Connecting patients on WhatsApp, WeClinic is bringing teleconsultation to homeopathy
Since the start of the pandemic, the alternative medicine market in India, especially homeopathy, has grown by leaps and bounds. The global homeopathy market is expected to reach $13.5 billion by 2028, as per a study.
This growth is driven by India, which adds approximately 12,000 homeopathic practitioners each year, according to AYUSH Ministry data.
While the demand for homeopathic medicines is growing, the over-the-counter sale in medical stores is quite low because they are tailored to the patient’s needs and the consumption may vary from person to person.
“So, a patient needs to first consult a homeopathic physician before taking any medicine, and many times, these physicians provide medicines to the patient from their clinics," Alok Katiyar, Co-founder, WeClinic tells YourStory.
To fill this gap in the homeopathic healthcare market, husband-wife duo Alok and Dr Deeksha Katiyar startedin 2019 to provide in-person consultations and teleconsultation-based homeopathic services.
"We saw that despite homeopathy gaining traction in India, doctors were only serving a smaller population through physical clinics. There were no large players in this domain in India, which lacked modern homeopathy clinics,” he adds.
The Kanpur-based startup is a full-fledged homeopathy telehealth platform which enables patients to consult doctors online and get their medicines delivered to their doorstep.
The founders initially established a clinic in Kanpur for physical consultations in 2020, however, it immediately ran into troubles.
Patients were deterred by the distance to visit it, and after the initial lockdown, the risk of the physical spread of COVID-19 was too great for the founders to continue physical consultations.
So, they started online consultation, which laid the foundation for teleconsultation services, and flagged off home delivery of medicines. However, online payment turned out to be a roadblock so they explored the cash-on-delivery model.
Initially, the startup faced difficulties in gaining people’s trust as they were a team of young doctors and most people preferred older and known homeopathic practitioners. However, gradually, it was able to build a solid patient base and is now consulting over 9,000 patients a month, tells Alok, a second-time entrepreneur and an IIT-Roorkee alum.
Before WeClinic, he founded—an app that offered preparatory material for government jobs in vernacular languages.
What does it offer?
WeClinic operates on a two-fold approach regarding consultations: physical and online. Users can visit the clinic in person or connect via phone or WhatsApp to the registered number.
It operates online through a WhatsApp API system which is integrated with its internal clinical management platforms and dashboard. It collects feedback from patients and schedules appointments with practitioners within 24-48 hours.
"Via WhatsApp, users (patients) can share their medical history, records, prescriptions, etc with our team, and thereafter, our doctors will be able to view it automatically and take action as required," he explains.
The clinical management system is a proprietary product designed for homeopathy telemedicine services.
WeClinic assigns each patient a dedicated health manager who handles patient queries over six to nine months—from when they order medicines to their recovery.
"The health manager is always in touch with the patient," Alok explains, "and in case of an emergency, the manager facilitates scheduling appointments with the doctor(s)."
The startup addresses a wide range of diseases and disorders, including piles, fistulas, fissures, arthritis, and male sexual disorders. It plans to add more practitioners with expertise in disorders like PCOD and PCOS, spondylitis, renal stone, gout, kidney stone, and others.
Currently, it employs six homeopathic practitioners, with Dr Deeksha Katiyar as the head doctor. She completed her post-graduation from The London College of Homeopathy, Hounslow and has six years of experience as a homeopathic physician.
It has a team of 60 people and is looking to hire 50 more by 2023.
As of now, the consultations on the platform are only available in Hindi, but the startup soon plans to add Kannada.
WeClinic has two revenue streams; doctor consultation fees and profit margin derived from the order of medicines.
"The medicines are certified as per AYUSH Ministry guidelines. We purchase medicines from reputed brands like SBL (Sharda Boiron Laboratories Ltd), WSI (Dr Willmar Schwabe India), and others," he states.
The consultation and prescription charges are Rs 300, while the startup also offers a package of Rs 1,200 for a month—which enables patients to consult three times, get prescriptions, and get medicines delivered to their doorstep.
WeClinic says patient consultations are growing at around 10% month-on-month (MoM), and the startup is registering monthly sales of Rs 60 lakh.
Alok says each doctor consults 30 patients a day. To date, the platform has consulted over a lakh patients.
About 60% of the traffic on the platform comes from rural areas, and 40% from urban areas and including cities like Lucknow, Jaipur, Ghaziabad, Noida, Patna, and Ranchi. "Currently, our focus is on North India’s Hindi-speaking belt to increase our patient base," says Alok.
Approximately 30% of users come from Uttar Pradesh, 15% from Bihar, and 10%–12% from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. "These patients come to us after seeing digital ads, via user referrals, and through organic search," the co-founder adds.
WeClinic has generated revenue of Rs 2.5 crore in FY21 and is projected to generate Rs 8 crore by the end of this year. Its user base is projected to grow by over 60% in the next two quarters.
The founders initially invested Rs 5 lakh from their personal savings and plan to keep the startup bootstrapped.
The homeopathy healthcare industry in India is currently growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 20%, according to AYUSH Ministry.
WeClinic plans to expand its physical clinic network to at least three more cities by 2023.
"For making the telemedicine model work seamlessly, we need a strong tech team and designer team members, which is a bit difficult to find here in a Tier-II city like Kanpur," says Alok.
It plans to onboard a new practitioner every three months—at least 10 to 12 by the end of 2023.
The startup competes with players such as Dr Batra, Homeocare International, Lifeforce Homeopathy, and others.
Edited by Kanishk Singh