Healthcare has emerged as one of the largest service sectors in India, employing about 4 million people. The sector generates an annual revenue of around $30 billion. Mint profiles four healthcare start-ups that help patients choose from a large pool of doctors and make appointments online

Photo: Sneha Srivastava/Mint

It was the trouble that he faced in finding a doctor for his daughter during one of his business trips to India that prompted the UK-based Bansal to think of an online solution that links patients with doctors. His daughter had suffered a chronic respiratory attack but Bansal had no family doctor in India to consult.

“The branded hospitals are the obvious choice in case family doctors are unavailable. However, such hospitals are not very encouraging in treatments of very basic primary care," he said over the phone. After 12 years overseas, Bansal moved to India. HelpingDoc has created a technology solution, practice management software, that allows patients to book appointments and also syncs with the calendar entries of doctors of multiple specialities who are listed on the site. The service is free for patients. However, doctors have to pay 7,000-10,000 per year to list themselves. The company has a list of over 5,000 doctors. It was started with an initial investment of $250,000 and it raised 10 crore in a first (series A) round of funding from Senior Marketing System Asia Pte Ltd (SMS), Singapore, in 2014. Bansal plans to expand to major cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai and also wants to increase revenue by diversifying to online consultation services.

“We are already receiving a lot of queries for tele and video consultation from Europe, South East Asia and India’s Tier II cities, “ said Bansal, adding that he is looking to raise a second (series B) round of funding by the end of this year.

Krishna Prasad and Raghavendra Prasad.

ENTREPRENEUR: Krishna Prasad and Raghavendra Prasad

FOUNDED: 2011

LOCATION: Bengaluru

EDUCATION: IIT-Bombay and Bangalore University

If online users can compare air fares and book tickets online, shouldn’t patients too be able to get a doctor’s appointment online? This thinking led the founders to start Qikwell Technologies with an initial investment of 5 lakh.

“People usually visit family doctors, or go to clinics close to their home. Other than this, branded large hospitals are looked up for quality service. Besides, patients had no information of the doctors they could consult," said Raghavendra Prasad over the phone.

The company has tied up with over 40 hospitals, 100 clinics and 2,000 doctors to provide their Qikwell approximate software solution. The software allows patients to book appointments depending on the availability of the doctor. The doctor can view all his appointments through a mobile application.

“In case of hospitals, all the doctors are listed and if a patient has to meet more than one doctor from the same hospital, the system integrates the information and provides bookings accordingly," added Prasad. The company charges the hospital, or doctor, a percentage of what the patient is charged as service fee. This fee varies from the speciality of the treatment, hospital and other factors.

The company is looking to expand to other cities like Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai by end 2015. It raised $3 million from Saif Partners in a first (series A) round of funding in 2014.

Anshuman Pandey, Shantanu Jha and Pushkar Soni.

ENTREPRENEUR: Anshuman Pandey, Shantanu Jha and Pushkar Soni FOUNDED: 2010

LOCATION: Mumbai

EDUCATION: IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Bombay, Panjab University

Coming from a family of doctors, Jha never had a problem when it came to getting treated for minor issues, until he moved to Hyderabad to start his career.

In the new city, he found it extremely difficult to locate a suitable doctor since he did not have his family or many friends to give him good references. This inspired him to launch his own company that could provide a solution, said Jha over the phone. With about 15 lakh, he and his two friends started their own “...doctor-listing portal and till date, have over 19,000 doctors registered in four cities".

Soon, the entrepreneurs realized the scope for growth and decided to diversify.

In 2014, they tied up with diagnostics centres, salons and spas to start online bookings. The company raised an undisclosed amount of funding from angel investors Google India managing director Rajan Anandan, Vishal Gondal and others.

In 2014, they also raised 15 crore in a first (series A) round of funding from Orios Venture Partners. The company allows users to book appointments over the Web and through a mobile application. Doctors, clinics and salons can manage these appointments through a back-end management software and mobile app. It has tied up with over 2,000 spas and over 6,000 clinics and hospitals.

The company charges the service providers a fixed transaction fee for every user. These charges vary for hospitals, spas and clinics.

The company is looking to expand to other cities, brand building and capturing 50% of the market, Jha added.

Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

LOCATION: Mumbai

EDUCATION: University of Utah

Shome’s father suffered from lung cancer, and doctors in India said he had only about six months to live. Not one to give up easily, Shome, a plastic surgeon, finally found a doctor in the US who was conducting a research on the type of lung cancer that his father was suffering from. “This is when I decided to come up with the concept of an online hospital that connects patients to doctors across the globe," said Shome over the phone.

The company was started with an initial investment of 50 lakh, HDFC Private Equity Fund invested 2.5 crore in 2011 followed by an investment by the department of science and technology, government of India. The company allows patients to book doctor appointments and also have a medical team that makes suggestions to patients about the best doctor available. About 5-7% of the patients who use the service stay overseas, and the portal has 350 doctors listed across 15 countries.

The company also has over 21,000 diagnostics centres on its site. The company receives a payment from the patient and keep a certain percentage as service fee and transfers the amount to the doctor.

Consultation charges start from 250 in India and about $100 abroad. Audio and video consultation services are provided by the company’s technology solutions.

“We are looking to raise a first series A round of funding," added Shome. The company is seeking to invest in marketing brand building initiatives and strengthening operations.

Expertspeak

Just-in-time crowd-sourcing medical expertise is the only way to get access to unique expertise and skills of doctors from around the globe. Bestdoctors.com, Grandrounds.com and ZocDoc.com are global companies operating in the same space and all have raised tens of millions of dollars to help consumers as well as insurance companies and employers. These are reasons why doctor-listing sites receive so much investor interest in India.

In terms of challenges, establishing credibility is difficult for start-ups. Also maintaining promise (turnaround time) is not easy to accomplish. In addition to this, keeping an expert panel of doctors from around the globe motivated and engaged is a herculean task.

Certainly these business models are scalable. There are millions of semi-urban and rural consumers who do not have access to medical experts and related services. Its not viable for service providers (hospitals and clinics) to employ doctors unless they justify utilization. Domain expertise, technology leverage and low cost of customer acquisition are factors that these start-ups must keep in mind in order to scale up and be sustainable.

Sateesh Andra , managing partner—Ventureast Tenet Fund, an early stage investment fund

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