How this 32-year-old’s leisure travel startup turned to medical tourism to help cancer patients
Stage 3 breast cancer survivor Josephine from Uganda was devastated when her cancer recurred. She was weak, vulnerable, and decided to travel to India for medical treatment. Yet by the time she did, the cancer had spread rapidly and her heart was functioning at 30 percent capacity.
It was a grave situation, and medical value travel (MVT) startup Magnus Medi stepped in to support Josephine with a quick action plan and much-needed support.
With India’s medical tourism industry expected to grow by 200 percent by 2020 and touted to hit $9 billion, according to Ministry of Tourism figures, Mihir Vora’s Magnus Medi addresses this burgeoning market. Today, international patients receive state-of-the-art medical treatment not easily available in their own country with Vora’s entrepreneurial venture. The startup serves as a one-stop solution for medical travellers in India.
Magnus Medi assists patients by offering multiple opinions, and arranging for visas, tickets and accommodation. It also facilitates medical appointments and supports patients during surgery, while also providing timely follow-ups.
A healthy start
During Mihir’s masters in management studies, he was able to sell electrical products worth several million rupees to his college. This ignited his passion for marketing and entrepreneurship.
“Soon after, I started Magnus which was a leisure travel company. Once, when the company sold 150 rooms at a five-star hotel in Kenya, the hotelier invited me to visit Kenya to look for tourism opportunities. Initially, I was sceptical about the hotelier’s suggestion of medical tourism. Later, with discussions, I found that there was a serious need for an organised player in the industry,” explains Mihir.
That was the fortuitous start for the Mumbai-based MVT startup Magnus Medi back in 2010. It first assisted patients from Kenya and then moved its reach to Uganda. Now, the startup has representative offices in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Bangladesh with a team of 17.
As a travel team was already in place, Mihir hired an operations person and outsourced a tech team. Later, he expanded the operations’ team and also created a sales and digital team. The digital operations today are managed by Bhavya Vora, who is co-founder Mihir’s wife. Bhavya’s eight years experience in a pharma company has proven useful in the administration and digital work that Magnus Medi requires.
Interestingly, it claims to be the only medical value travel company in India accredited by National Accreditation Board for Hospital and Healthcare (NABH) and International Air Transport Association (IATA). While most competitors focus on the aggregator model, Magnus Medi claims to be more patient-centric.
Care through the Internet
A patient who uses Magnus Medi’s services first decides on the kind of medical treatment needed by logging onto the website of Magnus Medi, selecting from a list of hospitals and doctors, and getting estimates on the required treatment. At this initial stage, no personal details of the patient are collected.
If the patient is happy to take it forward, he or she must provide contact details and join an online community. Here, innumerable questions regarding the treatment of disease are answered by survivors. This ensures that the patients receive transparent reviews of treatments and hospitals.
The patients then share their medical reports following which they are given opinions by the startup through the platform. The patients choose the hospital and the treatment they want to undergo. The offline managers later take up cases individually and assist patients throughout their travel.
“One has to understand that the patient who seeks to travel abroad is travelling because his/her queries are not answered in the home country or advanced technology is needed. Someone has to assure medical travellers about what hospitals in India can provide, transparently,” says Mihir.
Magnus Medi works with Apollo Hospitals, Fortis, Narayana Health, Manipal Hospitals and Artemis Hospitals. The treatment options available on the platform include oncology, neurology, urology, gynaecology, nephrology, cardiology, orthopaedic, stem cell and transplant.
Magnus Medi started as a bootstrapped startup, and in 2017, it raised angel funding. Currently, it clocks half-a-million US dollars in revenue.
“The medical travel division is growing over 100 percent year on year, from assisting eight lives in 2016, today we are assisting over 200 lives a year in India, and assisting over 10,000 patients with relevant medical information,” says Mihir.
While the startup does not charge its patients for services, it receives a marketing fee from hospitals based on patient conversions. The hospital fee is collected differently based on the lead, campus and other arrangements that put the hospital in connection with the patients.
“We are not working on any B2B model as of now. However, we are moving towards it. We will partner with key insurance companies, NGOs, hospitals and the government to give access to our partnered hospitals,” Mihir explains.
According to a report by FICCI and IMS Health - India accounts for 18 percent of the global medical tourism market. By 2020, India’s medical tourism industry could account for 20 percent of the global market share.
Like Magnus Medi, there is Gurugram-based Avocure that claims to have dealt with over 1,200 patients since its inception, and has an active user traffic of 7,600 visitors a month.
Adding new countries on their medical tourism list, and finding the right partners has been a huge challenge. It aims to expand to 20 countries in the next four years. Domestic medical help is an idea they are working on.
The startup are also designing an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) model which would take another year to materialise. The AI/ML prototype has been two years in development, and Mihir adds, “I feel cost in time would be more than cost in terms of price.” Another round of funding after the prototype is ready is on the anvil.
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur Gomes)