This doctor-turned-angel investor explains why there is no Flipkart or Ola in healthtech
India’s healthtech sector is booming. But despite the operations, funding, growth, or even brand awareness, no healthtech startup has reached ‘unicorn’ scale. This does not mean that the sector lacks innovation – from Practo and Netmeds to SigTuple and Niramai, the healthtech sector is witnessing growth in multiple aspects.
So, what is missing?
Dr Aniruddha Malpani, an IVF specialist and angel investor, shared his views on the topic recently, at the Indian Medical Association’s Kerala chapter’s event on ‘Healthcare: Digital Trends and Technologies’ earlier this week.
Dr Malpani is Founder of Mumbai-based angel investment firm Malpani Ventures, which invests in early-stage startups, and a board member of IKS Health. Malpani Ventures’ portfolio includes healthtech platforms like AllizHealth and Plus91 Technologies, video streaming platform VdoCipher, and language learning platform MultiBhashi.
Why no ROI?
Profitability eludes healthtech as much as it does ecommerce or the mobililty/transport space. But no healthtech player can claim to have changed the sector like how Ola changed the way we commute, or Flipkart changed how we purchase.
According to Dr Malpani, a startup can claim to have made a difference only when it impacts the quality of healthcare in the country. He believes that one reason why healthtech startups fail is that they seldom have a doctor in their team, and have limited understanding of unmet clinical needs.
“Hospitals enable multi-disciplinary collaboration as that’s where the patients and doctors are. Techies should talk to medical students, senior doctors, patients, and caregivers there. Perspectives from different fields could be blended together to create new solutions for India,” he said.
Major potential for growth
According to research by Global Market Insights, b. Needless to say, there is scope for growth for multiple players in the sector. Digital health and digital therapeutics are gaining momentum in India. Doctors, clinics, and hospitals are increasingly relying on digital platforms for patient education and outreach.
Dr Malpani opines that startups can improve existing diagnostic, treatment, and monitoring processes. They can help healthcare become more accessible, available, affordable, accurate, and personalised.
According to him, there are ‘4 Ds’ in medical device innovation:
- Define unmet clinical needs
- Design prototypes
- Deliver to the bedside
- Deploy in the market
Doctors as angels
Transparency and a well-defined investment thesis are most important in startup pitching, according to Dr Malpani. Paying customers gives brownie points too. “Bootstrapping proves you can implement. If you don’t invest in yourself, why would anyone? If you can get paying customers, investors will follow,” he said.
Speaking to an audience of senior doctors, he urged doctors to be entrepreneurs and investors themselves, as well as be paying customers for startups. “As angels, you need to be actively engaged with the startup, introduce them to other investors and entrepreneurs, and help with governance and accounting,” he said.
Dr Malpani also urged the necessity of having realistic expectations. “Angel investing does not make you rich. About 80 percent of startups fail. So invest what you can afford to lose, without losing sleep. Have realistic expectations. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme,” he said.
Although startup funding comes with too much scepticism, Dr Malpani believes that it is essential to encourage failed entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, and do social-impact investing, while remaining domain-agnostic. According to him, doctors make good angel investors, as they have empathy, domain expertise in healthcare, and can act as brand ambassadors.
“Give young entrepreneurs a chance. Be willing to be a beta tester. You can learn a lot from them. Guide them and invest in the ones that you admire,” Dr Malpani said.