How a 25-year-old started a dental clinic chain and landed Bollywood celebs and cricketers as clients
Mumbai-based Shantanu Jaradi graduated dental school but didn’t take up a job or start practicing dentistry right away. He took a year off to analyse the dentistry market and understand how he could create an impact.
The market for oral healthcare in India was large, as 50 percent of school going children in India suffer from dental caries (cavities) while 90 percent of the adult population is affected by periodontal disease (gum infections), according to a report by NCBI.
However, Shantanu found that despite the demand, customers felt a visit to the dentist was a negative, unpleasant or painful experience.
“There was a huge need for enhancing the experience of dentistry in general. I asked myself if I could convert the negative experiences into positive ones,” he tells SMBStory.
This inspired him to start oral healthcare chain Dentzz in 2006 when he was 25 years old. His idea was to use top-notch talent, state-of-art technology, and infrastructure to deliver a pleasant and premium experience to customers.
Shantanu Jaradi, Founder and CEO, Dentzz
He started by raising Rs 30 lakhs from family and setting up two small clinics in Mumbai.
Shantanu’s quality-driven approach and focus on aesthetic dentistry drew attention over the years. Bollywood celebrities and cricketers are among Dentzz’s high profile customers, the company claims.
Today, Shantanu is at the helm of eight Dentzz centres in India, located in Mumbai and Delhi, and one centre in Dubai. He says Dentzz is seeing financial growth of 30 percent year-on-year, and plans to expand both domestically and internationally.
In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Shantanu dives deeper into his oral healthcare model and explains its operations.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
SMBStory [SMBS]: How did you start delivering a pleasant dental experience to customers?
Shantanu Jaradi [SJ]: I realised that giving the customer a pleasant experience could be done better through a brand rather than a traditional practice. I also saw that advanced dental procedures were becoming popular in India.
I started Dentzz with the intention of creating a specialised centre for advanced procedures and converting a doctor-centric practice into a customer-first one. I emphasised on cutting short waiting times for appointments, training dentists and clinicians in soft skills, importing state-of-the-art equipment to boost success rates, etc.
SMBS: How did you set up the clinics?
SJ: With the capital raised from family, I started by leasing out very basic and small centres. I signed up with dealers who imported machines and equipment for me from countries like Germany and the US. I had decided that we needed to have the best tech available in our practice.
But these machines were costly. It was a tough decision, but I went and imported them because they would take our success rates above industry standards and enhance customer experience. My wife Karishma, who is also a dentist, joined me in the business.
Inside a Dentzz clinic in Mumbai
SMBS: What is the range of dental procedures provided and how are they priced?
SJ: We did face challenges with costs initially, but cash flows came in and we accrued internally. We started services such as tooth whitening, cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, root canal treatments, full mouth reconstruction, invisible braces, neuromuscular dentistry, and more.
Our strategy for pricing was not merely in terms of charging customers a high or a low amount. The pricing was dependent on our costs in thoroughly screening, onboarding and training specialist doctors, procuring expensive machinery, and providing the customer with a pleasant experience.
We calculated how much all of these things cost us, and then decided a pricing that we felt gave customers maximum value. We did not want to get into competitive pricing, and at the same time, we did not want to double or triple the prices with no rationale.
SMBS: Who is your target audience?
SJ: Depending on the procedure required, customers vary. For instance, cosmetic dentistry procedures are popular for people between the ages of 18 to 50. But for mouth reconstruction, we get customers whose oral health has deteriorated. They are usually between 50 and 55 years old, and the procedure involves grafting bone, replacing teeth, and other complex processes.
Despite being a premium service, the economic class our customers belong to is not as defined as one might think. Our customers are those who desire quality oral healthcare. Those who may not be able to afford some services right away delay the procedure in order to save up enough money, and then come to us. To cater to our customers, we have a team of 50 doctors in India and 9 in Dubai. Including all other employees, we have 150 people on payroll.
An OT room in the Bandra clinic
SMBS: What are some challenging moments you had to face?
SJ: It was a challenge to scale up from two to multiple centres. This is because we were also upgrading existing technology at the same time, and a lot of capital was being infused. We did take on some amount of debt, but we didn’t dilute equity until recently. Around three months ago, we did a fundraise with Helix, raised Rs 50 crore, and sold a minority stake as part of a secondary deal. However, it was not done from a capital infusion point of view. Rather, it was a meeting of the minds where we felt if we worked together, we could grow the company even further.
Going international was the next challenge, as the Dubai market is different from India in terms of technical aspects, customer profiles, their psychologies, etc.
SMBS: Who are your competitors and how do you plan to stay ahead in the next few years?
SJ: Technically, any dental practice is our competition. However, we don’t think along those lines. We look at what we are doing and how we can grow. The more niche we get in our premium segment, the further we get away from our competition.
We rely on word-of-mouth marketing to stay relevant to customers. We do have some presence on digital platforms, but word-of-mouth is still our focus area, and our organic growth is proof of this.
Going forward, Dentzz needs to constantly upgrade its infrastructure and bring in new technology as the industry evolves. The number of patients is increasing, and we plan to add more clinics in metro cities where we are not currently present. We also want to expand internationally, both in Dubai and beyond.
(Edited by: Palak Agarwal)