How Shikha Suman found an opportunity in adversity and started MedimojoTanvi Dubey
Hailing from a small town in Bihar, Shikha Suman went on to start Medimojo, an AI-based patient engagement platform, after dealing with a health crisis in the family.
When you face a problem and have the will to resolve it then you know you aren’t going to fail. It was while tending to her mother who was in a coma did Shikha Suman find her calling to start Medimojo in 2015. A patient engagement platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Medimojo provides its clients algorithm-based intelligence from disparate demographic, economic, clinical and morbidity data to identify, assess, understand and manage patient needs.
Shikha hails from a small town in Bihar and was the first in her family to study in an English-medium school. With the support from her parents she went on to pursue higher education and studied at Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and pursued a PhD from IIT Kanpur.
She kickstarted her career as a freelancer doing research projects and as one thing led to another, Shikha went on to set up her first startup, a market analytics and research firm for pharmaceutical companies called Sampling Research, which she exited after seven years, in 2015. The very same year she started Medimojo.
Opportunity in adversity
While tending to her mother in coma, Shikha realised the challenges that came with having a loved one in the hospital. Not only was there a huge impact on time, money and energy for the family, hospitals tend to have a tough time maintaining patient health records. Shikha got a front-row seat to how largely unstructured all of it was. And it was in this adversity that she found an opportunity. She started Medimojo to address these pain points.
“With convenient services that help providers stay connected, reduce no-shows, and keeping patients engaged in their care, we're turning the insights into performance results. We help practices to get better share of patient’s wallet, grow patients volume along with revenues from repeat customers. We help healthcare providers, diagnostics labs and hospitals to increase patients’ satisfaction and loyalty,” she says, of Medimojo’s offerings.
Headquartered in New Delhi, the small team of six members works with hospitals and diagnostics labs in the B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) segment. The company charges hospitals and labs for patient engagement dashboard on a per-patient basis, along with number of users of the platform. Shikha says, “We have around 1.5 million patient health records from three live clients and five POCs.”
Healthcare sector needs more support
Given how vast the healthcare sector is, Shikha faced multiple challenges while getting started. She says, “Healthcare, as a vertical, is extremely difficult to understand due to too many players and fragmentations in the system. Getting the product-market fit and fixing the approach to reach the goal that we set out to achieve was the biggest challenge. It took us one full year to understand what will work and what the industry really needs. We had to pivot our model after a year into business.” So from a health app focused on individuals, and without funding, they began to focus on B2B and looking at clinics and hospitals in 2016.
Around this time they made an appearance on reality show The Vault—where contestants get to pitch their startup ideas to a panel to secure funding—and that helped them to partner with hospitals and clinics.
Challenges and next steps
On the challenges faced by healthtech startups, Shikha notes, “Access to fund is a big challenge and access to fund in healthcare is all the more difficult in current startup environment.” She adds that the government definitely needs to do more. “The healthcare vertical needs more help from government. There are higher plans in healthcare and it will be crucial to include startups in the bigger picture. Access to ecosystem is a critical support for any growing business. So much gets accomplished if a growing business has friends and mentors from the startup ecosystem,” she says.
Shikha is looking forward to taking Medimojo to the the next level. She is currently focussing on onboarding two hospital chains in India and one in Dubai. “We have a target of 12 providers for 2018, with aggregated patient health records of seven million,” she notes.
On failure and success
Shikha’s desire to start Medimojo started from something personal and, hence, her passion for it has led to a sustained drive and interest in the startup.
But she does add that her recipe for success has been to try not to be a superwoman. “I take up things on priority at any given time and I go by this rule on a daily basis,” she adds.
And while the best of us sometimes crumble in the face of failure and bad days, her advice is: “Success and failure are just relative terms. Take failures in the same spirit as success. It is a part and parcel of growing every day, for every day is a challenge.”
And as someone who found opportunity in adversity, Shikha shows that even the worst of times can help unearth something good.