Indian healthcare system is one of the areas where innovation, proactive approach and long-term vision are needed to improve the quality of services. The healthcare industry suffers much from lack of coordinated services, customer oriented approach and unconcernedness about the growth that a business can achieve.
Without doubt, there is tremendous entrepreneurial potential in consumer-centric services that can be exploited for the benefit of industrious thinkers as well as for the consumers. This is what docsuggest is looking to do. The venture facilitates consumers to avail the best healthcare facilities available by bridging the gap between healthcare service providers and consumers.
Docsuggest’s EzAppointment solution allows patients to book appointments with hospitals and doctors directly through phone and internet making it extremely accessible, anywhere, anytime!
We had an email interview with Shantanu about his venture docsuggest.
Q1. Tell us something about Docsuggest.com. How you thought of starting it?
docSuggest aims to simplify healthcare. docSuggest helps patients book appointments instantly online or through phone. You can visit the site (www.docsuggest.com) or call us at 040 64546565, find a doctor who suits you requirements, be it specialty, locality, insurance, languages spoken and a whole lot of options, read the detailed profile of the doctors, his/ her schedule and book an appointment instantly at the time of your choice.
docSuggest came about from a personal need. I was travelling with my wife and in Nagpur she needed a doctor. I called up a couple of information providers and spent four days and lots of money to get the right doctor. That’s when I realised that the information I got was not nearly enough to help me find the right doctor. So, I thought why not have such a service, it would make the life of patients much easier!
I discussed this with one of the co-founders, Keerthi, who was my colleague. He thought it’s a great idea. Then, we both started looking for someone really smart, who can build the required technologies. We got to know about Anshuman and Pushkar, contacted them, they were really excited about the idea and then the core team was in place. We then did a market study in Hyderabad and Chattisgarh. The response was very positive, so we decided to quit our day jobs and start the company.
Q2. Indian healthcare system sometimes looks patchy either too hi-fi or too trivial. Do you feel it needs overhauling and steered guiding to make it streamlined?
Access to good Health is a basic human right that all citizens must have. Although we’ve seen enormous growth in healthcare in recent years with India becoming a preferred destination for medical tourism, sadly, the growth hasn’t yet penetrated into the 80% of Indian population outside of large cities. This is coupled by largely existent unethical referral practises and absence of a strong community monitoring and feedback mechanism about healthcare service providers like doctors and hospitals.
We are witnessing positive initiatives from regulatory bodies and strong participation from private and public sector. However, to enable people to take control of their health and bring reform into the existing healthcare delivery model, its important to include the common man as a key stakeholder and shape up the Indian health sector to be more consumer-centric, quality oriented and transparent.
DocSuggest is one such initiative aimed towards empowering people by providing them easy access, a platform to connect and provide feedback about doctors and hospitals and be treated as empowered consumers of a transparent healthcare system.
Q3. Talking about your targeted audience, what market size you are targeting?
Anyone who needs a doctor and does not know where to find one, or couldn’t find a one that fits his or her requirements, or found one but was not able to meet him/her right away is our target audience. That said, in terms of serving them we have started two initiatives, one targeting the metro cities and another targeting the rural section of society.
We started with Hyderabad and plan to quickly expand to the other metros. The plan is to create a presence in all the metros in two years time. At the same time, we are running a project in rural areas of central India to address their healthcare needs and provide access to quality healthcare.
Q4. What is your business strategy and how has been the response to it so far?
The facility is completely free for the patients. The service is available through phone and internet. We tie up with hospitals and doctors directly to get validated and trustworthy information about healthcare facilities, doctors, schedules, charges or any thing that a patient might be looking for. We ensure that the patients get to meet the doctor as per the appointment time without having to wait for a long time.
The very nature of this service is local and hence we are currently focusing only in Hyderabad region and will expand across other regions next year. We conduct health events across the city like in offices, public places to spread health awareness and make people realize the importance of taking take of their proactively.
The response has been overwhelming so far, both from the hospitals and the patients. We now have an extensive network of more than 30 multi-speciality hospitals with over 500 doctors. Â The website has been gaining a lot of traction. We just crossed 10,000 views. Given that it has just been a quarter since our launch without promoting ourselves in market, it has been a pretty good response. We are delivering our services through our callcenter on equally effective basis.
Q5. What type of services you are looking to provide?
DocSuggest helps patients to find detailed information about doctors and hospitals as per their requirement. Every patient has a different set of requirements e.g. locality based, specialty, gender, affordability, insurance options, time or day, etc. We provide actionable information to users and help them book appointment with doctors realtime as per their comfortable time. Apart from that we also have a panel of doctors who are available on phone for any primary medical advice to help him find the right match for his requirement. Going ahead, we want to be the one place where all our users’ health needs are taken care of. In that regard, we plan to launch EzMedicine, a medicine home-delivery mechanism. PHR (Personal Health Records) of the patients which will enable them to store all their medical information online and share them with any of the doctors in our partner network.
Q6. Do you feel there is space for competition in it?
Yes. Healthcare in India is huge and highly under-served which means there is space for many players to co-exist. In fact, we believe that, given the nascent state of healthcare services in India, healthy competition would greatly enhance the healthcare ecosystem.
Q7. What you feel is the value of innovation in your venture?
Immense. What we are trying to do today has never been done before in India. Considering the market and the lack of infrastructure, we have been challenged to the core. Our solutions have been quite out-of-box for the problems that we faced. I feel, without innovating, we wouldn’t be able to provide our users the seamless and efficient service.
When you see the bigger picture of what we are trying to do, we are trying to simplify healthcare in a way that every person is able to make the most informed decisions and attend to his/her health needs in the most convenient and the most effective way. For example, now you can book flight tickets sitting at home, you can book hotels, movie tickets too. it’s amazing how technology can improve the quality of life. Now, why is that when you want to meet a doctor, you can’t do the same thing? The reason being the lack of a single platform where the patients can get comprehensive and reliable information. That’s the first problem we are trying to solve.
So the innovation is not just about doing new things but it is also about how much one can simplify the existing process.
Q8. What is the scope of expansion and what is your vision about it?
There is geographical expansion and then there is expansion of services. As I talked earlier, region wise, we started with Hyderabad and then expand to other metros. Also, we have a set of services on the road map which we believe are fundamental to achieve what we are trying to do, namely, Simplify Healthcare.
Q9. How you liked the journey till now as an entrepreneur, being able to start an online business?
Well, this is not just an online business, Internet is a very crucial but just one of the channels.
The journey so far has been tremendously exciting. There is a new insight or a new problem everyday and that make each day different from the ones earlier. Learning has been steep. All in all, I am very happy that I am doing what I always wanted to do. We try to think as our users do and try to see if we would have been satisfied by the service that docSuggest delivers and that keeps us awake all night.
Q10. Any advice for future entrepreneurs from your personal and professional experience?
Prepare yourself to deal with ambiguity on daily basis. Having a bigger picture is only as important as being able to getting things done on a daily basis. Starting up is like a cross country race, keep running with fixed milestones in mind. Its important not to burn yourself early in the race trying to outrun every other runner, compete with yourself.