Covax Australia, now K&G Group, outlines bold new vision to address national staffing shortfalls

Covax Australia, now K&G Group, outlines bold new vision to address national staffing shortfalls

K&G Group co-founders Dr Anuj Gupta and Mannu Kala at the 2022 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards.

Having been at the forefront of Australia’s response to COVID-19, operating respiratory clinics, drive-thru testing facilities and the complex logistical requirements of the vaccine roll-out, the co-founders of Covax Australia are embarking on their most ambitious project to date.

Covax Australia, soon to be K&G Group, is expanding its mandate to address national staffing shortfalls in the healthcare, hospitality, aged care and security sectors - bolting on new businesses in an aim to get approximately 51,000 people into understaffed roles.

To get there, the company is expanding into Delhi, India, has recently opened a new office in Melbourne to support growth targets, partnered with Peter Dodeja’s SAI Security to create a new security staffing services arm, and is launching its own in-house recruitment platform.

Co-founders Mannu Kala and Dr Anuj Gupta spoke to Business News Australia about their plans for 2023 and why a rebrand will transform the company from a COVID-focused business into a global staffing services firm.

For the founders of Covax Australia, 2023 is a new year in more than just name or number - it’s an opportunity to build on years of work done during the pandemic to support an understaffed healthcare sector and transform the company into a truly global business with a new office in Delhi, India.

Announced today exclusively by Business News Australia, Covax Australia is taking on a new identity - K&G Group - named after the founders themselves Mannu Kala and Dr Anuj Gupta, who were awarded the title of Gold Coast Young Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2022.

While the rebrand is an opportunity to move away from the company’s associations with COVID-19, it is also a chance for the pair to expand the business and address chronically understaffed industries.

Through K&G Workforce the company will continue its day-to-day operations by filling staffing gaps in healthcare, aged care and hospitality settings. However, that’s where business as usual ends for the company which was established in 2020 to operate specialist respiratory clinics early in the pandemic and went on to manage drive-thru testing facilities and the logistical do’s and don’t’s for the vaccine rollout.

Three new arms will be created over 2023 to support the company’s ambitions to supply up to 30 per cent of what Kala estimates will be around 170,000 extra staff required for the healthcare space by 2033.

This includes the development of a new rostering platform called K&G Tech, to be implemented first out in-house ahead of a global launch set for late 2023.

It also means the establishment of K&G Education, through which the pair hope to recruit approximately 10,000 people over the next three to five years from Asia to study and work in Australia in undersupplied roles like nursing and aged care providers.

Finally, the two have tapped fellow 2022 Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards finalist and founder of security services business SAI Security, Peter Dodeja, for a new joint venture called K&G SAI Security.

It’s an ambitious plan, but one that co-founder Kala believes will drastically scale the company that currently has about 1,000 active staff working in facilities across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, and a further 8,000 on the books.

“When you have a facility that has been running with the name Covax Australia, everyone thinks that you are entirely concerned with COVID. The reality is that currently, the majority of our work - 80 per cent - is non-COVID-related, so we’d like to move away from the COVID banner,” Dr Gupta said.

Kala, the former MedLab Pathology Queensland general manager, added that the healthcare landscape had changed since Covax’s founding, and that the pair are looking to take on a new challenge.

“Right now, what we’re looking at it is of course to consolidate what we’ve built while dividing the workforce into clinical admin and hospitality staff,” Kala said.

“The next big challenge which we will be facing in this country is going to be workforce problems, especially in the healthcare sector, and that’s why the expansion of the companies are in different divisions - so companies are going to look into different solutions, particularly with the overseas recruitment of nursing staff.”

Dr Gupta was keen to point out that while shortfalls in healthcare staffing numbers was not a new problem, it was one that had been exacerbated by the pandemic which led to a decline in immigration and movement of skilled labour into Australia - issues K&G Group hopes to address with the Education arm.

“This shortfall has become more acute, and it’s become more of an immediate overarching problem,” he said.

“Our division of K&G Education is essentially going to try and ameliorate that by assisting both public and private organisations.”

Pushing into Melbourne and soon, Delhi

To manage the considerable augmentation of K&G Group’s mandate, geographical and back-end support expansion necessarily follows.

As such, the company has announced the establishment of its new office in Melbourne, adding to the group’s headquarters in Queensland, and the addition of digs in Delhi, India.

The new Melbourne office, currently helmed by Dr Gupta, was opened to manage domestic demands according to the co-founder.

“We need to have a physical presence not just in Queensland, but in Victoria as well,” Dr Gupta said.

“Our business has grown significantly in New South Wales and Victoria, and I think this will assist us further contacting our stakeholders and partners, and engaging with them and providing a robust service.”

The Delhi office will soon open with approximately 50 staff, tasked with back-end support and connecting the Australian company to talent overseas keen to try out living, learning and working here.

“K&G Education will require on-ground staff, which will be helping in the recruitment of nurses and going through the processes,” Kala said.

“It’s also relevant for local recruitment - we won’t take any jobs overseas from here but we’ll need some on-ground staff for that.”

Connecting with fellow Young Entrepreneurs

The K&G joint venture with SAI Security is the latest collaboration between business owners that have taken part in Business News Australia’s Young Entrepreneur Awards initiative.

Though Dr Gupta notes he’d met SAI Security’s founder Peter Dodeja previously, the initiative had helped grease the wheels of progress.

“We have been supplying security guards throughout last year as a company, but SAI has a very established network and we see great synergy between their corporate governance and our corporate governance,” Dr Gupta said.

According to Kala, the company’s official expansion into security services is a natural one, and one that had been in train with their COVID-19 efforts.

“I think after COVID, security staff require more training, especially if you’re working in healthcare where there’s a lot of infection control,” Kala said.

“I think having a healthcare company like us, with all that experience, and then joining with SAI just adds a new flavour to how the business is done.”

While the raft of changes represent a new horizon for K&G Group, Dr Gupta said he was excited about what lies ahead.

“We are in this rapid phase of expansion and its good that an Australian-grown local Queensland business is expanding rapidly coming out of the pandemic.”

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