This startup is making hearing aids accessible through digital route
Rohit Misra, a seasoned corporate executive with close to three decades of experience in the healthcare sector, saw an opportunity in the hearing aids market in the country.
He realised that the industry in its present form was not really moving forward. This led him to take the entrepreneurial route at the age of 49 and start, an online platform that provides all hearing aid requirements and services, in 2021.
“In India, for every 1,000 people who need hearing aids, only five buy it, and the industry has been selling around six lakh units annually when the requirement is around 12 crore,” says Rohit.
The reasons for this is three-fold -- Firstly, there is a certain amount of stigma associated in the use of hearing aids; secondly, the lack of such centres which provides the services or devices across the country; and lastly, inhibitions regarding the service quality as well as pricing.
According to Rohit, there are only about 65-70 cities in the country which have hearing aid dispensers or outlets which provides these services.
Rohit has an acute understanding of this market as prior to this venture he was the managing director of Starkey Labs for SAARC & Africa, which is one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers globally.
“This industry needs something to make the entire pie bigger and the only way out was through digitalisation,” says Rohit.
Noida-based earKART was founded to make all kinds of hearing aid services and devices available on a single platform to give easy access to those in need.
Rohit says he was inspired by the Lenskart mode of selling spectacles and felt the same could be achieved in the hearing aid market.
“We want to ensure there is clarity and transparency in every transaction,” says Rohit.
Under the earKART model, people with such requirements come to them or they reach out to customers where earKART can direct the individual to a particular centre that provides hearing aid services or the requirement can be fulfilled at one’s home.
Towards this end, earKART has onboarded dealers and manufacturers onto its platform.
“earKART is a zero resistance model as we are scouting for patients and fixing appointments for them with the clinics and manufacturers who can now sell more of their devices,” says Rohit.
Rohit saw that people were uncomfortable on the entire buying experience as well as the lack of transparency on the pricing of hearing aids.
“We have a comparison tool on the prices of the devices where all the information is provided,” says Rohit.
To bring further comfort to the customers, earKART also provides insurance against loss or theft, a dehumidifier, and 50 percent buyback offer for the hearing aids.
To ensure customers get access to hearing aid devices, especially those who stay away from the cities, the dealers on the platform are given a undertaking that they would provide the services in locations which does not have such facility but is closer to their location.
Hearing aid market remains underpenetrated in India
Today, earKART has a network of around 800 dealers on the platform and the founder claims it has got enquiries from places such as Pathankot, Baddi, Jaunpur, Chitrakoot, and even interior Odisha. It has got presence in 181 locations across the country.
“Our goal is to remove all the obstacles to ensure good buying experience for customers. This will also expand the pie of the market,” says Rohit.
The business and targets
earKART started its operations in the month of September and it already claims to be selling around 20 hearing aids a day, and the target is to take it to 200 such devices a day within the next three months.
According to reports, the hearing aid market in India is estimated to be around $300 million in size in 2019 and expected to touch about $450 million by 2026.
On the pricing front, earKART gets Rs 800 for every appointment it makes and gets 11 percent commission on every hearing aid device sold. The average selling price of devices through this platform is around Rs 38,000.
The founder of earKART says he does not have any kind of direct competition.
The bootstrapped venture has already got backing from prominent angels such as Ashneer Grover, Co-founder of BharatPe. Besides, it has roped in dealers as investors, who Rohit says have come at a valuation of Rs 120 crore.
On the future plans, Rohit says, the startup plans to make this service available in more Indian languages, which gives it a wider reach and also set up nodal centres in Tier III cities and beyond locations who can provide after sale services for these devices.
Rohit says, “When I first got into this venture, given my comfortable corporate job, it was a bit tricky. But now, after seeing the results, there is a lot of satisfaction.”