Harinarayanan and Anil Chaturvedi were working with Bengaluru-based Forus Health when they discovered their true calling. The duo’s frequent interactions with ophthalmologists and eye hospitals revealed the significant concern over the high costs of imported fundus cameras, which are a specialised low-power microscopes with an attached camera. Low-cost devices, they found after significant research, did not even meet minimum quality standards.
That’s when they decided on their startup venture – IntuVision Labs – in February 2014, to develop affordable, high-quality and portable fundus cameras. The Bengaluru-based startup today has three products – IntuCam 45 for general ophthalmologists; IntuCam Prime for general physicians and Diagnostic Centers; and IntuCam FFA for teaching and super-specialty hospitals. They also provide tele-medicine service for remote diagnosis.
They claim that their products cost 20-30 per cent less than the competition, with which they managed to gain 70 per cent margin on the sale of a single product.
Vision loss- A growing concern
According to WHO (World Health Organization), the global population will touch around 7.9 billion by 2020; of these 76 million are likely to have vision loss.
The demand for early diagnosis and detection of retinal disorders will fuel the growth of fundus cameras in the near future. Recently, a Coimbatore-based retina specialist has invented a Made in India smartphone-based fundus camera device (MII Ret Cam), which captures peripheral retinal pictures. It also allows clinicians to monitor diseases affecting both the central and peripheral retina.
Globally, hybrid cameras grabbed the larger chunk of revenue in 2011, while non-mydriatic fundus cameras are expected to witness slow growth from 2012-2018. Business Management Consultant Frost & Sullivan revealed that the Global Iris Recognition Market, earned revenues of $142.9 million in 2014 and estimates this to reach $167.9 million in 2019.
Design and development
To initiate the design process, the founders roped in several technical professionals in Israel, EU, China and the US. After initial design proposals were received, they started prototyping in-house, because of the long turnaround time an overseas team would need with all the back and forth and frequent technical changes.
They did a soft launch of the product at the All India Ophthalmic Society Conference 2015 and received 200-250 orders for the same. However a clinical trial by Dr Bhargava (an alumnus of Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai) located a technical glitch in the product. After a series of iterations over six months, they eventually came up with a fully functional product “Intucam-45” in October 2015.
Soon, they developed five replicas of the product and sold it by November 2015. The product has been showcased in World Ophthalmology Congress 2016 and AIOS 2016, and received lot of appreciation and interest.
Nearly all the raw materials for the products were imported, but now, only about 60 per cent is imported and 40 per cent of the parts are procured from the local vendors. Riding high on the “Make in India” initiative, they are hoping to source 75 per cent of the raw materials from local vendors.
The overall product development cost was over Rs 4 crore, and was funded by the founders themselves. Multiple iterations and modifications led to a severe crunch and they had to resort to working capital loans.
“We faced severe challenges when the optical system did not work for patients who had undergone cataract surgeries. We had to experiment with several optical combinations. As most of our parts were off-the-shelf, our design options were limited and we had to go to eye clinics to test our products on actual patients and compare it with other benchmark competitors, says Anil, who holds a PG Diploma in Operation Theatre Management and brings two decades of experience in the healthcare industry.
Currently, IntuVision has 28 employees – 11 work in R&D, the production department comprises six people, seven work in sales and the rest are in administration and management.
They have so far sold 30 units of IntuCam 45 (with a business of around $100,000) and bagged an order for 65 units of IntuCam Prime, and 10 units of IntuCam FFA. The devices have been adopted at facilities in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Jalgaon, Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda, Udaipur, Jalandhar, Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata, and even one in Israel.
IntuVision has its own 1,500 sq ft manufacturing facility in Bengaluru, which can manufacture 50 devices a month. IntuCam 45 received CE certification and IntruVision is due for ISO certification. The target customers include Ophthalmologists, Diabetologists, General Physicians and Optical Outlets.
We have seen several patients with chronic diabetes and high blood pressure visit eye care specialists and they are ignorant about their health problems. When damage is caused to the retina of the eye, the impairment of vision is controllable but not correctable,” says Hari, an alumnus of IIM Bangalore who has over nine years of experience on research based product development and manufacturing.
Last quarter, IntuVision witnessed revenues of $50,000 and with order bookings of $100,000, it signals a quarter on quarter growth of 100 per cent. They are looking to expand into international markets and get the required clearances from the country-specific regulatory bodies. The target for the current fiscal year is to sell 500 units taking the revenue to $3 million.