Healthcare Entrepreneurship in India
Pradeep K Jaisingh, Founder & Chairman, Healthstart India, details the opportunities for new age entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector
Healthcare industry in India is one of the fastest growing and presents tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurship across the entire spectrum. The industry is projected to grow to USD 280 billion by 2020 from the current level of over USD 100 billion. That is an outstanding growth opportunity by any measure, mush faster relative to the GDP, and therefore entrepreneurs could potentially choose any segment within the industry and there will be a definite need there.
I have been privileged to be in a unique position to both observe the healthcare industry from up-close first as an entrepreneur and then as an investor in early stage healthcare start-ups. In the summer of 2008 I relocated to India from the United States to build a chain of comprehensive cancer centres. The company I had founded along with two US based oncologists (International Oncology) was looking to bring US standards of cancer care to India.
Given the significant challenges including but not limited to very high real estate costs and the associated bureaucratic hurdles, we came up with an innovative and highly synergistic hospital within a hospital model for cancer care in India. We sought to partner with the well established and successful tertiary care hospitals and establish a comprehensive cancer centre inside those hospitals. The International Oncology cancer centre will offer the entire range of medical oncology services, will have a state-of-the-art radiation oncology infrastructure, a strong surgical oncology programme and also a bone-marrow and stem cell transplant programme. In addition a PET CT was installed for cancer diagnostic services. We set up multiple such centres including our flagship centre at the Fortis Hospital, Noida and another one at the Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.
Subsequently a few years later we set up India’s first healthcare incubator called Healthstart with the primary focus of supporting healthcare entrepreneurs through incubation and acceleration. Over the last few years Healthstart has emerged as India’s number one destination for healthcare start-ups. Somewhere 600-700 start-ups now approach Healthstart for funding and mentoring support and our flagship accelerator program alone attracts over 200 start-ups wherein we select five start-ups every year.
So I would outline the general trends in the healthcare entrepreneurship space in India and with specific focus on Digital Health and mHealth which have the potential to disrupt access, quality and efficacy of health care services.
What then are some developments in the entrepreneurship area and what factors are emerging as enablers?
1. Shift in disease burden - Life style diseases, chronic diseases are huge challenges. India is fast becoming the diabetes and hypertension capital of the world.
2. Major divide in both access and quality of healthcare services in large metros, tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Villages and smaller towns remain at an entirely different level altogether.
3. Increased importance of healthcare in socio and familial context - Wellness is slowly emerging as increasingly important focus area in larger cities and among the educated or affluent urban population.
4. Technology playing a significant role in enhancing access and improving both diagnosis as well as treatment options across the spectrum of healthcare services.
5. Changing patient preferences and expectations
1. Small but emerging early stage entrepreneurship support from incubators, accelerators
2. DST, DBT and some other Govt. agencies’ support
3. Increasing internet access, data speed
5. Technology adoption and evolution
1. Significant number of start-ups are emerging from across India and in 5 or 6 vital areas
2. Research studies indicate high potential for savings on illness through prevention and superior disease management
On the basis of above observations and industry insights, the following areas seem ready for innovation and entrepreneurship
1. Chronic disease management - There are 60 million deaths projected in India over the next 10 years and 53% of them will be on account of chronic diseases alone. Diabetes related deaths are likely to increase by a staggering 35%. Therefore chronic disease management in general and diabetes management specifically are great opportunities for innovative start-ups
2. Low cost medical devices - This hardly requires any explanation and the need is very high in every possible segment. Some innovative products have come in the recent past but there is an opportunity of epic proportions
3. Decision support tools for healthcare workers – Healthcare information and data is one of the fastest growing area. We are looking at potential 7 billion connected individuals and their health data through wearables continuously entering various databases in a not too distant future. This data would lend itself to research and analytics to gain valuable insights for decision makers
4. Tele-medicine - Shortage of medical personnel and facilities is a global challenge. Information Technology tools to capture relevant patient information, transmit the same over secure channels and allow remote experts to provide counselling has the potential to improve access and efficacy considerably. Technology will be the most effective enabler in creating enhanced access to smaller cities and villages
5. Precision Medicine - Genomics and use of personalized data of individual patients to provide specific therapies in similar situation is the future of medicine. A lot of this would depend on creation of data and analytic tools by enterprising healthcare entrepreneurs
6. Super-speciality care like in Nephrology, Oncology and several other specialities - Just as an example there are over 1 million new cases of cancer detected in India every year and the rate at which cancer is growing in India is ever increasing. What's more this figure by itself is a definite under-estimate as there are many cases that go unreported from smaller towns and villages in India. This is where both early and smarter detection and then innovative delivery using hub and spoke models enabled by technology will play a rather important role
7. Innovative health records solutions (EHR/EMR) - There are solutions in this space but none that has really presented ease of use, convenience of adoption and overall acceptance. There continues to be a great opportunity here
8. Affordable healthcare delivery that could significantly enhance access in under-served areas - Over 50% of the villages in India do not have access to basic quality healthcare delivery systems
9. Point of care diagnostics to enable quicker, affordable and more accessible healthcare interventions across the globe
There are of course opportunities in other areas as well but for the sake of focus I have listed these top areas as these are possible game changers.
The entrepreneurial opportunity in India today is unprecedented and truly immense. The challenges remain but these are exciting times for those who have the requisite determination to make an impact in an industry like none other.
May many more entrepreneurs flourish in India!
The opinions expressed in the article are the author’s own.