Bangalore: V.V. Ravindra was spurred into his third entrepreneurial venture by two sets of data bearing lofty ambitions for healthcare.
The first was that the government aimed to boost its annual expenditure on healthcare to 2.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years from 1.4%. The second was the projection that spending on information technology (IT) in healthcare in India will increase from $274.2 million (Rs1,530 crore) in 2009 to $609.5 million in 2013, according to Springboard Research, an IT market research firm.
The numbers eventually helped Ravindra decide which part of the healthcare ecosystem he would venture into. “Wipro was already doing well in medical devices, so I was wondering which was the right piece of the pie,” he says.
Tackling obstacles: Ravindra says convincing people about cloud security and persuading doctors to use the product has been a huge challenge.
In January 2010, the self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur started Idea Brahma Consulting Pvt. Ltd, an intellectual property (IP) development and licensing firm focused on health and education.
Ravindra has more than 25 IPs to his credit. His first company was a natural language processing start-up, and his next was a disaster warning firm.
V.V. Ravindra, Idea Brahma’s managing director, talks about Vbond Vita, a product that is acting as a bridge between pharmacies and patients.
From the beginning, Ravindra was certain that his new company’s core strength would be mobility. Combining this with cloud computing, Idea Brahma started working on a clinic management system, Vbond Vita—a platform-agnostic application that will let a doctor store and view patient data. “We bring the clinic to the doctor; he can literally practice from his mobile phone,” he says.
“This lets doctors examine scans, X-rays, and ICU monitors of diagnostic quality despite our limited Internet bandwidth and infrastructure,” he explains. The app, he says, works even on GPRS-enabled mobile phones as on the iPad and Android-powered tablet computers, as well as on laptop and desktop computers.
After over a year of product development and testing involving a dozen doctors, electronics company Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd tied up with Idea Brahma as a business partner for its healthcare segment and launched Vbond Vita in August 2011. Together with Idea Brahma’s in-house team of engineers and designers, the focus group was also deeply involved in the product design.
That’s what helped the company develop a single-page interface. “One doctor told us to just have the entire dashboard as a single screen,” says Ravindra.
Priced at Rs7,500, against about Rs3 lakh for a typical clinic management system, Vbond Vita has had 600 takers so far. “We should be able to sell 3,000 by the end of 2012,” adds the managing director.
In a December report, JP Morgan Chase and Co. touted healthcare as the “next holy grail in Indian IT,” adding that healthcare practices within IT companies will grow faster than the companies’ average growth rates.
It’s another thing altogether that India’s public expenditure on healthcare is the lowest among the BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China— according to World Bank data. But with the government keen on catching up, the Indian healthcare sector looks promising.
To achieve its sales target, Idea Brahma is marketing itself to various medical associations in the country. It is also tying up with pharmaceutical companies such as Biocon Ltd, Lupen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Micro Labs Ltd to promote its product.
That apart, the company also goes to hospitals and medical colleges to woo doctors and medical students to equip themselves with smartphones and consequently with VBond Vita.
Ravindra’s biggest challenge so far has been convincing people about cloud security while also persuading doctors to actually use the product.
By next year, Ravindra hopes to take the app to rural India, for which his team of 50 engineers are working towards adding a local language component. “Rural India is the clear vision,” he says. Ultimately, the goal is to have unified medical records much like in the developed countries.
There are, of course, other benefits of mobile apps for doctors. Not only will these help doctors quickly communicate messages to patients but they will also provide real-time care to the patients.
The company, funded by a close-knit group of private investors with an initial capital of Rs.1 crore, is looking at other sources of revenue: education and wellness.
Within wellness, Idea Brahma has tied up with fitness clinic VLCC Healthcare Ltd for a mobile app that can track member management, fitness goals and bill payments. It has tied up with Educomp Solutions Ltd to launch Lifeboard teacher and Lifeboard student, which are mobile applications that teachers and students can use to check their progress.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the mBillionth Awards.