Amit Dang is a doctor and a first generation entrepreneur. He is a singer and a guitarist as well. Born and brought up in Delhi, Amit completed his MBBS and MD in pharmacology from Goa Medical College. He is the founder of Geronimo Healthcare, a startup based in Mumbai that provides services in regulatory, medical content, medico-marketing, clinical research and healthcare communications to pharmaceutical companies. It was earlier called Pharmakeez and was renamed as Geronimo Healthcare. Amit shares his story of how some freelance work on weekends lead him to his startup, and his journey of more than three years.
YS: How did your journey as an entrepreneur begin?
AD: My friends and peers were surprised when I chose to pursue MD in pharmacology even though I had the option to take up the clinical branches. I was keen on doing research work post MD and I also wanted to settle down early financially. A specialization in pharmacology was aligned with both my goals. I loved the subject and I was deeply engrossed in it while pursuing MBBS as well. A specialization in pharmacology was definitely by choice but I can’t say the same about entrepreneurship. I was all set to opt for the job after completing my MD. I was offered a stipend of just Rs. 6000 per month. To earn more, I started working as a freelance medical writer. I used to work on weekends. While on the job, I realized the business potential in medical writing and medical communications. That was the beginning of Geronimo Healthcare. We provide solutions to all requirements related to drug development, promotion and lifecycle extension.
YS: Tell us more about Geronimo Healthcare?
AD: In the world of information overload, pharma companies are supposed to provide right information to the doctors by various means. This keeps them updated with all the latest information. Their knowledge update directly influences their practice and patient care. Geronimo Healthcare is a medical communications agency on a mission to provide improved scientific communication. It is of utmost importance for us to provide referenced, latest and relevant information by going through literature search in various scientific databases and making an accurate report. We offer many services to the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry.
YS: What does the market of pharmaceutical communications and medico-marketing look like? Who are some of Geronimo Healthcare’s competitors and how do you plan to make your mark in this industry?
AD: Talking in a broad sense, we are in the healthcare contract research outsourcing. It can be segmented based on services offered in fields of clinical trials, regulatory services, medical writing services, clinical data management services etc. It is definitely a very large booming market forecasted to reach approx USD 65 billion within five years. India is slowly becoming a hub for these services, especially when it comes to medical writing. There are some established players like Karmic Lifescience, Sorento Healthcare, Cactus Communications, Publicis Healthcare Communications, Medulla, Point Blank and Bioquest. But our simplified SOPs, prompt response and competitive project pricing helps us succeed with the Indian clients.
So far, our revenues have been from independent projects and a few recurrent ones. I needed only a laptop and an internet connection when I started in 2010. The growth of the team was corresponding to the growth in the projects and I could always manage the expenses with the revenues we have been generating. Today, I have a team of 12, comprising freelancers, full timers and consultants. Till date, we are completely bootstrapped. We are looking forward to more strategic partnerships with clients, both in India and abroad. We are entering the international markets very soon. It will help us get more financially stable and we will be able to employ more experienced people to build a stronger team. Apart from this, we are also going to departmentalize various fields that we can cater to which will include regulatory writing, clinical research wing, commercial writing, pharma digital wing and HEOR (Health Economics and Outcomes Research) wing.
YS: How did you get the initial few clients? What are some of the marketing strategies that worked for you?
AD: I got the initial introductions from some seniors working in the pharma industry and the initial project quality helped us get further. We got most of the early clients with the word-of-mouth marketing from the clients we were working with. Personal branding got us good leads as clients started referring ‘Dang’ to other companies. I always kept taking leads from happy clients at the end of the projects. The best part about pharma industry for us is that people change their jobs quite frequently. We usually deal with marketing and medical department of these companies. As and when these guys change their jobs, their new company becomes an auto-mode client for us. We are working for pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals both Indian as well as gobal MNCs on various projects. To name a few, we have worked with Ranbaxy, Dr.Reddy’s, Fresenius Kabi, Merck Serono, Sanofi Pasteur, Bayer Healthcare, Besins Healthcare, , Biocon etc.
YS: What are some of the learnings of starting up in the pharmaceutical industry that you would like to share with other entrepreneurs?
AD: I guess business is all about making mistakes and learning every day. Mandates in the industry for payment are 90 days post invoice release which can be very troublesome for an early stage startup, so be prepared. Indian market is very competitive and clients consider you as vendors rather than strategic partners. Unprofessionalism in the market and clients taking you for granted can get frustrating.
This whole sector works on low margins so the quotes must be very competitive but one should not under-quote. Ethics play a very important role in this business. Client is not always right. One must be confident enough to tell the client that he is wrong when one feels so. But my biggest learning of all has been to get everything down on a paper — have all the agreements signed in time.
Hear the musical side of this doctor-entrepreneur here. He was a lead singer and guitarist in his college band and is a member of the band ‘Drug of Choice’.