Investment by medical professionals is what the doctor ordered

Updated on: Aug 11, 2013
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Entrepreneurs see need for more basic care hospitals

The healthcare industry is in the pink of health with venture funds and private equity investors eager to pump in money.

But these investors are also looking for quick returns and entrepreneurs eager to please them, what of patient care? It is still at the very heart of the scheme of things, promise stakeholders.

Standardised processes ensure that every time a procedure is carried out it is done in the same way. This eliminates error, says Ritesh Bangalani, Director, Helion Advisors, a mid-stage venture fund that has invested in several healthcare outfits.

While each patient is unique, if a “factory” model solves the problem efficiently, then why not adopt it, asks Mayur Abhaya, CEO, Lifecell International, which is engaged in stem cell banking. There are a few players, funded by well-known investors, who look for short-cuts to success, admits this second-generation entrepreneur.

Pressure to perform

“We need an online forum for patients to rate and comment on private players and practitioners so that patients are not exploited.”

Bangalani and Abhaya were speaking at a recent panel discussion in Chennai on entrepreneurship in healthcare.

Investors being on board may add tremendous pressure to perform, “but we love the pressure,” says Abhaya, whose company recently got a Rs 35-crore investment from Helion. “It improves efficiency and lowers costs. And that is ultimately beneficial to the patients.”

With lifestyle diseases on the rise, there is a pressing need for more doctors and secondary care hospitals. The good news is that medical professionals, and not businessmen with money to spare, are today getting into this space with bright ideas and big dreams. The healthcare industry in the country is pegged at $75 billion.

A chunk of this comes from the private sector, which is growing at 15 per cent year on year.

Growth is happening not just in the metros, but these has also been a gradual rise of single speciality and secondary care hospitals in Tier-2 towns.

According to C. J. Vetrievel, Managing Director, Be Well Hospitals chain in Tamil Nadu, one doesn’t need to run to an Apollo or a Fortis for every small procedure or the initial consultation.

This is where secondary care hospitals come into the picture; they don’t do complex procedures but offer basic care and guidance and this is what the country needs, says Vetrievel, who is looking to set up hospitals offering affordable care across the country. Funded by Mauritius-based Song Investment Company, Be Well is now a chain of five hospitals .

Apart from smaller hospital chains and ambulatory (day care) service providers, allied industries such as claims processing, medical transcription and healthcare IT are also growing.

Innovation in India

But does innovation really happen in India? Or, is it just an imitation of what’s happening in the western world? “This is a question we keep getting asked. People often do not believe innovation can happen in India,” laments K. Chandrasekhar, Founder, Forus Health, which is funded by IDG Ventures and Accel Partners. Forus has developed a portable, non-invasive eye pre-screening device that can detect five major ailments. “We had to build this device from scratch,” he says.

When Arvindkumar Alagarswamy set out to establish Attune Technologies, he had to contend with a great deal of frustration, lack of money, and the daunting prospect of failure. But he had the fortitude to weather it. Alagarswamy says he owes his friends and family much for believing in him and his ideas. “There was a point when I did not know how I would pay my staff salary the next month,” he recalls.

All this is in the past as Attune’s software solution, which keeps track of healthcare information, has been accepted well by hospitals, labs, imaging centres and clinics. Funding is also not an issue today as Alagarswamy has found a trusting partner in Norwest Venture Partners.

The relationship between the investor and entrepreneur is something nurtured over a period, says Kanwaljit Singh, Senior Managing Director, Helion.

It is an association that is built not based on financial needs alone, he says.

“Even if the entrepreneur is not in need of money, we still build a relationship so that we are on top of what’s going on. And when he or she does need the money, we already know him or her well.”


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Published on August 11, 2013

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