Ex-Amazon product manager’s startup Lyfboat is gunning to be the ‘Expedia for medical travel’
Mitika Gupta had a flourishing 15-year career in STEM, with stints at Dell, Microsoft, and Amazon in the US, before starting Lyfboat in 2015.
She set up Lyfboat as a tech-led ‘medical tourism’ marketplace that allows patients to discover, compare, and connect with credible hospitals and healthcare providers — mostly for critical illnesses — from across the globe.
With medical tourism growing its stack, not only are Indians travelling abroad to obtain advanced healthcare, hundreds and thousands of patients from less-developed nations are also coming to India.
As a result, the domestic medical tourism industry is “booming” and is projected to grow by 200 percent to hit $9 billion in 2020, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Lyfboat, headquartered in Delhi (with an office in Seattle), has a team of 12. Mitika’s sibling Anuj Gupta is the co-founder and CEO, while she doubles up as the founder and Chief Product Officer of the company.
Origins and operations so far
For Mitika, Lyfboat was born out of a personal crisis.
“My father was critically ill some years ago, and that made us realise how difficult it was to get treatment abroad. Everyone deserves access to good healthcare. But, when you fear losing a loved one, you need someone to handhold you through the process. We saw a huge need for a platform that could facilitate that.”
Thus, Lyfboat was launched in April 2015, with a goal of becoming the “Expedia for medical travel.”
“Our long-term vision is to make quality healthcare available at affordable rates to anyone, anywhere in the world,” Mitika says.
Currently, Lyfboat’s curated marketplace lists doctors, medical experts, facilities, and services from about 70 hospitals, mainly in India, APAC and the Middle East. These include top JCI-accredited hospitals such as Apollo, Fortis, Max, BLK, Wockhardt and Zulekha (in Dubai). The startup also plans to expand to Africa and Europe shortly.
Yet, India is its core focus area, with Chennai, Mumbai, Kochi, and Delhi emerging as major medical tourism hubs. In fact, India is the most-preferred destination for cardiovascular and orthopaedic procedures, according to a study by Grand View Research.
“We have recorded healthy organic growth in the past 12 months. Over 20,000 patients are registered on Lyfboat; our topline is growing at about 30 percent year-on-year. There is much more awareness and willingness in people to explore healthcare outside their home country.”
How the platform works and what it enables
Lyfboat’s proprietary cloud-based platform provides an assortment of accredited partner-hospitals, 24/7 patient assistance, including medical visas, free doctor consultations, price comparisons, and enquiry resolutions.
Patients can choose from a list of medical procedures, ranging from orthopaedics to oncology, and the platform’s algorithms match them with suitable healthcare providers.
Patients can also use Lyfboat’s “Cost Calculator” to estimate treatment expenses they are likely to incur.
Once they zero in on a service provider, the hospital coordinates with them to schedule appointments, accommodation, and other logistics. Patients have the option of paying after their treatment is completed and they then return home. Lyfboat pockets a commission fee on every hospital-patient transaction.
“We’re customer-obsessed. This is something I learned at Amazon. We want to build a platform at the unique intersection of medicine and technology. Partnerships are going to be a key in this business.”
Although medical treatment has been its core focus so far, Lyfboat reveals that in the long-term, it plans to enable bookings, accommodation, transportation, health insurance, and other related services on its platform.
“We want to provide even SIM cards to a patient travelling abroad,” Mitika says, adding,
“We’re also exploring other revenue streams like bookings and tie-ups with local budget hotels. This will help us achieve scale and fulfil our vision of becoming a one-stop health services platform.”
The expanding medical tourism landscape
Grand View Research estimates medical tourism to be a $180 billion global market by 2026. “It generates direct foreign exchange income and contributes to the overall development of any economy,” GVR states in a study.
Medical tourism also provides new employment and business opportunities, and results in the growth of associated businesses such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and tourism.
However, despite the huge growth potential, there are only a handful of platforms that offer holistic medical travel services. Berlin-based Medigo is one, and has been touted as Europe’s “hottest healthcare startup".
On different demographics and territories, Mitika says, “Medical tourism is a highly fragmented market. For instance, Africa is a need-based market, but Europe is more choice-based. But, some players like Medigo are doing quite well.”
Lyfboat wants to strike a balance between need and choice. Its target is to deploy AI/ML technologies to service a million patients in about three to four years, and improve “global access to healthcare.”
However, the bootstrapped startup has “no immediate plans” to raise funds.
“We are happy to see the growth in our cash flow. If we’re raising capital, we want to do it for the right reasons,” Mitika signs off.
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur Gomes)