[Startup Bharat] How this Manipur-based entrepreneur is bringing healthcare to people’s doorsteps in the Northeast
Lian Thangvung was in a fix. It was 2 am and Lian’s neighbour’s child – who was suffering from a kidney ailment – was writhing in pain. Lian and his neighbour hunted around for a medical store that would be open that late hour in their neighbourhood of Churachanpur in Manipur but came back empty-handed.
“Even after calling and trying to wake up the shop owners, no one responded so all our efforts to get the medicine was in vain. It was painful to watch the child suffering in pain until the stores opened in the morning,” recalls Lian, who was home for Christmas then. Like many people from Northeast India, Lian worked in Delhi to make a living and was employed at Encore Midland Credit Management there.
Shaken from this experience, Lian decided he had to do something to address the challenges that came with everyday life in his hometown, especially when lives were at stake.
A few months later he set up Thangvung Privilege Services (TPS), a healthcare startup that offers users a privilege card for financial assistance in medical emergencies at zero percent EMI. The card also gives the holder access to affordable healthcare products, and 24X7 doorstep delivery of medicines. Lian has tied up with 35 local healthcare organisations and NBFCs, and since its launch in June 2018, the startup has sold over 700 privilege cards.
Challenges in the market
During his research, Lian, (25) came across a few challenges – most people avoided timely medical care due to financial constraints, there was no 24X7 access to medicines or to ambulances, credit facilities were lacking, and local borrowers charged high interest rates on personal loans that people took for medical treatments.
Once his idea was in place, Lian needed a team to help execute it. He contacted his college friends, and finally roped in an ex-colleague from Encore Midland Credit Management - Singreingam Shimprui – as part of the core team. Other members of the team include Lynn Vaiphei, who had product and sales experience with Shoppers’ Stop, L Haulemlal, who had worked for American Express, and Lamhoigrace, who worked with a local optician.
Lian sold the first few cards to his family, neighbours, and close friends. He went door-to-door and sold the cards in his neighbourhood.
“Initially, we would go to neighbourhoods and villages and explain the uses of the product from door-to-door. We created small sessions and gatherings to explain the benefits and uses of our product. Since we are a small startup and don’t have money for a sales team, we enrolled our customers as our sales force. Every customer who buys the card, in turn, sells it to a person he/she knows and gets a commission of 20 percent for the same. ” says Lian.
A holder of a Thangvung Privilege Services card can get discounts ranging between 10 and 50 percent on treatment and medicines from partners stores and hospitals, which in turn, have already seen a higher customer base and footfall, respectively.
“The idea is to make healthcare affordable, provide medical emergency financial assistance, create a platform to connect with services provider, offer 24X7 access to medical assistance, and provide a pay-later platform for medical emergencies,” says Lian.
Costs and market
The Thangvung Privilege Services team focuses on low-income families and charges Rs 1,499 per annum for a membership fee that covers up to six members. Thangvung Privilege Services has secured funding of Rs 25 lakh from the Nedfi Northeast Venture Fund.
“We generated net revenue of Rs 499 per enrolment, and for services rendered within a year, we intend to generate Rs 200-Rs 500 through commissions and services per membership cardholder. Our customer acquisition cost is Rs 1,000,” says Lian. Thangvung Privilege Services charges a commission of three percent on all sales.
In India, lack of preventive healthcare is a key issue. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, 25 percent Indians may die of lifestyle diseases before they touch the age of 70. And the worst part - many of these illnesses and deaths are preventable.
The pharma industry in India is currently pegged at $15 billion, according to an IBEF report. Some of the significant startups in the sector include the Matrix Partners-backed Myra, Sequoia-backed Practo, Bessemer-backed Pharmeasy, and Sequoia-backed 1mg, but none of these players have a presence in the Northeast.
Speaking about Thangvung Privilege Services’ future plans, Lian says, “We plan to raise funding and develop an app, expand our services in the entire Northeast by 2022, and upgrade our privilege card with prepaid debit card features. We are also working towards getting a micro-financing licence."