Startup Upacaar yearns to enhance medical education in India

17th Nov 2011
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Upacaar

Upacaar is a venture that has a noble vision of enhancing medical education. They aim at nurturing efficient health professionals who will help save many lives in future. Upacaar assists medical, dental and nursing institutions to adapt to new learning methodologies such as case based learning, problem based learning and problem solving and integrates an innovative web solution to make the learning more robust, effective, interactive and enjoyable. Based inBangalore, Upacaar is co-founded by Kishan Kumar and Vivek K R. They quit their plush jobs to follow their dreams.Anisha Mehta from YourStory.in catches up with these new-age entrepreneurs.

Why establish such a venture?

Medical errors are increasing and health professionals not able to adapt to their professional environment quickly. The reasons for the above problems issues like the present medical education limits/lacks in, student’s critical thinking, decision making and problem solving; testing vital skills in the clinical context; control over variety of cases/problems exposure; enhancing self learning and continuous medical education. We provide complete solutions, which include introduction and adaption of case-based learning, problem based learning and problem solving methodologies at medical institutions using our expertise and adaptations of these learning methodologies are solution for the above stated problems. We also integrate technology to make easy adaption and make learning more effective, interactive and enjoyable.

Kishan, how did you come up with the idea?

Vivek and I were preparing for a MBA entrance program. When we mulled over and evaluated what we would benefit from an MBA and what kind of exposure we would get, we realised that the degree would help us build a strong network, expose us to new subjects, cases studies and lot more. When we were discussing about these case studies, we realised that most of the cases used in B-schools are not interactive and many of the cases are mostly picked from abroad and do not have an Indian context. We needed to do something about this problem. While conducting research, one prominent area we identified was medical education where concepts such as problem-based learning and case-based learning are big and the intention here is not to solve the problem but to learn new things around the problem. Hence, we started focusing on this space, quit the plan of doing an MBA and started this company to make case-based and problem-based learning more interactive and effective.

What kind of challenges did you face while starting up?

Quitting our jobs was one of the biggest and toughest decisions we had to make. We first started off by just dedicating weekends and a few evenings after work to Upacaar. But since our work load increased, we weren’t able to concentrate solely on the project. We wanted to put our heart and soul into Upacaar and therefore, we chose to quit our jobs. Secondly, hiring people was difficult as we did not have enough financial resources to pay professionals. Also, when we discussed our business idea with doctors, most of them did agree that it was a great thought but were unsure whether it will work inIndia. But it was when we built the proto type that we faced the real challenge – connecting with clients and convincing them that our web solution is effective. As it is a new concept, some doctors were skeptical, however, we contacted those who were practicing Problem based learning (PBL) methodology inBangalore. It took almost three to four months to convince them to use our web solution on a trial basis for their next PBL session. We had some resistance in the initial stages from a few tutors and students, but their thoughts changed at the end of the session. Though our initial offer was only providing a web solution, later, we expanded our offer and sold it as a complete package including the process/learning methodology, content and web solution integration.

Was there resistance from any other parties?

The key problem is that the Medical Council of India (MCI) has not recommended the PBL process; so many colleges are not so willing to do extra learning and those who are ready, are asking for more time. Doctors are really busy; connecting with them takes up a lot of time. However, we have managed to do three trials until now and two are under process. Also, according to institutes, changing a traditional mindset as followed by many professors and doctors is really tough. Trying to convince them that doing the process online will ease their work load is difficult. But what is heartening to know is that the MCI is planning to make PBL mandatory by 2015. Lastly, shortage of resources both financial and human is a cause of concern.

There aren’t many similar ventures in India. That might help you to capture a large share of the market. Your comments.

There are no similar ventures inIndiaand there are only two or three companies working in the medical education space. Globally, we have players like Medscape, Medting, Medcases and clinical cases (non-profit) operating in the sector but they are not offering the solutions we provide. CAG reported last year that the medical education market is going to be worth Rs 35 billion crore by 2012-13 inIndia, so we have a big market to cater to and some potential competitors to compete with. But we do have advantages to tackle such issues. The biggest one being is that we are pioneers in the sector and we are building a niche market. We have tested and tried content, and we will quickly customise as per our clients’ needs.

What kind of response has your web solution generated?

We did trials in three institutions and we got a great response from both students and tutors. Both the parties who used our product liked it and their learning has improved a lot after adapting to this methodology.

How does your revenue model work?

We have adapted the SAAS model where we charge each user a particular amount every year and also charge an initial, one-time set up cost for institutes. We also provide content that will be charged extra based on the kind of content that varies from simple text information to interactive animations.

Are you bootstrapped?

Yes, we are. However, we are looking to raise funds.

Do you plan to expand your services beyond medical institutions?

Yes, in future, plan to cater to business schools and engineering colleges.

Go to www.upacaar.com for further details!

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