Emerging Entrepreneurs

Health capsules as you wait at the doc’s

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on May 28, 2019

B Arbind Raj, Founder and Director, Viverva Health Media Pvt Ltd   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Viverva screens animated films about health info to patients and their family

You are tensed up, sitting in the waiting room of a hospital, as you wait for your turn to be called in by the doctor you are consulting. The television in the waiting room is playing some programme, completely unrelated to what is happening in the hospital or what is going through your mind. Instead, how would you react if the television was screening a programme explaining what the ailment or procedure you are in the hospital for, in simple language, using animation? Your eyes may light up and you may watch it with full concentration.

That is what Viverva Health Media, a start-up being incubated at the IIT Madras Research Park, plans to do. B Arbind Raj, Founder and Director, Viverva, initially thought of a mobile app to spread healthcare awareness, especially in the smaller cities and towns. But then he decided to go with animated films, of about three minutes duration, for this. “Our main target was the tier 2, tier 3 people, those in rural India, where there was a huge gap in healthcare awareness and information. Healthcare awareness is not something people voluntarily watch when they are free. You need to reach them when they are receptive to information,” says Arbind.

In any hospital, he explains, the average waiting time is half an hour. “We thought why not use this time to create awareness,” he says. He bounced the idea off a friend, who felt that it had a good chance of succeeding. Arbind used the pre-incubation period to talk to hospitals, did extensive ground work to see if there is a real pain-point for hospitals. He did demonstrations, collected feedback and placed some of the content the venture had developed with hospitals to be screened on the television in their waiting rooms.

Arbind describes the scene in a hospital waiting room quite well. He says people are either fidgeting with their phone or watching television or generally being nervous. “Our main aim is to replace the television programme with our hospital waiting room content, which is about basic awareness and wellness. The main point is it shouldn’t be more stressful,” he says. All the content is animated and it manages to convey the message.

During their field trials, they realised that while women were interested in watching the programme, men tended to be more interested in their phones, but they perked up when they heard topics that were relevant to them. “We stuck a pen drive and we sat quietly and watched what was happening. That is when we realised this could work, like a proper (TV) channel.”

Area of specialisation

Initially, Arbind says, they planned to create a channel over the internet, but then each hospital had different specialities and generic content would not be effective.

The hospitals wanted content based on their area of specialisation. Viverva develops the content and sends it to hospitals through an OTT process. It has its content playing in about 15 hospitals in places such as Karur, Salem, Coimbatore and Erode, besides a couple in Chennai. At the moment, the content is focussed on mother and child health. The hospitals get the content free and Viverva hopes to monetise it by playing advertisements during the films.

According to him, the company has to develop content on various subjects before it can scale operations. It hopes to be in 500 hospitals in Tamil Nadu before looking at other markets. Viverva, he says, is looking to raise funds – about ₹2.5 crore – to develop content and establishing the network. Since all the content will be animated, the company will only have to change the audio when it goes to other States.

Revenue stream

Initially, he says, the company planned to come up with a subscription model for the hospitals, but then realised that it may be difficult to get hospitals to pay for the content. That is when they decided to go in for advertisements.

Viverva’s goal, says Arbind, is to get the patient talking to the doctor without any inhibition. They learnt from doctors during their discussions with them, especially in the small towns, that patients were only interested in knowing whether their life was in danger or not, and paid very little attention to what the doctor explained about the illness or ailment or procedure.

Getting the content ready is the biggest challenge, according to him. Once they have a good content library, they will be able to address more hospitals and doctors, he says.


Published on May 27, 2019

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