These women entrepreneurs are building the Amazon for medical equipment in India
Shanthi Mathur and Sakshi Khandelwal were working as consultants in health analytics and performance management until an idea for a virtual marketplace for medical equipment crossed their minds.
The nudge to start up, however, came after the duo came to know of a two-year-old hospital shutting down. Its owners were looking to sell all the equipment that was nearly as good as new.
“They had a few good offers and eventually had to sell the whole lot for less than one-third of the cost after holding on for two more years,” Shanthi shares.
At the same time, prior work experience had made her realise that smaller hospitals were on a constant lookout for functioning and affordable equipment. The unavailability would often lead to untimely and unreliable services as broken equipment would remain unattended for weeks.
Shanthi Mathur and Sakshi Khandelwal, Co-founders of PrimedeQ
The two saw an opportunity to bridge a gap. Shanthi tells HerStory that the two set out to answer two questions – “What if hospitals could easily find each other in a large network for buying or selling their used equipment, leading to a profitable deal? What if the same network could help find a service provider when the machine is down?”
She adds that while ecommerce platforms such as, Amazon, OLX, and could use technology seamlessly, there was the need for a dedicated platform for medical equipment as well.
Building the network
Shanthi and Sakshi began by seeing and helping several small hospitals arrange for equipment.
Recounting their initial days, Sakshi, who has a Bachelor’s in Dental Surgery (BDS) and a Master’s in Health Administration, shares, “We researched and brainstormed together and with every discussion, we got more and more excited and clearer that we definitely wanted to do this.”
Nearly four years since then, their startupis now a B2B e-marketplace that facilitates buying, selling, renting, and servicing of medical equipment.
Based in Bengaluru, PrimedeQ claims to be a destination platform for healthcare providers, medical equipment sellers and service providers.
“Our target segment is doctor-owned, small, and medium hospitals with typical strength of 10-100 beds,” Shanthi explains.
With a team of six, the startup hopes to make discovering and trading for affordable new or pre-owned medical equipment organised and trustworthy.
In order to retain its presence in the market, Sakshi shares that PrimedeQ is heavily focussed on digital marketing activities. Besides various marketing events, “we stay connected to our clients through multiple mail campaigns, on-field calls, WhatsApp, and also rely on business referrals,” she says.
Recently, the two won a pitch session organised by Women Entrepreneurs for Transformation (WEFT) on International Women’s Day.
Bootstrapped so far, PrimedeQ is now looking for seed funding, and hopes to expand its operations to six other cities while upgrading its technology. The co-founders share that they are generating leads from across the country but are unable to serve these customers.
India is the fourth-largest market for medical devices in Asia, with an estimated value of $11 billion, according to National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency Invest India. Further, it has the potential to reach $50 billion by 2025.
Combining this with the already thriving ecommerce space in India, Shanthi says “medical equipment is a tough market”.
The foremost challenge was gaining the trust and credibility of customers.
She shares, “Initially, vendors were sceptical and dismissed our model but our hospital clients responded positively. However, it took us a lot of time and effort but delivering on our promises helped us through it.”
She adds that the medical equipment industry is another male-dominant space, which could have also been a reason for the scepticism.
“Nevertheless, we continued to persevere and as the results speak, people do come around,” Shanthi explains, adding that people also ask her if her husband would soon join the business.
Entrepreneurship changes a person’s life and it was no different for Shanthi and Sakshi.
They conclude, “No matter how good you are, be prepared to learn several other things on the way in the entrepreneurial journey. One has to be hands-on with just about everything and you can’t just hire someone and assume them to take care of it all.”
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)