Why the VP of Telemedicine Society decided to start a health and wellness platform for men
Dr Lalitha Reddy, the former Vice President of Yashoda Group of Hospitals and currently Vice President of Telemedicine Society, felt there was a stronger need for wellness and illness prevention to reach a larger number of people.
“Over the past two decades, I have seen so many health issues that are making men and women unhappy and leading to a poor quality of life, despite having simple solutions.
"Issues related to stress, performance, fertility, poor sleep, constant fatigue etc are all usually pushed under the carpet and add misery to people’s lives. What is the point of looking beautiful or handsome outside if you are ill, stressed, or unhappy inside?” Lalitha asks.
This led her to start healthcare platform ForMen earlier this year. ForMen specialises in men’s health and wellness products, and offers advice on vitamins, endurance, destress, sleep, skin, energy, and other issues.
Dr Lalitha Reddy
The need for a non-judgmental platform
Lalitha says she and her team want to address these issues in a very “discreet and non-judgemental manner” and provide confidential consultations and genuine products.
“We aim to be the most trusted, sought-after, and affordable destination for wellness and health in our country,” she says.
The platform also focusses on wellness and quality of life. Lalitha feels mental and physical wellness and health are most often ignored, unless significant enough to warrant a hospital visit.
“This attitude is probably related to hesitancy (stigma) of people to talk of issues like stress, anxiety, inability to perform – all for fear of being ridiculed or misunderstood. Many a time, simple ignorance of dietary deficiencies could land you in a hospital with a heart attack or stroke. Poor sleep can push a pre-diabetic to turn fully diabetic. Too many antibiotics can ruin your gut bacteria; stress can reduce your fertility.
“Obesity increases risk of certain cancers. A single nutrient deficiency can play havoc with your mind, mood, focus, and concentration. Inability to perform may ruin your love life, while fear of a fear may prevent you from enjoying a drink with your friends.”
The clear next step
Lalitha feels this was a natural progression for her. Hailing from a simple, down-to-earth family in Hyderabad, her father was a professor of horticulture and mother a homemaker. Both her brothers preferred engineering and her father wished to see her as a doctor.
She finished her MBBS at JIPMER, followed by a PG in radiodiagnosis at Osmania General Hospital, Hyderabad, and went on to do senior residency at Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), followed by a fellowship in musculo-skeletal radiology at a hospital in Seoul.
After a decade of practice and academics, she moved on to administration and pursued an MBA in hospital administration and an Advanced Management Programme for Healthcare course from Indian School of Business ( ISB).
"My tenure as Vice President of Yashoda Group of Hospitals was an unparalleled experience. I felt I was able to do good for thousands of patients, as compared to my work as a radiologist, seeing 80-100 patients a day. My stint as VP of Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA) and VP for Telemedicine Association of India, Telangana State Chapter, further added to my holistic experience of the healthcare and wellness scenario of our country,” Lalitha says.
Setting up ops
Given her experience and expertise, it was easy for Lalitha to get ForMen operations up and running. She set up a team of doctors, pharmacologists, and scientists, and the categories they first picked were those that were very common in men, those that were least openly discussed, and those that would help them improve the quality of life of a larger segment of men.
These insights were gleaned from the collective experience of a team of doctors across India, based on their experience of the last 20-30 years.
“We needed raw material suppliers, manufacturers, packaging, branding, and last-mile delivery partners to take our products to the people. We did extensive research and visited various places across the country for more than six to eight months, before we convinced ourselves that we are working with the best, who share our passion for quality, purity, efficacy, and efficiency,” Lalitha says.
Logistics and delay in deliveries were common in the last few months due to the lockdowns.
Immense personal learning went into the entire process. The team had to be aware of the best practices in all allied processes to pick the best partner.
“There were challenges, but not major. Since we had core knowledge about wellness, remedies, and formulations, the challenge was in associating with talent that understood our core principles and also respected timelines. Due to the pandemic, website design, raw material procurement, and creative agencies were all not able to meet deadlines. This was frustrating, and led us to optimise our operations and strengthen in-house skill sets,” Lalitha says.
The team says ForMen is seeing an approximate 8-10 percent month-on-month growth rate, and has an average basket size of around Rs 800.
ForMen plans to expand its product portfolio and soon launch a kids brand called ForKids.
Advice to entrepreneurs
Lalitha adds working in hospitals for the last 25 years, dealing with the issues of thousands of patients and attendants, and being in leadership positions has made her immune to all perceived negativities, bias, and hindrances.
“Single-minded focus to bulldoze ahead is all that I prefer to do. My belief in my knowledge and strengths opens up innovative paths for me, overstepping or sidestepping all bias and blocks.
"I hope all women entrepreneurs who face bias will use it as a stepping stone to success and move ahead with the silent strength and iron will nature has abundantly provided in women,” Lalitha says.
She lists down her advice to all entrepreneurs:
- Have a positive mindset: Ours is a country of opportunities. It is our mindset that allows us to look at new paths or dead ends. Look to newer horizons. Have a positive mindset.
- Don’t give up: It’s not easy being an entrepreneur, especially a first-generation one. Never give up if you truly believe in your idea. Doors will open, sooner or later. People who get scared don’t go far.
- Be agile: Being quick and agile helps you quickly move from a strategy that doesn’t work to one that does. Indecisiveness must not have any place in your mind.
- Keep learning: It’s always good to know what we previously did not know. Even if you outsource a certain task, it’s always good to be knowledgeable about it so you can plug holes that drain finances. It’s never too late to learn. Learning should be like breathing, a continuous life-long process.
- Patience, patience, and patience: Miracles don’t happen overnight. One of my biggest learnings in this entrepreneurial journey is to be patient.
- Network and keep an open mind: Sometimes you get leads from the least expected sources. Always focus on developing networks and keep your mind open to new thoughts and paths.