#edGY: No,This is not a café

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BARE cement floors. A chalkboard wall covered with drawings and scribbles. A long wood-and-steel table by the large glass windows. Clean white walls accented by book shelves, a pop art painting of John Lennon and a bright red guitar. An exposed-brick bar under low-hanging light bulbs. Familiar tunes from The Beatles play. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee permeate.

Don’t be fooled. This isn’t another hipster café that has popped up in the Klang Valley. This is Prestij Perdana Dental, a new clinic in Kota Damansara, Selangor.

It is possibly the first dental clinic in Malaysia that has gone out of its way to look anything but cold and sterile. The newly-renovated two-storey space exudes a fresh and minimalist vibe throughout. The spacious waiting area on the upper floor is designed to mimic a café. Downstairs are the two examination rooms.

Prestij Perdana Dental’s principal dentist, Dr Nurul Huda Hasan, says the décor is intended to do away with the fears and anxieties that most people feel when visiting the dentist.

“Almost 99.5% of my patients say, ‘This is the first time I don’t feel scared at a dental clinic. The concept, the environment and smell is really different,’” says the 35-year-old.

“Many people have this perception that the dental clinic is a cruel and scary place, especially with the sound of drilling. We want to change that,” says the 10-year veteran.

The team behind this new concept

Nurul Huda had always wanted to open a clinic that would change how people perceive dentists and the industry. So, after a stint in Dubai, she returned home and started planning one with her friends — university mate Dr Firdaus Hariri and his wife Hafizah Shariff.

The partners stumbled upon the newly-developed three-storey shoplot in Kota Damansara early last year. They liked the location, as it is near a residential area and has ample parking space. “Location, location, location, that’s the key!” exclaims Hafizah, who handles the front office and financials but has a full-time job in the corporate sector.

Prestij Perdana Dental was started with an initial investment of over RM300,000. The bulk of it went to renovations and purchasing equipment such as dental chairs and x-ray machines.

Nurul Huda practises in the clinic full-time while Firdaus, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and Dr Emy Ariffin, an orthodontist, are on call.

Hafizah says the décor was inspired by their love for coffee and café hopping. “I think all of us are avid coffee drinkers but we can’t have our own coffee joint (laughs).

It’s funny that these dentists love drinking coffee because it stains teeth and so on. Well, they do know how to clean up,” Hafizah jokes.

The partners hired an interior designer to help with the finer points and pitched in with their ideas. Prestij Perdana Dental opened for business last September.

“We are very keen on the industrial, minimalist and Scandinavian-inspired look. We are happy with the way it looks,” explains Hafizah.

Beyond youthful appeal

Apart from the décor, the other thing that makes Prestij Perdana Dental stand out is its very active Instagram account.

Posting pictures every few days, the clinic has garnered close to 1,500 followers in a few short months.

They are taking a cue from food and beverage outlets that have taken to social media to market to new customers and build a brand identity. Hafizah says almost 70% of the patients came to know about the clinic via Instagram.

“With social media, we are actually reaching out to the younger generation. This new concept appeals to them,” says Nurul Huda.

Although about 60% their patients come from the younger crowd, they have also started attracting families. “We are a family-oriented clinic, and you can see people from all walks of life. It’s quite a diverse mix,” Hafizah adds.

This diversity goes well with Prestij Perdana Dental’s plans to be a platform for giving back to the community. They recently hosted a drive to help those affected by the recent massive flooding in the east coast.

After its operations have stabilised, Prestij Perdana Dental plans to open a similar clinic. Ultimately, the partners see Prestij Perdana Dental as a one-stop centre.

They are considering acquiring the ground floor and turning it into a day surgery that provides outpatient treatment and minor surgical procedures.

Nurul Huda also wants to build a medical group under the Prestij Perdana Dental umbrella.

She hopes Prestij Perdana Dental will serve as a platform for new dentists to start their own practice and attract more medical graduates to pursue a career in dentistry.

“I guess it’s the way you attract them. You have to be different,” she explains.

This article first appeared in #edGY, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on February 9 - 15, 2015.