From 29th till 31st of August, FTR4H will present selected digital health startups from Asia at the Medical Fair Asia in Singapore. One of it is Medikabazaar from India. We sat down with its CEO Vivek Tiwari for an interview.
PS: Save the date for his talk “How AI & ML help build efficiency in healthcare procurement” at 3:30 pm on August 29th
FTR4H: Vivek, what are you doing at Medikabazaar?
Vivek “Medikabazaar is India’s largest B2B online medical supply platform enabling hospitals and other medical establishments to search and order quality medical equipment and supplies. The medical supply chain in India is highly fragmented at the moment. I myself had experienced this during my earlier assignment of setting up and managing multi-location tertiary care clinics in tier 2 and 3 cities in India. These cities and remote locations in India struggle to get quality and timely medical supplies because conventional distribution networks do not have presence in such places.
It is a well-known fact that medical supplies constitute the second biggest cost in a hospital’s total cost of operations (TCO). Medikabazaar is currently working on a proprietary tool named VIZI that uses AI to help hospitals reduce the total cost of operations thereby contributing to making healthcare more affordable. By using VIZI and online procurement, medical establishments can reduce their TCO by about 25% and therefore contribute to making healthcare more affordable and accessible in developing countries like India.”
FTR4H: You have been an activist for digital health in Asia for a quite a while. What are the latest trends in eHealth in Asia?
Vivek: “The biggest need in Asia is healthcare accessibility and affordability. Patients don’t have access to quality healthcare products, uniform pricing, and services. The doctor-patientratio is also poor. Remote locations lack basic healthcare facilities. Similarly, those who have already set up healthcare facilities in such locations, face challenges in procuring advanced medical technology, products, and their deliveries. Thus, failing to provide service to the patients. Many trends pick this up: The latest consumer trends in eHealth in Asia are virtual consultations electronic health records, telemedicine, online pharmacy, lab tests at home, home health care, fitness apps and wearable devices to monitor lifestyle. Primarily all are consumer centric and focusing on serving the consumer at his doorstep. Healthcare providers are also adopting Internet for enhancing the productivity of their processes and clinical outcome.”
FTR4H: You are a young startup yourself. What have been the biggest hurdles in your journey from a bootstrapped company to India’s largest B2B marketplace for medical devices?
Vivek: “Indian e-commerce space is still in its nascent stage. While the B2C models have gained popularity in recent years, B2B markets still remain fairly untouched. We at Medikabazaar aim to disrupt the B2B space. Adoption of the online platform by business buyers posed many challenges to us. We had to do massive ground activation to explain the concept to the customer. We had to make similar efforts to get manufacturers and sellers on board as the concept was entirely new to them.
Another major challenge was faced when we scaled from one location to setting up operations and fulfillment centers across multiple locations in India. From centralized operations, we moved to decentralized operations. New team members from various backgrounds joined in all these locations. Soon we realized that the uniformity in execution was missing. We had to bring in the standard operating procedures to streamline our business processes and bring in a seamless experience for the customer.”
FTR4H: What challenges do digital healthcare companies face while scaling up in Asia – be it from India to Singapore or from Germany to Asia?
Vivek: “The first and foremost challenges are
- a) limited funding and
- b) talented team.
With limited funds and resources, a better strategy is to focus on the domestic market. Since technology businesses do not have entry barriers, by the time a startup gears up to make an entry into a new market, many competitors already exist. Therefore, strategy and timing are really critical for the international launch and go-to-market. Another challenge for scaling up internationally lies in finding the right talent who can work with an entrepreneurship zeal to replicate and adapt the same model for the new market.”
FTR4H: What can other entrepreneurs learn from your startup journey?
Vivek: “Planning, hard work,and team spirit are three mantras that every entrepreneur should have. I too followed this. Nothing can work without a detailed plan, sharing the vision with the team and micro-management in the initial years. The reason is that the team and every process is new and both need to undergo a journey to get streamlined. Unless and until an entrepreneur is involved at the ground level, they will not understand execution challenges.
Do not get discouraged by initial feeble customer response. If your concept truly fills a gap in the market, it will work. Team up with people whom you can rely upon. Those who will not be a deadweight but a lifeboat for your company. The most important thing in an organization is creating a positive work environment and sometimes throwing a pizza party goes a long way for the employees.”
FTR4H: What are you looking forward to in Singapore?
Vivek: “Apart from India, we are expanding our operations in neighboring countries, Middle East and Africa. Being the largest hub of Asia, Singapore attracts many visitors and manufacturers in the expo. We plan to network with the manufacturers and international buyers to share our concept and opportunities.”