Rumor has it that the World Bank has now moved India to a new status – lower-middle income country. Having said that, the country’s GDP is at 7.6%, making us the fastest growing economy. Frankly speaking, looking at these two facts, I don’t know how to feel about our current situation. But what I do know is that in the two years I spent bumping into healthcare startups founders at events, meeting hospital management, and understanding real patient problems – the importance of digital healthcare is increasing – whether it be health-tech, home-care or wearables. Technology is making it possible for people to find smart solutions to their medical needs and better yet, stay healthy. Like the Director of Healthcare Vertical Strategy, Level 3 Communications, I agree ‘the healthcare industry needs startups, and startups need the healthcare industry’.
My startup story
In 2014 I joined a healthcare startup in its nascent stage. The company was only a few months old and we were just a handful at the time. Unlike me, this startup knew exactly what it aimed to achieve – which sounds quite idealistic but it was and it is the true need of the hour – quality and quantity in options available to patients that enable them to make informed healthcare decisions.
For those curious about working in a startup and what it feels like to be a part of this popular bubble – I got news for you. The long hours, deadlines and never-ending expectations from a startup employee are all true. We are, in fact, overworked, top management does keep a close check on our assignments, we are expected to be better at our job than we were yesterday.
Is this bad? It IS a lot to deal with but I personally believe it has given me as much as I have put in. Would an ordinary job give me the opportunity and freedom to explore what I could do for the company? I doubt it.
I reckon I was hired as a lead content developer because I had an up and running blog but more because I came across as someone with a can-do attitude in my job interview. After an email explaining how I’d like to change the company health blog, I joined the startup as someone who was responsible for the health content. In addition to the tasks given to me, I was always thinking “what more?”. I started following startup news simultaneously understanding the e-health scenario in the country. The more I read, the more I realized that healthcare was a tougher area to connect with the audience since it was only of interest to those in actual need of a medical treatment. Setting up a shopping platform and spending a bomb on marketing is far easier than to engage audiences in health trivia or what-to-ask-your-surgeon questions or even more difficult – introduce a super alien concept to India – Free Credible Help.
Stranger No. 657: “What does your company do?”
Me: “We give patients options to the best doctors and hospitals where they want. We help them with the entire hospitalization process, right from booking their appointment – getting them admitted – to post-rehab facilities”
Stranger No. 657: “Oh that’s great, and how much do you charge?”
Me: “There is no charge for the patients – this is a completely free service.”
Stranger No. 657: “…so how does a patient know your service is unbiased?”
Me: “We have all the top hospitals on our panel and while we provide options, they (patients) choose who they want to go to, where they want to go, when they want to go.”
I do not remember how many times I’ve had this conversation with people, whether the number was in triple digits or quadruple – I anticipated the same questions over and over again, I had all the answers ready to.
Not even 12 months into my job I was promoted because my boss and I agreed that I had taken more on my plate and the additional initiatives were highly encouraged. I was determined to introduce healthcare to India like never before. The focus was for people to find us approachable, interesting and quick to respond. And for all this, we had to have a strong digital presence. Along the way, we worked in collaboration with giants like LifeCell, Artemis Hospital, Max Hospital for both online and offline events. This was a way to attract more eyeballs to our brand and really just introduce our concept.
Working in a startup is similar to being pushed into the deep side of the pool when you don’t even know how to swim.
From having no experience in social media, content development or digital healthcare I found myself meeting investors, discussing healthcare with important people who were actually making a difference in the startup world and who have been leaders in healthcare for decades!
A great idea is nothing without a great mind bringing it to life.
I saw this happen in real life. I have met many people who have these world-changing ideas but the same people find it hard to turn their ‘great’ idea into a reality. The vision that my (now) ex boss has for our company is exemplary and I hesitantly confess I wasn’t sure if all his ideas were, in fact, do-able. But I was wrong. Perhaps that is the definition of a leader – he finds it in his people a way to achieve the unattainable. Just a few days ago, we touched 1 lakh satisfied patients. One of my most memorable moments was being a part of his success at the Entrepreneur® 2015 event where he received the award for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year in Service Business – Healthcare’.
During my last month at the company, I was working with my team to introduce Gurgaon to emergency ambulance services through a click-of-a-button on our app. I am proud to say that this was all over the news a couple of weeks ago.
How my Ladakh trip turned out to be similar to working in a startup
In an Economic Times article I read, a study revealed the recent stagnancy in growth and the undeniably increasing pressure in the Indian startup industry. This further confirmed the same pressure I felt early on this year but it was far from the reason why I decided to move on from the startup world. I was ready for my next adventure and after working in the startup industry for 26 months, I took a 12-day trip to Ladakh to let go of everything and ‘explore’ my options – something one of the headhunters thought was ‘too brave of me to do’. Here’s what I found similar with the two:
Company matters – heaps
The journey is long and despite the fascinating scenic beauty at every turn, in the long run you realize that your company matters the most. After all, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey and company makes a huge part of it. People who are adjusting, open to new experiences and people make for easy companions. These are the people you grow close and the same friendships can last a lifetime.
Compared to the nauseating endless deadlines and deliverables in a startup, the altitude sickness is terribly real
Like every startup blueprint, your journey needs to be well-planned
The trip feel more like an adventure than a vacation, it’s this exact nature that makes it comparable to startups. From minute travel details to daily itinerary, the journey is measured throughout.
A trip to Ladakh or working in a startup are both situations outside your comfort zone. You know what else lies beyond your comfort – following your intuition and learning far more than you ever could in a safe area.
Would love to hear about your experiences working in a startup in the comment section below.