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This Delhi-based health travel startup is building a base in the Middle East

Founded in 2019, Delhi-based Healthtrip is ensuring better patient care by facilitating health travel to the UAE, India, Turkey, and Thailand.

This Delhi-based health travel startup is building a base in the Middle East

Thursday December 08, 2022,

6 min Read

In 2018, Danish Ahmed was at a hospital in Delhi where he had a chance interaction with a few international patients and a medical travel facilitator.

Conversations with patients from different parts of the world made him realise that the right healthcare solutions were not available in their countries. And when they came to India to tap medical resources, they were not able to zero in on the right healthcare providers. 

Citing the example of a family who had travelled to India, Danish says, “Their daughter had a life-threatening disorder where a chest bone was developing inwards towards the heart. The treatment she had received in her home country was inadequate."

He decided to invest in the healthcare and tourism space to solve the problem, but his research did not reveal anything scalable and tech-driven in the space. Thus, he decided to start on his own.  

In 2019, he started health travel platform Hospals, now Healthtrip, along with Obaidullah Junaid who had built the medical travel facilities and business for Apollo Hospitals. The founders initially raised $400,000 from Venture Catalysts and Spiral Ventures.

The startup began operations in the UAE in July 2021.

What does the platform do? 

Healthtrip is a health travel platform that helps people find clinicians across hospitals, and cosmetic and wellness clinics in India, Turkey, UAE, and Thailand. It also enables them to book appointments, flights, and hotels; plan sightseeing activities; and access interpreters, loans, and insurance. 

The Healthtrip team is primarily present in India and comprises 27 people. The startup has started hiring in the UAE and plans to expand its team in the region. It has a team in Oman and is working on setting up one in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The company stated that the team in Oman will be reaching 10 people soon.

Healthtrip offers comprehensive options unlike Hospals, which was associated with helping people only in their medical treatment journey. 

Danish explains, “People are not only travelling for medical treatments, but also for ayurvedic, cosmetic, dental, and wellness treatments. With strong growth in these segments post-COVID-19, it was a natural progression for us to move from helping users find hospitals to enabling a more holistic health discovery.”  

He says Healthtrip has grown over 11X in the last year. It has raised $3.5 million until now, and is in the process of closing its Series A funding. 

Team

Healthtrip Team

On why they invested in Healthtrip, Vinay Bansal, Founder and CEO, Inflection Point Ventures, says, “From diagnosis to finding the right hospital to finance, Healthtrip is designing an ecosystem around health-related travel and care. Their model connects you with the best doctors and surgeons in India in their respective disciplines. It is important for us that they continue to expand their reach across a wide range of critical illnesses. Additionally, they provide translation and residential assistance close to hospitals.”

Starting up in the UAE  

Healthtrip at present sends patients from Africa and Bangladesh to hospitals in the UAE. It has partnered with numerous hospitals in the UAE—NMC Healthcare group, Saudi German Hospital, Burjeel Medical City, Canadian Specialist Hospital, and Thumbay Hospital, among others.  

Danish says, “UAE is a very sought-after destination for cardiac, gynae, ortho, and cosmetic treatments.”  

According to Future Market Insights, the total sales in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) medical tourism market represent ~3 -6% of the global medical tourism market. Sales are estimated to increase at 10% CAGR during the forecast period (2022-2032). 

Currently, the medical tourism industry of the GCC countries is estimated to serve 1.8 million visitors annually. 

 

Having worked in the ecommerce space for almost 16 years, Danish’s biggest challenge was familiarising himself with health tourism. 

“This meant unlearning ecommerce and learning the health tourism business. It was new territory and I could not benefit from many of my earlier connections, reputation, and knowledge," he says.

Danish, who graduated from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University, has worked in fields including consumer internet, startups, e-tail, and retail.  He is also working as a technical advisor for HealinIndia.gov.in, a national portal on medical tourism. 

Interestingly, the pandemic was not a hurdle for the startup’s journey in the Middle East. 

“COVID affected UAE medical tourism positively as it was among the few countries open to foreigners,” says Danish, adding that onboarding hospitals in the UAE has been very easy as teams are “very professional and proactive towards medical tourism".

Securing clinics, however, has been a challenge. “This is because of the region’s primary focus on local customers,” Danish says. 

The workings of the platform 

Danish says about 80-90% of patients going to India, Turkey, UAE or Thailand for any medical treatments go through medical travel facilitators. 

“Our research findings show that close to 150,000 facilitators influence where the patients can get the treatment, arrange for their travel, accommodation, and other services.”

But the family and patients have to interact with multiple facilitators to understand options across the world. “Coordinating with multiple facilitators, evaluating options, flights, and accommodation add to the problems of a patient in an already difficult situation,” he says. 

Healthtrip enables patients and families to find doctors and/or clinics, based on the help they require, and at locations and budgets that suit them. 

“After selecting a doctor/clinic, the individual can upload and send medical reports, get a medical opinion, obtain a visa invitation letter, book a teleconsultation or physical appointment, purchase medicines, and get their complete treatment at the destination,” the founder says. 

Apart from the B2C vertical, Healthtrip also operates a B2B vertical that enables channel partners, such as charities, insurers, and travel agencies, to ensure tech-backed client servicing. 

Plans for the future 

Healthtrip engages with 500 patients a month at present. It does not charge the patients; it earns from the airlines, hotels, and hospitals that it has partnered with. The company is still in talks with a few airlines, it has partnered with Hyatt Group and Crowne Plaza.

The health travel startup competes with the likes of Vezeeta, Ziyarah, Bookimed, Dental Departures, Medigo, among others. 

 “Our strength is that we have an offline plus online presence. We have B2B plus D2C. So patients visit our website as do our 400 travel agency partners who send us patients. We  have nine offices across different countries, and are expanding,” Danish says. 

Since 2019, the team has narrowed its focus towards solving key problems and going global.  It is at present replicating “proven growth modules across more geographies”.

The founder aims to reach about 10,000 patients a month in the next four to five years and achieve a gross transaction volume of $30 million for FY2023. 

 

At present, the team is exploring a partnership with OYO for long-stay accommodation facilities near airports or hospitals. “We are also working on wellness options in the UAE, considering its potential to become the wellness hub of the world,” Danish concludes.


Edited by Teja Lele