This woman entrepreneur’s medtech startup protects newborns with a ‘Raksha’ device

Pratyusha Pareddy is the Co-founder of medtech startup Nemocare Wellness, whose product ‘Raksha’ is an easy-to-use wearable device, which wraps around the foot of the newborn, and monitors six main vital signs.

Pratyusha Pareddy, Co-founder of Nemocare Wellness, belongs to a family of doctors. She decided to pursue engineering and product design from the National Institute of Design. However, she gravitated towards addressing unmet needs in the healthcare sector.

“At NID, I learnt how marrying top-notch tech with responsible and simple design thinking principles can create wonders. The projects I had taken up at NID — like improving rural maternal healthcare — helped us travel extensively in rural Gujarat to understand how healthcare works at the grassroots level, as well as how simple design intervention can drastically improve the lives of people at the bottom of the pyramid,” Pratuysha tells HerStory.

She trained in product design, user experience research, user interface design, as well as developed a strong understanding of design thinking methods.

Changing neonatal care

The founders winning the Healthcare Innovation Award

Pratyusha started her journey in the corporate world as a UX Designer and went to the University of Dundee, Scotland, on a project that used connected IoT-based systems to enhance the high street experience. 

After returning to India, she was selected for a fellowship at the Centre for Healthcare Entrepreneurship, IIT Hyderabad, where she learnt how to channel her resources in order to startup in the medtech space. 

She says being a daughter of a gynaecologist and mother of a newborn — neonatal and maternal care was close to her heart. 

“As a part of the course, we had six months of clinical immersion, where we spent a lot of time in the hospitals in Telangana (both government and private), trying to understand the pain points of all the stakeholders — patients, doctors, nurses — involved in the healthcare system,” she says.

“When we saw how nurses and doctors do the best they can with the limited resources available to them, especially in neonatal care, where they resort to visually monitoring the babies for any signs of distress, we were moved,” Pratyusha adds.

She could particularly relate a lot to this need because she spent a lot of her childhood in a hospital and knew how every second is precious when the life of a newborn is at stake. And, being a mother of a newborn, she spent a year of sleepless nights monitoring her baby, which was physically and mentally taxing.

“Imagine the plight of one nurse who monitors close to 30 babies at one go!” she says.

That was the genesis of Nemocare. The team spent 10 months working closely with all the stakeholders — designing and developing the prototype, partnering with key players for piloting its device, working with vendors, and identifying manufacturing partners. 

Nemocare has developed an easy-to-use wearable device called ‘Raksha,’ which can be wrapped around the foot of a newborn to monitor six main vital signs 24x7 — blood-oxygen saturation, heart rate, respiration rate, temperature, perfusion index, and heart rate variability. 

Quick and timely intervention

The device/platform can accurately notify healthcare workers so they can intervene before it's too late. In the backend, vital signs are analysed by a deep learning algorithm.

The entire system works as an intelligent platform that gives accurate notifications to enable timely intervention when a distress condition is detected. The device and algorithms are patent-pending. With no technology risk, a hospital can make any of its beds into an ICU bed quickly. 

Pratyusha roped in her batchmate at IIT Hyderabad, Manoj Sanker, as the second co-founder of Nemocare.

“Both of us believe in the power of design thinking and maternal and child health. Manoj is calmer and more deliberate in his thinking, and hence, manages the product. Whereas I am a more energetic, vocal, and spontaneous person, and hence, manage the people,” Pratyusha says.  

The co-founders say the Asia-Pacific and Indian baby monitor market is growing at a CAGR of 11 percent. In India, the market is $1.2 billion worth, with 120,000 private nursing homes and corporate hospitals and 1,500 public health centres, which cater to 25 million babies annually

Nemocare offers its customers an innovative profit sharing B2B model, with its primary customers being physicians, surgeons, and private nursing homes in Tier I, II, and III cities in India.

Its ideal customers are government-run specialised newborn care units (SNCU) in district hospitals. The device — which retails at $220 — has an average shelf life of 550 days. The disposable patch to secure the device costs $2 per baby. 

For the medtech startup, the sale of its module will be the primary income, while the sale of the patches will be a recurring income, hence reducing the financial burden for the doctor and patient — yet reaching its financial goals to become sustainable pretty early. 

“We have over 100 doctors, and many are key opinion leaders in our network currently. Through them, we have access to over 1,500 doctors who are part of different organisations, including the Indian Association of Paediatricians (IAP). We intend to use channels like these and various medical conferences to reach out to primary customers,” Pratyusha says.

“Collaborations with the likes of UNICEF and QUALCOMM are key to us achieving the next phase of commercialisation for our product. We will begin commercialisation in India, followed by Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia,” she adds.

In India, it competes with key players like BEMPU and Helyxon, while in the US, it rivals Neopenda, Owlet, and Raybaby. 

The co-founders have raised grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BIRAC, Millennium Alliance (USAID, FICCI), and others.

Taking it to the field

Pratyusha says the startup has come quite far since its first on-field interview.  

“We have successfully tested our POC, designed our final iteration, and have taken care of all the safety issues, as well as have also done a successful small-scale pilot. A lot of our users believe this will be a very useful medical intervention for neonates, and now it is upon us to take this lab technology to the field,” she says.

Adding, “We are yet to finish our large-scale studies to get the necessary regulatory approvals to start selling. Our collaboration with QUALCOMM is just the right catalyst that will help us reach a point where we can start generating revenue and risk ourselves enough to be self-sustainable.” 

Some of the challenges the startup face includes finding the right manufacturing partners for scale, clearing the regulatory certifications in time, and finding reliable and trusted partners for distribution — both in private and public segments — hiring sales and marketing teams, and expanding across the country.

“The amount of learning packed into the last year was priceless. We have had some of the biggest challenges faced by most of the early-stage startups like delay in funding, manufacturing challenges, and keeping the team together,” she claims.

She adds, “We slowed down, we didn’t mindlessly pivot, and scramble about. We kept the team morale high, reallocated our resources, and re-strategised our way forward; spent more resources and time on clinical studies, and re-looked at our vendor management and procurement,” Pratyusha concludes.

Edited by Suman Singh