Dr Ved Berani’s winning ways

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Dr Ved Berani

When Dr Ved Berani and his practice won a prestigious business award, he knew exactly what to do with the substantial cash prize. By Kerryn Ramsey

Dr Ved Berani graduated from Bombay University in 2000 and was ranked number one in his graduating class. Almost immediately, however, he realised dentistry was not the career for him. Wanting to start afresh, he left his home in India and came to Melbourne’s Monash University to undertake a Master of Business Administration. 

“Two years later, I joined the sales team of a dental company,” recalls Dr Berani. “I married my wife, Priyanka, and life was going well but I wasn’t satisfied with my career choice. I didn’t want to be selling dental equipment; I wanted to be using it. I rediscovered my passion for dentistry and took my dental exams again. I graduated as a licensed dentist in 2004.”

Dr Berani worked for four different practices over a five-month period but never found the fulfilment he was searching for. Six months after graduating, he purchased a small rundown clinic from an older dentist. The previous owner left on a Friday and Dr Berani started on Monday with Priyanka as practice manager. Located in Blackburn, 16 kilometres east of Melbourne’s CBD, the business had one receptionist, one nurse, one surgery and little goodwill.

“I had my own ideas and philosophies I wanted to implement,” says Dr Berani. “I was excited to be in a position where whatever happens, good and bad, was my responsibility. The best decision I’ve ever made was having my wife by my side, running the business together.”

Earning trust

Of all the challenges initially faced by Dr Berani, perhaps the biggest hurdle was that patients didn’t believe in him. As a 26-year-old migrant dentist, winning the trust of the local community was a challenge. He always believed that if you do the right thing by the patient, the business will grow. He invested in new chairs, new technology and training for staff.

“While providing quality work is essential, it’s also about building relationships,” says Dr Berani. “The previous owner had done a lot of patch work. I wanted to educate my patients so they understood their options, short-term and long-term. I let them know I support them no matter what they choose. You don’t earn trust in a day; it’s built up over time.”

With a desire to grow the business, Dr Berani purchased the property next door in 2016 and in 2019, built an attached custom-designed two-storey dental centre and day surgery.

“Our practice was the first in Victoria to offer full sleep dentistry services under general anaesthetic,” says Dr Berani. “Today, Healthy Smiles has 14 practitioners working in 11 surgeries and one general anaesthetic room.”

The winner

Both Dr Berani and general manager wife Priyanka have remained unfaltering in their dedication to their patients and to quality dental work. In 2022, Dr Berani was the first Australian of Indian origin to win the National Small Business Award from the Ethnic Business Awards Foundation. This foundation started in 1988 with the aim of recognising and rewarding the contributions of migrants to the Australian economy.

“During the nomination process, representatives of the awards visited our practice, filmed the premises and interviewed me and my staff,” says Dr Berani. “I travelled to Sydney for the ceremony and met then Prime Minister Scott Morrison along with future PM Anthony Albanese. Both were thrilled that a dentist had won such a prestigious award. The award is recognition of the service we provide and helps build credibility for our business.”

No fear

A large part of Healthy Smiles success is due to Dr Berani’s passion for helping people overcome their fear of dentistry. Using nitrous oxide and oral sedation achieved good results but was not effective for extremely phobic patients. Initially, Dr Berani engaged an anaesthetist to regularly visit the practice to provide conscious sedation. 

“This worked well for a few years but I knew we needed to expand,” he says. “That’s why we included a fully equipped day surgery in our new dental centre. It allows us to offer all aspects of dentistry while the patient is fully asleep.”

Clients who hadn’t seen a dentist for 20 to 30 years started making appointments. Dr Berani’s calm, professional manner soon won the trust of these patients. He was also transparent about the cost of such major rehabilitation. Many patients were convinced when it was explained that instead of up to 15 appointments, the work could be completed in two or three sessions under general anaesthetic.

“There were frequently tears when these patients were able to smile and eat without pain,” Dr Berani says. “They were so grateful that our nearly 600 Google reviews have an average score of 4.9. Patients now travel from all over the state to see us.”

More than dentistry

Dr Berani, Priyanka and the team at Healthy Smiles are committed to giving back to the community. When Dr Berani won the National Small Business Award, it came with a cash prize of $10,000. He immediately donated the full amount to Sikh Volunteers Australia.

“They help the homeless, single mums, students and those affected by bushfire, drought and other natural disasters,” says Dr Berani. “We’ve already been blessed with so much, I knew that donating would be the best use of the money.”

With Healthy Smiles consistently at 90 per cent capacity, Dr Berani and Priyanka are looking at expanding to other areas of Melbourne. Sydney is also a possibility and going national is not out of the question.

“The dental community needs to support each other so we grow together and increase overall servicing of the community,” says Dr Berani. “We often have other dental groups and clinics utilising our facilities. By sharing and collaborating, it’s a win-win for everyone.”  

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