26 months of startups, hustling and coffee breaks

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 agreethe 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.

[Random event]

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’.

#entrepreneur2015 #healthcare #credihealth

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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:

  1. 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.

  1. Compared to the nauseating endless deadlines and deliverables in a startup, the altitude sickness is terribly real

    ladakh trip

  2. 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.

Building A Digital Healthcare Community – Focus India

On 28th October 2015, Mark Zuckerberg came to IIT Delhi for his first ever Townhall Q&A. Like any other person working in the digital scene, I was eager to hear what he had to say. The same day I had the opportunity to attend a Healthcare Leadership Forum – RoundGlass Partners premier event at Le Meridian, Gurgaon. Here are a few noticeable pointers I’d like to share.

1. Having also previously heard Mark’s talk with Narendra Modi in California, I realize that his focus while delivering talks pertains to connecting the community.He seems to be on a constant pursue to finding more efficient ways to do the same. I reckon keeping that in mind, he had the titanium guts to introduce the internet to the world – again.

The existing population isn’t enough, he wants the world to be online – and he’ll be happier if that happens on internet.org

According to Facebook, 15 million people have already benefited from internet.org (out of which 1 million are Indians).

2. It was obvious Net Neutrality was going to be in the picture somewhere. When questioned about how much Facebook supports the idea of Net Neutrality – Mark was put on the spot. I suspect he was expecting this controversial topic.

In order to support what looked like a sincere belief in getting internet access to people who did not have any, Zuckerburg made a rather sharp statement “don’t get twisted & hurt those who don’t have a voice” to people who are already connected to the World Wide Web and are skeptical of internet.org’s motives.

Answering a relatively more compound question, Zuckerburg expressed his views on startups as well.

A person who believes in an idea, rather than building a company – is a person who is ready to create his own startup.

Companies that happen to have more co-founders tend to last longer than those that have a founder – mostly because of resilience.

3. How can digital health solutions impact 1.3 billion Indian consumers? – A very real tagline to RoundGlass Partners’ event

prachi tyagi healthcare forum

Recently established RoundGlass Partners mentor the disruptors of digital healthcare – and they plan to start here in India. While Founder Sunny Singhgave a glimpse into his life and what made him an entrepreneur, Pramod Bhasin, Founder of Genpact, elaborated how even though healthcare is the second largest industry in the world – it is still broken – catering to the needs of only 30% of the world’s population. He concluded by stating that innovation in India has happened already – but a need for a strong community to identify and solve problems remains.

Both these events confirm the surge in global focus on the digital healthcare industry. If startups in India alone are able to come together and build a community to solve the health problems of 1.3 billion people, imagine the power this group would have to change the healthcare scenario of the world.

Modi in Silicon Valley 2015 – What this means for the Indian Startup Ecosystem

Were you aware that the Indian startup ecosystem has reached approximately 2 million high-tech employees in about 14,000-19,000 startups?

With these staggering numbers, India has earned its reputation as the global tech Mecca (according to a U.S.-based research firm’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking).

The Indian startup boom is hard to ignore and caught the eye of our very own Prime Minister.

Narendra Modi might have his share of critics back home but he sure is a political celebrity among NRIs. The first Prime Minister of India to give fresh impetus to the Indian startup ecosystem, I won’t deny, I was curious to see how he would do.

At the Facebook headquarters, hearing ‘chak de India’ playing in the background as Modi and Facebook CEO Zuckerberg took their respective seats was definitely a patriotic touch that worked wonders with the present crowd. While most political officials rarely ever gather an audience in 4-digits in their home countries alone, Modi managed to attract a staggering 18,000 people at this unprecedented town hall in sunny California. While sharing a story about his initial days of struggle Mark narrated the story of how his mentor—Steve Jobs suggested he embark on a journey to visit a temple in India, while Modi revealed his insights on the marvels of technology—in hindi—which I found to be an especially interesting choice to make.

Fast forward to his speech at San Jose’s SAP arena in Silicon Valley was an unflinching attempt by the small-town Gujarati amidst tech luminaries like Shantanu Narayan of Adobe, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, John Chambers of Cisco and Sundar Pichai of Google.

Nadella modi

Nadela revealed an incident from his recent trip to a classroom in a rural setting of Nanyuki, Kenya where a group of students were engaged in a Skype conversation with another classroom located in a rural part of Andhra Pradesh, India. Satya Nadela elaborated on his vision to build data and cloud infrastructure – developing smart cities in India. This being apt to Modi’s quote on the Internet of Things “it’s been a long journey in a short time”. Think about how many doors this sort of technology opens in the healthcare sector alone. An experienced surgeon in a metro city can now instruct, guide and train doctors in Tier II and Tier III cities in real-time. In others words, it is now possible for a doctor sitting in one corner of the world to treat patients thousands of miles away through digital healthcare.

With Nadela committing to support the Indian government to provide broadband to 5 lakh villages across India, Qualcomm’s Executive Chairman Paul E Jacobs took this opportunity to announce $150 million fund dedicated to the Indian startup ecosystem. This chip-making giant is already involved in several projects in India – one such project is with the National Health Mission, to help frontline health workers assess sick newborn babies, with the ultimate goal to decrease high mortality rates. This project is one of several in the mission to change India’s current status as the top country with the highest under-5 mortality rate.

Acknowledging the vast potential of the Indian startup ecosystem, Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO accredited the progress of startups like FlipKart, Snapdeal, Zomato and Quikr – a few big names from over 3000 upcoming startups in India. He also took this opportunity to announce Google’s plans to enable Wi-Fi Internet to 500 railway stations, which will inevitably hugely contribute to Internet penetration in India.

Unfettered, Modi stood high and mighty with the tech giants of Silicon Valley with the aim to start Indian entrepreneurship and connect the country’s ecosystem with Silicon Valley. This visit is expected to digitally empower Indians, promote tech investment massively, ultimately leading to more investments and more jobs.

While it might be too soon to say that India may replace China as Silicon Valley’s frontier, the startup ecosystem is undoubtedly set to grow, generating employment for more than 250,000 people by 2020. President of the US-based startup accelerator YCombinator, Sam Altman showed his confidence in the Indian startup ecosystem by stating that he foresees India coming up with multiple $10 Billion startups in the next five years. With so much of time and most importantly – increasing dollar inflow, Modi’s stint may just have taken us one step closer to becoming a superpower.

Online healthcare ecosystem – Everything you need to know

We’re shopping online but when will we be selecting and buying customized healthcare needs? India’s healthcare industry will be in the focus for years to come thanks to the developing country’s ever-growing population and need for medical services in both rural and urban areas. India’s take on healthcare will be significant in deciding the fate of India as an emerging superpower.

We entered the digital healthcare space involuntarily when the term health 2.0 was introduced in early 2000s. This was evidence enough that healthcare was predicted to join forces with the World Wide Web. Little did we know, fifteen years later there would be more ways than imagined to connect with potential patients.

When it comes to marketing, the healthcare industry lags behind by at least two years, but that doesn’t stop it from being a trillion dollar industry.

The Indian healthcare sector alone is estimated to touch $160 billion in 2017 – roughly double from what it was in 2012 (according to a report by Equentis Capitals) resulting in the CAGR growth rate of about 15%.
From current trends, challenges and opportunities in the current healthcare scenario, catch a glimpse what the future in online healthcare holds in my guest post on iamWire.

While there’s no looking down for the healthcare industry, digital healthcare is emerging as the hero. Here’s to thousands of patients finding the right diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures online – this very minute.

Image source – commons.wikimedia.org