Former Google execs’ startup is using an AI-based app to solve your skincare problems
It is time to stop looking at the mirror and start looking at your smartphone to take care of your skin!
Sounds far-fetched, but it’s true! Meet Bengaluru-based startup CureSkin, founded in 2017 by Guna Kakulapati (38) and Ramakrishna R (36). The company has built an app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you cure your skin problems.
The CureSkin app is available on both Android and iOS. Once you click a photo through it, the app uses advance image recognition to identify skin problems like acne, pigmentation, etc. Then, you can get safe and personalised skin treatments right at home. The company also offers regular follow-ups by doctors and round-the-clock chat support.
(L-R) Ramakrishna R, Co-founder & CTO; Dr Charu Sharma, Chief Dermatologist; and Guna Kakulapati, Co-founder & CEO.
“Almost 90 percent of people with common dermatology conditions like acne and hair fall do not go to a dermatologist. They try to self-treat it with off-the-shelf products. Self-treatment is not only ineffective, but dangerous too,” says Guna.
The duo decided to provide cure and care for these conditions. How? With personalised treatment kits built by certified dermatologists, which are delivered to your doorstep and can be used without paying for a consultation. The treatment packages are based on a customer’s condition and severity, and are priced between Rs 800 and Rs 4,000.
“In the long term, we believe consumer health will be completely different from how it is now due to new technology enablers like AI. And this is the first step,” says Guna.
From ex-employees to co-founders
Both Guna and Ramakrishna had previously worked in the US, but were passionate about starting up in India to solve high-impact problems using technology.
An IIT-Madras graduate, Guna is also an MS graduate in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He has worked at Amazon and then Google.
On the other hand, Ramakrishna completed his engineering from PES University, and worked with Google for over 10 years, where the two met.
After Google, the duo went their separate ways, and founded their own startups (which they didn’t want to talk about). However, they eventually reconnected and started CureSkin.
“Given our extensive technical experience, we saw this as an opportunity where technology can make a fundamental difference in the quality of treatment and care provided for dermatological conditions. Additionally, common conditions like acne are actually chronic and we have learnt that it is important to get regular treatment interventions and continuous care to manage them well,” Ramakrishna explains.
At present, CureSkin is a team of 25, which includes the two founders and five in-house dermatologists.
Reports suggest that about 300 million people in India suffer from various skin conditions. According to Techsci Research, the Indian skincare market stood at $1.6 billion in 2017, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of nine percent to reach $2.7 billion by 2023.
While startups like Niramai, BeatO, Artelus, and Onward Health use AI for healthcare purposes, CureSkin’s founders claim their company is the only one using AI for skincare in India.
The road to success is never smooth. The founders faced two major challenges while building their product. One was to develop an accurate technology that can correctly assess skin like a dermatologist. The other was to build trust and credibility in the minds of the customers.
Talking about their customer base, Guna says,
“We grew 10x in the last six months. And customers are heavily sticky as shown with 60 percent repeats. We believe that we hit the product-market fit and can now continue to invest in growth and branding.”
The company claims it does more than 1,000 consultations in a day, and has had seven lakh app downloads so far. Recently, the team also launched a private skincare label and is now expanding it.
In 2017, CureSkin was a part of the Y Combinator Summer Batch - the only Indian company to be selected as a part of its AI cohort. Immediately after, the startup raised $1 million in seed investment from Khosla Ventures, Gagarin Capital, Y Combinator, and Heartbeat labs.
Though the company was reluctant to disclose revenue figures, the founders said that CureSkin was in the process of raising funds.
In the future, the startup plans to focus on expansion with investments in growth, branding, and further automation. In the next five years, CureSkin expects to capture a user base of 100 million, and become a one-stop solution shop for all derma care requirements.