Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture fund for businesses that address poverty, has made a $1.5 million (Rs6.6 crore) equity investment in Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd (ZHL), a Mumbai-based company that provides emergency medical services.
Ziqitza, which runs the “Dial 1298 for Ambulance” network in Mumbai, will use the financing from New York-based Acumen Fund to scale from the 10 ambulances it operates in Mumbai up to 70 by March 2009. With the expansion of its fleet, the organization expects to reach patients anywhere in Mumbai within 15 minutes of receiving a call for an ambulance.
“Acumen’s investment in Ziqitza will enable Dial 1298 for Ambulance in India to continue to grow and scale so that the millions living in poverty in urban India have a greater chance of receiving life-saving emergency medical care,” Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz said in a statement.
Dial 1298 for Ambulance is a for-profit, private sector initiative which offers basic and advanced life support as well as patient transport services that can be accessed by dialling 1298 across all telecom providers.
Ziqitza has plans to roll out its operations across the country. A network in Kerala will be operational within a few weeks, said Manish Sacheti, a member of 1298’s management team.
The organization has also initiated discussions with the governments of New Delhi and Maharashtra to start services. The organization could look at a second round of funding as it expands its services across the country, Sacheti added.
“The inability to pay for service should not be a barrier to receiving treatment during a medical emergency,” said Shaffi Mather, chief executive officer of Ziqitza.
“The model we are implementing will demonstrate a viable, replicable and scalable platform for delivering emergency medical services to urban population in India.”
The 1298 service uses a “sliding scale” pricing system based on the level of hospital to which a patient is taken.
Those who go to free public hospitals do not pay for services, while those who ask to be taken to Mumbai’s more expensive hospitals pay accordingly.
The price range starts from Rs750 for basic services to about Rs1,500 for cardiac care.
“Considering the current lack of professional emergency medical services or even basic ambulance services for patients and accident victims in India, there is a severe market need for an effectively and efficiently run ambulance service in every urban area,” said Varun Sahni, Acumen Fund’s India director.
“We expect that the financial and operational support we are providing to 1298 will result in millions of lives saved throughout India.”
So far, Ziqitza has been receiving a mix of grants, equity and loans to grow its service.