Startup Saturday: solving the problem of affordable and accessible healthcare services
Medikabazaar is one of the leading B2B online marketplaces for medical equipment and supplies. The platform enables hospitals and doctors to make a direct purchase of medical devices without the interference of middle party
The cost of healthcare has always been a huge problem for patients and insurance companies. What can one do about it? Public hospitals are not as reliable and private ones cost a fortune.
For Vivek Tiwari, who was working as a healthcare service provider, this was the question that kept boggling his mind. He says, “I was incharge of setting up several haemodialysis (a process of purifying the blood of a person whose kidneys are not working normally) clinics across the country and could see at first hand just how much it cost for a renal failure patient to stay alive with the cost of dialysis eating up into their savings and assets.”
Being involved with setting up of haemodialysis units, Tiwari understood the way things worked in the healthcare industry. He says, “Often the materials, be it a syringe, cotton pads or even cardiac stents, all are sourced through distributors. This is obviously done at a cost. Generally, in smaller markets, the cost of the same brand, same product is higher than in a bigger market where competition plays up. Pricing, timely deliveries and operational efficiencies were the bottlenecks. If I can think of a pizza and have it delivered in 30 minutes, then why can’t a hospital think of a syringe and have it delivered promptly? Cost and time were the two areas that needed to be worked on. If this could be done then there would be an all-round benefit to the hospitals and patients.”
HOW MEDIKABAZAAR WAS FORMED
How to reduce these costs? According to Tiwari, this could happen if the buyers and sellers come together on one platform. If they had a clear understanding of what and how much was required, then they would not have to stock inventories, or medicines that would expire. The hospitals could buy when the need arose, could plan their purchases and negotiate better prices as everything would be known on a single platform.
Tiwari says, “Technology is a great equaliser. I thought of building a digital platform that would put all the sellers, distributors of all consumables as well as the hospitals, clinics on one platform. This way there would be a clear understanding of demand and supply, leading to rationalisation of price.”
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE
Creating a tool is one thing, but getting people on board is another challenge. Tiwari says, “Since the system is so well entrenched, convincing the suppliers and hospitals to come on Medikabazaar was a big challenge. Manufacturers of various goods have been working with their distributors for years and did not want to break-off relations with them. The hospitals too do not believe in digital systems. In small towns they would cite the problem of connectivity.”
However, Tiwari persevered, he continued to meet and convince big and small players of the benefits of Medikabazaar. So, he got a few small customers. By the end of 2015, Mediakabazaar had got a substantial number of customers in Maharashtra. As Tiwari rolled out the platform in the cities like Pune and Mumbai, he realised that in smaller towns there was an issue of last-mile logistics. He says, “In a village there is no dealer and it is very difficult for a small clinic to source medical instruments. So, we established fulfilment centres across 11 cities and towns in the country. These centres ensure connectivity to these small villages. These centres also act as a quality assurance and quality control centres, and ensure that quality products are delivered. As of now Medikabazaar serves 17,000 pin codes in India, including the North-East.”
From small to large hospitals, Mediakbazaar has shown its customers the benefits of its digitised platform. In Pune, Jehangir hospital, Ruby Hall Clinic, Deenanath Mangeshkar and several small hospitals and clinics are using the platform.
In order to grow further, Tiwari has added an in-house app called Vizi that can help hospitals understand what to order and when. He says, “A hospital has to put in their consumption data. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the app can tell the hospital what it will need to order, how much and when.” As of now, Tiwari is conducting a pilot project of Vizi in 200 small hospitals. He says, “In large set-ups, they have their own systems for managing the purchase and interfering with that may not yield much. I plan to reach out to 2,000 hospitals in Tier 2 and 3 towns after the pilot project. ”
HOW IS IT BENEFICIAL FOR USERS?
Tiwari says, “The 1,300 sellers that are registered on our platform have huge benefits. The have seen an increase in the number of customers due to Medikabazaar. Sellers can reach out to 2.5 lakh customers after registering on the platform.” He further adds, “For the 20,000 hospitals that are currently registered on our platform, the benefits are that they can get their stocks on time, they get a better price and save up to 15 per cent.”
THE MONEY STORY
Tiwari says, “I put in Rs 1.5 crore which was used in developing a team, technology and other aspects of the firm. In March 2017, we got funding of $1 million from Rebright Partners, Sunil Kalra and Arun Venkatachalam. In September 2018, we received a funding for $5 million. Medikabazar’s revenue model is based on commissions which we get from the suppliers. We also aim to charge a subscription fee for the Vizi app.”
Managing people is one of the biggest challenges for a startup. Tiwari says, “It is very difficult to get employees. I think what works for a startup that cannot afford to pay big bang salaries is to educate people about your mission and tell them what you want to achieve by your work. I still have the employees who joined me when we started. Getting them on board with the mission is the best way to keep people with you.”
Digitising medical procurement
Vivek Tiwari, founder Medikabazaar started the website in May 2015.
Investment: Rs 1.5 crore (used in developing a team, technology.)
Funding received in March 2017: $ 1 million from Rebright Partners, Sunil Kalra and Arun Venkatachalam.
Funding received in Sept 2018: $ 5 million.
Total turnover: $ 30 million.
With the funding, Medikabazaar plans to strengthen its technology and increase its team size. It is also aiming to increase the number of its centres to at least 20. The platform also hopes to develop supply chain and logistics capability
Medikabazaar started in 2 states.
Currently they operate in 11 states.
Medikabazaar started with 50 employees.
Currently there are 250 employees.
1,300 sellers registered on the platform.
20,000 hospitals registered on the platform.
2.5 lakh customers.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Medikabazaar has 1,00,000 products ranging from a machine as complex as an MRI scanner to a cotton roll.
Products are delivered to 16,000 pin codes spread across the length and breadth of the country
Time of delivery: 3 days.
WHAT IS VIZI
Vivek Tiwari has added a new feature on the medikabazaar platform. It is an app called Vizi. This app has been developed in house and all a hospital has to do is put in their consumption data. Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning the app can tell the hospital what it will need to order, how much and when. Tiwari is doing a pilot project of Vizi in 200 small hospitals.
FEATURES OF VIZI
Improve bottom line: Power of data science to optimise investment in medical supplies inventory.
Zero loss of opportunity: Medikabazaar ensures availability of medical instruments and avoid surgical cases cancelation.
Zero data entry: Registration is a simple process and does not require any data entry.
Accurate projections: Artificial intelligence and ML technologies for accurate stock quantity projections.
Highly secured: No third party accessibility, the data is secured.
Actionable purchase list: streamline procurement of medical items.
Vivek Tiwari’s goal of connecting hospitals with manufacturers has worked. He plans to expand medikabazaar in countries like Mexico, , Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Middle East. He says, “Any developing country has this requirement and we are happy to provide it to them. Our goal is to give patients a better cost of health services. Vivek hopes that hospitals that can now save up to 15 to 20 per cent on their purchases will be able to pass on the benefits to their patients.”
Hospitals often have medical devices and equipment that they want to replace with new models. Medikabazaar helps sell these instruments by conducting an auction.
Interested buyers, can check the details on the website and bid for the device.
Medikabazaar acts like an Amazon where the different prices of an item is displayed. The buyer can check the price of say a syringe or a sterilised gauze and compare the prices of different manufacturers before making a purchase.
The article was published in hindustantimes.com