The estimated healthcare expenditure in India in 2013 was $96.3 billion which constituted almost 5% of the GDP. With a growth rate of ~12%, this number is expected to cross $195 billion in the next three years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), just 33 percent of Indian health care expenditures in 2012 came from government sources. Of the remaining private spending, around 86 percent was OOP (out of pocket). The shortage of qualified medical professionals is one of the key challenges facing the Indian healthcare industry. The situation is aggravated by the concentration of medical professionals in urban areas, which have only 30 percent of India’s population. Many patients, especially those living in rural and semi-urban areas, are still receiving services from unqualified practitioners.
India’s mobile technology infrastructure and the launch of 4G has driven mobile health (mHealth) adoption in the country. The industry is expected to reach $0.6 billion by 2017.
One of the biggest successes in healthcare IT space from India, Practo is determined to solve the above stated problem(s) with its vision of giving every individual a health account. After raising $30M earlier this year from Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners, the company also announced the acquisition of the digital fitness solution startup Fitho recently. The spirit of the 1000-member strong team is high with the fresh injection of funds. The company is on a hiring spree and is testing international waters as well. Recently, YourStory spoke to Shashank ND, Founder, Practo, to know more about their ambitious plans for 2015.
Vision from day zero
Started in 2009, Practo has been one of the first players to integrate IT and healthcare with their online practice management software. Shashank says that right from day one, he had a clear vision to give every person a health account. His all other energies are aligned to it.
Shashank and his co-founder have not worked anywhere else, and hence they do not borrow their legacy from anywhere else and everything is built from scratch.
Mobile, tier-2 cities and international market
Shashank claims that Practo has grown more than double since October 2014. In last seven months, Practo has gone through the following developments:
- 50% increase in queries/searches on a quarterly basis .
- The mobile app which was not present in October 2014, now has over 500K downloads which makes it one of the top players in this space.
- Today, mobile makes for 60% of the entire traffic. Adding mobile website and app, the number reaches 80%.
- Even in terms of appointments, 80% of the booking are coming through mobile (website and app).
- Mobile has an added advantage of an increased engagement. While on web, each user performs 1.5-2 searches on an average, average number of searches per user on mobile is 3-4.
An year ago, only 5% traffic on Practo was coming from tier-2, tier-3 cities, while today it varies between 20-25%. Shashank says,
Our expansion to these cities has taken place in last six months only, so we expect to see a continuous growth. We had raised the funding last year to expand to 35 cities across India. We’re now live in all of them. Also, we believe that there are many more cities to reach out to but our focus for now will be on these cities.
Shashank spoke about the company’s recent launch in Philippines. As the fastest launch by the company, Practo covered Manila in six days. They were able to put 10000+ doctors in a week’s time and their traffic is growing 50-60% month on month. Practo also claims to be the no.1 website in terms of numbers of users on site, both in Singapore and Philippines. Practo plans to further expand to countries in South East Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Shashank explains their strategy,
We’re targeting developing countries where mobile internet penetration is growing similar to India or lagging behind by one to two years.
In a typical process of setting up an office, Practo sends a few people from India who train the local team hired (~50 people) in respective countries.
Practo understands the importance of healthcare awareness and the need to combine it with mass reach and positive sentiments. As the country is growing economically and otherwise, it is also important to stay healthy. Practo is using TV, radio and social media (Facebook, YouTube, Google) to reach out to people to tell them that such an application exists which might provide an answer to certain health issues in the communities.
Hiring @ Practo
Shashank mentioned that the current team composition has 90% employees in India which is going to remain constant. He says,
By the end of the year, we’ll be increasing our current strength from 1000 to 2000 people across the globe. We’re looking to onboard people from sales, engineers, designers, people who have expertise in operations.
Shashank believes that the story of India is picking up and in next five-10 years, a very strong economy can be developed here. The company has a 200 member strong leadership team.
In prospective hires, Shashank looks for the following qualities:
- Hunger to do more and not be happy with what he/she is doing.
- Attachment to the vision of the company. Shashank says,
This invisible force differentiates Practo from any other company so it’s very important that all the ‘Practeons’ are well connected to the vision of the company.
Besides visiting premier institutes (IITs, BITS Pilani, NITs, IIMs), Practo visits Shrishti School and IIT-Bombay Design School for hiring in the design team. They also look at MBA colleges from tier-2 cities and online portals because the company wants to give an even chance to people who aren’t in these premier colleges. Shashank says,
Guys from top institutions working shoulder to shoulder with guys from local colleges of the same age group, taught us that passion and performance is the key.
Practo recently hired Kannan KN as COO who held leadership positions at Pricewaterhouse, Voltas, Titan, Adidas, Concorde Motors and the Jardine Group. He’s in his early 50s and brings in 27 years of work experience. According to Shashank, that talks about the culture at Practo -- irrespective of the age, group or background, all the 'Practeons' have the hunger to do more and share common values and vision.
Learning from letting people go
Shashank claims that attrition has been extremely low for Practo. If they’ve had to let go of people, it has been for one of the following two reasons:
- The performance is not up to the mark.
- If there has been a culture misfit.
We have a simple VUPIM hierarchy. You have to optimize the Vision first, then the Users, then Practeons, then Investors and then Me (the individual being).
There are conscious efforts at Practo to make sure that there are no meetings on weekends. The employees can walk in or out anytime they want. Shashank says,
Some people like to work late while some finish early. We trust our employees and avoid mirco-management of their activities. This culture gives them the flexibility and the ability to express themselves in the way they want to, which in turn is responsible for their work-life balance.
Shashank admits that Practo is one of the most challenging places to work because of the (fast)pace of work. He tries to make sure that the shoes are always bigger than the feet for the employees so that they feel that they’re growing. "The secret to low attrition is growth. As long as the company is growing, the people are happy and of course as the company is growing the people feel more responsible, and they are learning more," adds Shashank.
Every quarter Practo has an open house (townhall) where everything from the company’s revenue to who’s doing what and where the company stands, to the future goals, are discussed. It is telecasted to all the offices across the world at the same time. This is not recorded to ensure that everyone is there. Every week, the critical metrics are shared openly with everyone on Practo's open group. Shashank believes that if someone has more information, he is more connected to the company.
Once a year, there's Practo Scene, on the foundation day or anniversary day of the company. During this event, Practeons from across the globe fly down to 3-4 locations to celebrate together. All this is costly but Shashank believes that it's important because it brings the employee close to the company and other employees.
Practo's motto is ‘Do great’ which is also trademarked everywhere. It refers to the idea that one shouldn’t worry about the reward and just focus on doing great work. Another mantra of the company is 'getting it done'. The company believes in moving fast and working together to get work done. This is the key element of being a startup.
Healthcare is quite broken but we tend to focus on the positives. We try to understand the problems in healthcare from first principles and then go about fixing them. ‘Thinking first principles’ is an important characteristic of a Practeon. As long as you believe in your insights and principles, and are able to convince others around the table, we are ready to take tough bets.
Here's Shashank's message to the people looking for job opportunities,
If you have to test how much you can endure, then this is the place. since we don’t believe in restricting someone. We try to build a place where the only constraint is the person themselves. Hence in a way this results in a company where nobody including myself can outgrow Practo and Practo is always (due to the collective efforts of all) outgrowing people.