[Startup Bharat] Vadodara-based I Online Doctor is making healthcare accessible to patients beyond metros
Tech startups have made life easier than ever. Need grocery? There’s BigBasket. Hungry? Swiggy it. Domestic help on leave? Call UrbanClap. Want something delivered at home? Dunzo it!
When almost everything can be delivered to your doorstep, why visit a clinic when you are sick? Enter telemedicine, which makes sure that we do not leave home when we don’t want to.
While urban India has the advantage of players like Practo, mfine, Docsapp, and Lybrate, rural India still seems to travel to the cities to seek medical help. Vadodara-based healthtech startup I Online Doctor aims to tap this market by connecting patients with doctors through secure video call consultations using a simple and easy-to-use mobile app.
“The increasing availability of affordable smartphones and high-speed internet in small towns and rural areas has led to rapid adoption of technology. And I Online Doctor hopes to capture this momentum to provide affordable and accessible solutions to our users,” says Founder Deepak Patel.
I Online Doctor was among the 15 companies selected from across the globe for the 500 Kobe Accelerator programme in Japan. It is a flagship programme in conjunction with 500.Co of San Francisco, US, and Kobe City, Japan.
The I Online Doctor team
Born and brought up in Vadodara, Deepak comes with over 25 years of experience. His last stint was as President of Horizon Industrial, a Canadian mechanical and general contracting company. He has a double bachelor’s degree (science and law), and a master’s in HRM.
Co-founder Meghna Patel is an engineer and has a post-graduation certificate in computer programming, from University of California. She comes with 15 years of experience and was previously a manager at Horizon Industrial.
After working at three Canadian companies, Deepak wanted to return to his home country and work on solutions for the growing healthcare needs of people in small towns and villages.
“There was a huge disparity in doctor distribution in urban versus rural areas and small towns. On one hand, most doctors are based in cities; on the other, there is no option to consult primary care doctors after clinic hours or during holidays. Developed countries like the US and a few in Europe have implemented telemedicine for several years to address this concern. However, this is at a very nascent stage in India,” Deepak says.
Deepak bootstrapped the company with $1.1 million, using his personal savings. I Online Doctor’s team at present has 12 employees.
Consultation any where, any time
I Online Doctor is a marketplace platform that connects patients and doctors through video call consultations. Available for Android and iOS users, the I Online Doctor app is free to download and register, for both patients and doctors. Once registered, patients can select doctors depending on their specialisation, experience, ratings, and fees.
After a patient selects a doctor, s/he has to fill in a health questionnaire, pay consultation fees, and connect with the latter via a secure and private video consultation. After the consultation, patients receive an electronic prescription, diagnostic lab requisition, and can even exchange private messages with the consulting doctor.
Additionally, patients can submit health queries, which are resolved by certified providers. The consultation fees vary from doctor to doctor, and depend on specialisation and experience. The startup charges a part of the fee as commission, and transfers the rest to the health expert/doctor.
Validating the numbers
The mobile apps, which were launched in August 2018, have been downloaded over five lakh times.
“Our patients are predominantly from India. However, patients across the globe have access to our app and can use it to connect with a doctor,” Deepak says.
The doctors are all based out of India. The platform has more than 2,000 doctors, and more than 45 healthcare specialists, super specialists, family physicians, Ayurvedic, and homeopathic doctors on board.
However, the journey hasn’t been very smooth.
“Resistance to change, lack of awareness, and social misconceptions were some of our key challenges,” Deepak says.
I Online Doctor has been able to turn these challenges into opportunities with proper education, exposure, and marketing practices.
In collaboration with MS University of Baroda, the startup has previously conducted free digital medical camps for residents of Limda and Madheli villages in Gujarat. It has conducted similar camps for underprivileged residents in the city, as well as senior citizens of DMC Old Age Home, Vadodara.
Market overview and future plans
According to a report published by Global Market Insights in March 2019, the telemedicine market was valued at over $38.3 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at more than 19 percent CAGR between 2019 and 2025.
I Online Doctor’s competitors include Practo, Docsapp, and Lybrate. Recently, Cure.fit also entered the space through its vertical, Care.fit. However, Deepak believes that the Indian telemedicine market is still unexplored and has tremendous scope for startups like his.
The founders' ultimate goal is to make I Online Doctor available to every home in every village. The platform is raising a seed round and is open to further investment.
“I Online Doctor stands apart from the competition by providing a true marketplace solution that includes instantaneous live video consultations with our pool of experienced and verified doctors, and healthcare providers. Further, features like post-consultation follow-ups, a secure messaging feature between patient and provider, and the entire virtual clinical experience help us stand out.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)