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“The Government can help the start-ups to implement the right solution at scale”

Shrugging off the disruptions of last year, businesses and agencies are looking for a strong revival in 2021. Adgully – as part of our annual TRENDING NOW endeavour – has been presenting the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of 2020. 

While the global pandemic has bought economies to a halt and massively disrupted businesses, it has also fuelled start-up dreams and we even saw several Indian start-ups achieve Unicorn status during the pandemic period. 

Also read:  “Today, online contributes to 7% of biz & is on track to grow 5x of pre-COVID-19 times”

In conversation with Adgully, Shreyans Mehta CEO & Co- Founder, Medcords, speaks about his journey as entrepreneur, the Aayu and Sehat Sathi apps that they built for doctor consultation and the local pharmacies to digitise the health records, key learnings from 2020 and the road ahead. 

Please take us through your journey as an entrepreneur. What motivated you to establish your start-up? What were you doing before turning an entrepreneur?

I come from a family of doctors, my father is a doctor who has been practicing since 1986. I have witnessed and felt the plight of patients from Tier 2 and 3 cities when my father suffered a slipped disk. It was then that I decided to help by enabling remote consultation on the phone to his patients. The response that I received as well as a research conducted covering 800 villages in India motivated me to create a hybrid technology solution to help patients from the last-mile areas of Bharat.

Nikhil and Saida have witnessed these challenges, being from a Tier 2 town, and therefore decided to join hands with me to build a scalable healthcare solution for Bharat. 

What were you doing before turning an entrepreneur?

I was always an entrepreneur at heart, initially I worked with Hero Motocorp, which gave me an opportunity to understand established process and later I started my own venture in the online library domain. 

What gap did you want to fulfil with your start-up? What is the core business proposition?

With the Aayu app (B2C app for patients), we are solving the core gaps in healthcare delivery arising majorly because of limited availability of specialist doctors in rural areas, which results in long travel and heavy expenditure for the patients travelling to cities even for primary healthcare. We want to bridge the gap between the medical facilities and the patients due to poor logistics and connectivity issues.

Our core proposition is a physical solution enabled with one of the largest and trusted networks of local pharmacies. We are solving the end-to-end problems of patients with digitisation of medical records, e-consultation and online medicine delivery through pharmacies using our Sehat Sathi app (a B2B app for 10 lakh-plus pharmacies in Bharat). 

How did you identify your TG? Did you carry out any feasibility study before starting your business?

Patients from rural areas have to travel far off for primary medical attention to the urban cities and spend on average Rs 1,500 on logistics, which is all for 2 minutes of doctor’s attention, which may involve an entire day of waiting. From this personal experience, I understood the need for healthcare services for my target group.

Two years before founding Medcords, we did extensive research by travelling more than 75,000 km across 800+ villages of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. We met around 35,000+ families to understand their basic healthcare needs. 

What were the challenges that you faced in your start-up journey and how did you overcome them?

Since our application is Internet-driven, hence weak Internet reception and the absence of smartphones in second and third-tier cities were the prominent problems that we faced initially. To overcome this hurdle, we introduced the Sehat Sathi app for the local pharmacies to digitise the health records and create an e-consultation on behalf of patients with no smartphones or Internet, which also helps them increase their income.

Patients in semi-urban areas can easily access these services from Aayu app for their entire family and can also order medicine online from nearby pharmacies. 

What were the clearances that you required for your venture from various authorities?

We abide by the online consultation and order medicine guidelines from relevant authorities and we have kept the established data security systems to protect patients’ data at all times. All the doctors and pharmacies on our ecosystem are verified with relevant license to operate and have personal identification. 

Funds/ finance is the prime issue of almost all start-ups. What can the industry and the Government do to address this issue and ease the capital requirements of start-ups?

Yes, every start-up indeed requires investment to build a disruptive solution, which requires awareness and acceptance. Many ideas in the market have potential, but due to lack of funds, those ideas never get to see the light of the day. Recently the Government of India has finally paid attention and is now helping entrepreneurs to build their businesses. A Rs 1,000-crore Start-up India Seed Fund has been set up by the Government to fund the start-ups as venture capital. Traditional players, too, should welcome the new players in the market, because increasing competition is the only way to improve the quality of services. Most importantly, the Government can help the start-ups to implement the right solution at scale. 

How is digital helping you further your business?

MedCords is all about digital healthcare solution for the underserved. With the introduction of the Digital India initiative, the Internet and smartphone no longer remained a luxury. Since the Internet is now reaching almost every corner of the country, our digital healthcare solution can serve billions. Our solution has reached thousands of villages and cities across 13 states, served more than 30 lakh families, 5,000+ specialist doctors across 33 specialities and has made 25,000+ medical stores online to serve patients near them. 

What were your key learnings from 2020? How do you see the start-up ecosystem progressing in 2021?

In 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, our connected solution proved to be the problem solver for the patients across India. The Government of Rajasthan promoted our solution for the benefit of citizens as due to nation-wide lockdown, they couldn’t visit medical facilities physically. Also, the online pharmacies network helped families to order medicines from home. In 2021, we as a country need to be careful to continue to maintain social distancing and a digital solution like ours can help the citizens achieve this. 

What would be your message for the budding entrepreneurs?

Just be consistent with the problem solving through the solution you are building and learn fast from the failures.

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