I would say the Buddha is the statement piece at Vivari Hotel and Spa. While on a family holiday in Bali we came across this magnificent Buddha on a tiny side street in a place called Kuta. The Buddha is made of volcanic rock and was shipped to South Africa and takes its pride of place in front of the spa in a reflection pond.

"Another interesting item we have is a Steinway piano from the 1930s. A Jewish family fleeing Europe after World War II brought it to South Africa. We bought it at an antique auction, and it’s placed in private dining in Brambles Restaurant. We also commissioned local artists to produce some of the artwork at the hotel and the art in the spa, for example, is painted with coffee.”

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D. Reddy is happy about the employment created by the hotel in these tough economic times.

“The hotel is 100% black [owned] and offers an integrated approach to wellness by incorporating five elements: holistic health, nutrition, fitness, spa, and aesthetic beauty. The hotel has a resort-like feel, offering 48 rooms and three suites spread across the property.”

 Vivari Spa won the prestigious international World Spa Awards for two years running. 

“This is partly due to us using Kneipp therapy which treats the body, mind, and soul of an individual,” she says. 

“At the spa, we have a hydrotherapy suite with a steam room, an ice fountain, a heated vitality pool, and an infrared sauna cabin. Guests also have access to a mineral swimming pool, yoga studio, and gym.” 

Dr. Reddy and her husband have big dreams for the hotel. 

“We aim to be the leading surgical centre in Africa and become a training centre for plastic surgeons.” 

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