WATCH: B2B medtech startup Medikabazaar wants to make healthcare better for Tier II and III India
India’s ranking on the global healthcare access and quality (HAQ) index may have gone up – from 153 in 1990 to 145 in 2016. But, the country still lags behind neighbours such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan, as per a Lancet study. Industry experts claim that the healthcare provider market here is largely fragmented and unorganised.
The silver lining, however, is the projected growth in the market, which is growing at a CAGR of 23 percent and is expected to reach $280 billion by 2020.
Keen to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and product suppliers, many big and small players, armed with innovative solutions, have jumped on to the bandwagon over the past few years. Mumbai-based Medikabazaar, launched in 2015, is among them.
Founded by IIM-Calcutta alumnus Vivek Tiwari, the healthcare startup is a pioneering B2B online marketplace for medical equipment and supplies in India. With a digital catalogue of more than 250,000 products, the Medikabazaar platform enables hospitals and medical establishments to search for their required supplies online, and even compare specifications and prices in real-time.
The biggest advantage? It eliminates the need for healthcare providers to go through multiple channels to get quotes on machines and medical supplies.
The inception of Medikabazaar
For Vivek Tiwari, healthcare has been the fulcrum of his entrepreneurial endeavours. And it’s not difficult to understand why. He has seen near and dear ones suffer; his grandmother was a dialysis patient.
What makes the condition severe is the lack of access to well-equipped dialysis centres and adequate supplies like dialysis machines, equipment, and medicines. Especially, says Vivek, for patients in non-metro cities and smaller towns, for whom it gets challenging to travel to a larger city frequently for treatment.
This personal episode led him to ask: “Why can’t we have dialysis centres and facilities in smaller towns of India?”
“If my grandmother was suffering then we might have similar patients dealing with these kind of challenges,” he says, adding, “That’s the idea I had when I started.”
Today, Vivek’s B2B healthtech platform has a presence in around 20,000 pincodes, catering to hospitals in Tier II and III areas, as well as in remote locations, most of which traditional supply chains would struggle to service.
The company has also implemented its proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools, to report accurate stock projections to medical establishments. In this way, these establishments are able to save up to 30 percent in their procurement cost, helping them make healthcare affordable and within reach for those in need.
Overview of the B2B market
“When I was involved with healthcare delivery, I had no technology platform to refer to in terms of the healthcare ecosystem. If I had to find a seller, I had to reach out to traditional mediums like distributors. But there was no digital platform that could address all these needs,” Vivek says.
As a result of this digital backwardness, at least in the B2B section of healthcare, a large amount of time and energy would be wasted in figuring out the best seller of a certain product and “how do we take the best prices from them to offer the most affordable healthcare to patients”, the founder-CEO adds.
There was a dire need to bring the ecosystem together. That was Medikabazaar’s mission: to bring buyers and sellers of medical supplies on a common platform.
At present, the company caters to more than 18,000 hospitals and medical centres directly. What had started as a one-room office has grown to 15 fulfilment centres, spread across the length and breadth of the country.
Over the next two financial years, the founder plans to increase this number substantially, expanding from 15 fulfilment centres to 25-plus, reaching more than 50,000+ medical establishments and professionals, and becoming their go-to platform for medical supplies.
5x revenue growth and funding on the horizon
For the B2B healthcare marketplace, the biggest challenge in the initial few years was “challenging status quo itself”, Vivek says.
That online presence is a critical factor in the branding and visibility of a business wasn’t commonplace knowledge at the time. Most businesses, in fact, didn’t understand “why they needed to come online”.
However, once investments started pouring into the B2B sector and people began to realise the need for digital aggregation and understand how it brought efficiency in operation, status quo changed. A driving force behind this shift in balance, interestingly, was a breed of young doctors, who adept with the app-driven society, were keen to come online.
“Smaller cities came in handy to us during this time,” says Vivek, adding that almost 65-70 percent of their customers hail from Tier II and III areas and below.
“We want to grow our customer base by 3x. We look forward to grow 5x in terms of revenue in 18 months,” says the founder, who is in talks to raise Rs 200 crore in Series B funding from a clutch of venture capital investors in Japan, Belgium, and Germany.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)