How these 6 IIT alumni are working to take India towards better health
Mumbai-based MedLabz offers diagnostic testing and allied services; its predictive AI engine crunches clinical data to provide organ-wise health insights, lifestyle suggestions, and disease risk profiling.
At a glance:
Founded in: 2015
Founders: Siddharth Bidwan, Nimish Mehta, Kumar Akarsh, Piyush Singh, Harshal Jain, and Srikanth Manne
Where it is located: Mumbai
The problem it solves: Diagnosis
Funding: Angel and seed
India’s healthcare sector is in a bit of a fix at the moment – while on the one hand there are medical practitioners and technologists who are bringing healthcare closer to the individual, on the other, the lack of digital records is widening the divide.
Six alumni from IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi, and colleagues at the Middle Eastern firm GulfTalent saw this gap, and decided to start MedLabz.
The platform offers convenient and easy access to diagnostic services, and based on test results, directs patients to specific doctors and specialists. Its predictive AI engine also helps customers adopt healthier lifestyles based on conditions, past ailments, and treatments. MedLabz’s AI engine also gives organ-wise health insights, disease risk profiling, and a health tracker.
The founders - Siddharth Bidwan, Nimish Mehta, Kumar Akarsh, Piyush Singh, Harshal Jain and Srikanth Manne – were part of the IIT alumni network and would often hold focus group discussions on healthcare. This triggered an interest and led to MedLabz.
“Coming from a technology background, we found diagnostics to have high potential in terms of data sciences and business viability,” Siddharth says.
Evolution of the platform
The team first built an AI-based symptom-to-disease search engine, which threw up suggestions based on symptoms and also the doctors one would need to visit. However, only a few super-specialist doctors took to it, and monetisation became a challenge.
“We identified diagnostics to provide deep insight into a patient’s health. This was where the journey started to empower individuals by leveraging technology and data science,” Siddharth says.
The reports are provided in simple, easy-to-understand language in English, Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Gujarati.
How does it work?
An individual can get a health test scheduled on MedLabz through the phone, app, or website. MedLabz offers collection of test samples from home through an in-house fleet of medical experts, and also gives patients services like real-time sample tracking.
Once a report is generated, it is delivered to the patient, and one can also see it online, on the app or via WhatsApp. Based on the results, a patient is then referred to a doctor for a consultation over the phone.
“Our learning algorithm analyses the aggregated data along with historical data and provides analytics along with trends and health tracker,” Siddharth says.
The team also has a B2B vertical where the corporate MIS is integrated with a company’s HR management system and MedLabz’s network of service providers. Employees visit the corresponding diagnostics centre or avail a consultation service over the phone. All employee data is aggregated on the dedicated MIS, and companies can access analytics, insights, and actionables to improve the overall health of their employees
Who is it for?
“MedLabz, within one-and-half years of its operations in its corporate vertical, has onboarded more than 50,000 employees, 50+ corporates across different verticals including QSR, insurance, pharma, energy, and manufacturing. It has been operating profitably for the past quarter,” Siddharth says.
From a team size of six, MedLabz has today evolved into a 35-member team. The customer base of MedLabz includes middle- and lower-income groups, and 35 percent are long-term users. The company has operations in over 65 cities for companies.
The challenges of the space
“We realised that healthcare cannot be just an online ecommerce platform where people see the catalogue and buy the products. Because healthcare is not a ‘want’, but a ‘need’ market with greater personal and emotional involvement,” Siddharth explains.
Realising that communication was of prime importance, MedLabz started empowering patients with data insights about their health in easy-to-understand language, and comprehensive health reports in vernacular languages.
One of the major challenges for the company was to establish strong communication lines with partner labs without loss of data and time. For this, the company developed a hi-tech solution by deeply integrating MedLabz CRM with its partner labs.
“We equipped lab technicians with a full-fledged communication app to track all points of service delivery. The doctors and dieticians have been given an MIS capable of extracting clinical data points,” Siddharth says.
Preventive healthcare is one of the fastest growing segments in healthcare today, and biggies like Practo, which raised Series D funding led by Tencent, have changed focus to be a complete healthcare platform where prevention plays a major role. 1mg is also looking closely at preventive care.
Vani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital, and a keen watcher of the healthcare sector in the country, expressed her concern in an earlier article on YourStory, saying: “Today, India’s healthcare is in a crisis. India ranks a dismal 154 out of 198 countries on the healthcare index. Health access and quality index of India at 44.8 is behind countries such as Sri Lanka and Bhutan. In fact, some Indian states such as Bihar and UP are worse off than some sub-Saharan nations on many health indices.”
Revenue and funding
MedLabz claims to have served more 75,000 patients across retail and corporations, and has over 50 corporate clients in India. The team claims to grossed a revenue of Rs 8 crore since its inception in 2015.
It has tied up with various service providers - diagnostic labs, doctors, and other allied service providers for consultations and deliveries - through its platform on a commission structure. The average ticket size is Rs 2,000.
“We have been operationally profitable from day one. In the financial year 2017-18, we broke even for the corporate vertical, which is operational in 65 cities,” Siddharth says.
Starting with personal savings of Rs 25 lakh, MedLabz in 2016 raised an angel round of Rs 65 lakh from Super-Specialist Pathologists and other angels. Last year, it raised Rs 1.3 crore from Javelin Wealth Management and Startup-O, Singapore, and existing investors.
“Our vision is driven by determined efforts to move India from curative to the preventive approach in healthcare. Our immediate plan is to achieve a business break-even this year and expand our retail services in more 10 Tier I and II cities. We are integrating allied healthcare services as we move,” Siddharth ends.