[Startup Bharat] Mohali-based home healthcare startup Zorgers wants to serve half a million people by 2025
A series of personal experiences prompted Varun Gupta to launch Zorgers in 2015. In four years, the home healthcare startup has clocked in over 7.5 million hours of caregiving and is now eyeing expansion across 20+ Indian cities.Sutrishna Ghosh
What happens when the breadwinners of a family migrate out of their hometowns in search of better opportunities to big cities or a new country? Other than the obvious void, they leave behind their near and dear ones – usually aging parents and sick or bedridden relatives – in need of companionship, and in some cases, even a medically-trained caregiver.
Varun Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of Zorgers Home Healthcare, became acutely aware of this problem when he left Amritsar to pursue engineering in Gurdaspur, Punjab. The importance of healthcare had dawned on him early after he lost his father when he was 11, but the need for companionship became evident when he left home and his mother was all alone.
“I observed how developed nations were taking care of their elderly and ailing population. This made me extensively research the home healthcare market in general as well as the specific needs in India,” he recalls.
A family episode triggered further interest, Varun reveals. “While I was on an international trip, my wife had to be hospitalised. With two young kids and a mother in her early 60s, it was a mammoth task to manage the situation. That’s when I thought it was time to start looking at solutions,” he says.
With caregiving at the heart of his idea, Varun launched Zorgers in 2015. The startup is based in Mohali, a city that is a part of the Punjab tricity (Chandigarh, Panchkula, Mohali). This gives it a vantage point in terms of operating across Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi-NCR.
Incidentally, these regions are witnessing a high rate of migration. They are also home to one of the largest affluent income groups in India, making Mohali the ideal place to pilot the business idea, the co-founder explains.
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The heart of the business model: caregiving
When the founding team started out - Varun along with COO Anil Kumar and CTO Abhinav Gupta - the branding and name were completely different. The startup was initially named Carepur since the idea was to be the ultimate destination for care. However, on receiving mixed reactions from customers and partners, the team rebranded the company as Zorgers.
“’Zorgers is Dutch for ‘We – the Carers’. Abhinav had spent lot of time in the Netherlands during his stint with Infosys, and we thought of using this Dutch word,” Varun quips.
Even before starting up with Zorgers, Varun and Abhinav, both software engineers and friends from college, shared the zeal to do something together. While their professional careers took them in different directions, the duo, bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, found themselves teaming up again years later. This time along, they had a third partner, Anil (now COO of Zorgers) who has a masters desgree in IT.
Zorgers caters across a basic level of caregiving – called assistant living or companionship – for dependent elders and children to advanced services like intensive care setups at home for bedridden patients.
Its target audience is mostly dependent elders, who may or may not be living alone, newborns and new mothers, bedridden patients, patients recently discharged from hospitals, and patients suffering from chronic illlness who are in need of on-demand support.
“Our focus area is Tier II and III towns from where people mostly migrate to metros and Tier I cities. In this case, our consumers are in Tier II and III India, but buyers are in metros and Tier I or even NRIs,” the co-founder explains.
Caregiving is at the heart of their business, which means caregivers are the most important part of the startup’s journey. “The way we hire, train, and engage them on a day-to-day basis and, most importantly, retain them defines the success of Zorgers,” Varun says. Instead of treating these service providers as just another asset, the startup considers caregivers as its most crucial partners.
“It’s with the right set of technology - we call it the ‘internet of caregiving’ - and a network of more than 3,100 caregivers that we have been able to serve so many clients,” he adds.
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Organising the home healthcare service space
Largely serviced by a mix of organised, semi-organised, and un-organised players, India’s home healthcare industry is currently pegged at $4.6 billion. And this figure is only set to grow with the increase in the ageing population, migration from Tier II and III cities to metros, and increasing cost of caregiving at hospitals and other medical institutes.
In fact, it is estimated that the home healthcare sector in India will be a whopping $6 billion market by 2020. One one hand, there is a rising demand for home healthcare in India and, on the other, there is a shortage of experienced and trained nurses and caregivers.
A report based on data from the Indian Nursing Council (INC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that there are 1.94 million fewer nurses in the country. To plug this gap means to introduce newer players, preferrably startups, who are capable of providing dedicated and improved healthcare services in the most affordable manner by tapping new-age and emerging technology.
Zorgers was started with this vision to organise the home healthcare service space. “Finding a trustworthy and skilled caregiver near you with continuity of care is never easy,” says the co-founder.
20+ cities in the next two yearsfuture
The company claims to have served more than 10,000 clients across seven Indian cities in Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, clocking in over 7.5 million hours of caregiving. In terms of home healthcare services, Varun explains that Zorgers operates both as a managed service provider and as an aggreagtor.
“As a service provider, we make 25 percent as gross margin in all billed transactions, and as an aggregator, we charge a success fee for all matured transactions,” he says.
With a combined array of services, the startup is striving towards value creation, not just for healthcare professionals but also for the society and their clients. “Our goal is to cater to the needs of half a million clients by 2025, and improve our gross total transaction value from Rs 150 million to Rs 7.5 billion by 2025,” Varun says.
With this goal in mind, the founders are now working towards a Series A fundraise. The startup closed a bridge round in March 2019 through one of its mentors and angel investors from the telecom space.
Once the funding is figured out, the Zorgers team will be looking to expand its presence across metros and Tier I cities.
“We will be present in 20-plus cities in about two years from now,” Varun tells us, laying out the ambitious roadmap to the future of the healthcare startup.
While numbers and revenue speak of one kind of growth, the biggest win for the co-founder is the human connect. Varun recalls the satisfaction and happiness on seeing a 90-year-old client recovering from a stroke and learning to walk on his own again.
After all, caregiving is about people.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)