The Pune-based startup, incubated under the NASSCOM 10,000 Startups programme, offers financial assistance to people who don’t have medical insurance, or those who are under-insured and require immediate funds for treatment.
India’s estimated population may be 1.35 billion, but the number of Indian citizens who can comfortably afford medical procedures and hospitalisation is just a small fraction of this huge number. According to a report in The Hindu, which cites the National Sample Survey of 2016, over 80 percent of the Indian population, both in urban and rural areas, does not have access to any health insurance, either from private players or the government. Even for those who do have insurance, there is little likelihood that they will get the entire amount needed for the treatment on time.
For Parvaiz Hussain and Dr Sonia Basu, this gap hit close home when a close childhood friend of theirs lost his father as he could not raise funds on time for the latter’s surgery. “This incident left a deep impact on both of us,” says Parvaiz. “We realised that in India, where ‘out of pocket’ expenditure amounts to 85 percent of the total healthcare expenditure, the issue of arranging funds on time for medical treatment was not localised to certain segments or geography. It was a social issue spread across the entire strata, be it the affluent class, or among lower income groups.”
The duo has combined domain knowledge of finance and healthcare -- Parvaiz has a B Tech in Electronics and Communication and an MBA in Finance with over 12 years in key roles in major banks; Sonia is a doctor who practised for seven years and then did an MBA in hospital administration. They saw an opportunity to make a difference in this space by leveraging technology and started Healthfin in 2016.
Healthfin was incubated in Pune as part of NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups programme, and provides financial solutions to patients who are either uninsured or underinsured, and require immediate funds for treatment of their own medical condition or that of their loved one.
Lending a helping hand at the right time
According to Parvaiz, “Most of the time, even customers who have insurance coverage find it inadequate and face challenges in arranging for the remaining amount. Our solution provides hassle-free access to finance even in this scenario."
Time is a critical factor in matters relating to hospitalisation, and the Healthfin team understands that. Parvaiz says, “We not only bring patient loans to the doorstep of the hospital where it is actually required but also ensure that the funds are delivered at the right time. In fact, we are one of the quickest dedicated patient loan providers across the country and can approve and give a go-ahead to the patient in as short a duration as 15 minutes.”
They provide a no-cost EMI option as well as a unique cashless product for a duration of 90 days, which gives a patient enough time to recover from the medical procedure and get back his or her earning potential in order to start paying the EMIs.
Contrary to popular belief, Parvaiz says that hospitals are not the bad guy in matters of patient payments. “Even hospitals understand the importance of serving each and every person in need of their care, and are whole-heartedly supporting this initiative, which not only enhances patient experience, but also creates goodwill for the hospitals. In fact, hospitals in Pune, which were the first to implement our solution, have seen a tremendous impact in terms of the number of patients they are able to cater to and have improved their patient experience.”
At present, their solution can be accessed by patients across Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur and Nashik. In the 18 months since they started up, Healthfin has disbursed more than Rs 130 million worth of patient loans and is growing at an average month-on-month rate of 30 percent.
Parvaiz attributes this growth to their understanding of the domain and the ecosystem, their unique algorithm, which matches the risk profile of the customer to the risk appetite of the respective lending partner, thereby making the decision-making process lightning fast.
Establishing a stronghold in a unique market
Healthfin, with a 16-member strong team, is currently bootstrapped, but Parvaiz shares that they are in the process of getting their first round of funding. This will help with their future growth plans, which includes expansion to Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Delhi in the next couple of months.
“We are the market leaders in the space we operate in, and as it is a nascent market there are very few players, both established and new, exploring this space. We hope we can collectively bring about a good change,” he says.
He goes on to add, “The healthcare industry is still very segregated and being one of the very few first movers, we have to educate the industry and make patients aware that such an option is available. I am sure once they start to demand such a facility at more hospitals, it is just a matter of time that patient financing will become an integral part of the healthcare industry.
According to Parvaiz, NASSCOM 10,000 Startups has been a very strong enabler for them. “The NASSCOM 10,000 Startups programme has not only helped us with the infrastructure needed to build our startup, they’ve also provided us with a complete and holistic ecosystem required for our startup to learn and grow. NASSCOM conducts and facilitates various workshops and key personnel interaction with startup industry stalwarts, who give their valuable inputs across various subjects like technology, growth hacking, networking, investments etc. It has been a very enriching journey for us with NASSCOM 10,000 Startups.”
Empathy and understanding for target audience
Tracing the roots of Healthfin’s core mission, ‘making healthcare affordable and accessible to all’, to their growing up days in Andaman and Nicobar islands, where he and his co-founder went to school together, Parvaiz says, “Our forefathers were freedom fighters, so living with enormous resource constraints has been a part of our growing up years. We’ve had a humble upbringing, with the core feeling of helping others and the upliftment of all, strongly ingrained in us. This core belief helps us empathise with our target audience -- the patients -- and understand the importance of giving them access to timely funds for treatment.”
He shares an anecdote to highlight how they are making a difference to the lives of people. “We helped to arrange a patient loan for the surgery of an infant from a farmer’s family in very less time. The surgery was successful and once the baby recovered, the whole family came to our office carrying a number of watermelons from their crop. We had quite a few glasses of watermelon juice for the next few days. Such instances where you are able to help customers and save lives give you an immense sense of satisfaction that you are moving in the right direction, one loan at a time.”