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Case Study: How 2 friends in their final year of engineering put the base for a healthcare startup Practo?

18/08/2015

Abhinav-Lal-CTO-and-Shashank-ND-CEO-Practo

What you will find in this case study?

1) About Practo
2) Idea of emergence
3) Survival in the startup graveyard
4) Business Model
5) Mobile Commerce
6) Funding and Growth story

About Practo

Practo is an internet based service to schedule appointments with doctors. Users can search for doctors based on specialty and location, doctor name or clinic name. The search can be further refined based on the area inside the city, availability, timings and consultation fee. Patients can directly book appointments from the search results, which display relevant doctors, their timings, fees, reviews and address.

Practo has a proprietary algorithm running in the backend, which ranks doctors listed on the site based on relevance, location and specialty, feedback from patients and appointment experience. The number of appointments booked with a doctor in the last 30 days, doctor’s availability, and patient’s recommendations are key parameters to rank doctors.

The USP of Practo is its uniqueness of product that is forcing doctors to adopt it. Other than that, it has given options to customers too to connect with the doctors. It has 200,000 registered practitioners, 10,000 hospitals 5000 diagnostics centers. It has huge present in 35 cities of 3 countries i.e. India, Singapore and Philippines. It has gained great attraction over the social platforms covering over 114K Facebook fans and 10200 followers on Twitter. It has recently grabbed attention of media by raising $90 million funds from the investors.

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How the Idea of Practo came in limelight?

With nothing to lose in the college days, the founders of Practo Shashank ND and Abhinav Lal both started working on the project in 2008. Practo’s story starts when both the founders were studying computer engineering at NIT Karnataka.

This company like other startups also started with a personal experience of a person who felt the need of such a system that can help them out in the field of healthcare and diagnostics.The story of emergence of the company started when Shashank’s father needed a knee surgery, and he wanted a reliable second opinion. He scouted far and wide; shortlisted the best doctors, and zeroed in on a particular specialist in the US. The doctor was ready to see the report but the problem was that the doctor wanted to see all the medical records before giving any of his opinion. But there was no easy, secure, and quick way to get those across.

This was the triggering point that made Shashank think about something and that something was the idea of Practo. His friend Lal was a computer whiz, and together they decided to tackle it. “We found it weird that technology was playing no role in a problem that affects everybody. We have 10-year-old emails in our inbox but no trace of a year-old medical prescription. That was ridiculous,” Shashank recalls.

Shashank also said “Only word-of-mouth shouldn’t be the only option that people use for something as important as finding a good doctor”.

Thus to take this in account the two friends set out to build a personal healthcare account. “All your healthcare data at one place, easily accessible, easily manageable, and shareable” – that was the idea. They started with a software for doctors to digitize the medical records of all their patients. However the search engine to find good doctors came later.

How Practo survived the startup graveyard?

Building a software product while at college had other positive values. There was no rent to pay, help was coming from friends and teachers, and pocket money came from parents. For extra fuel, Shashank and Lal would enter business plan competitions, and put their prize money to work. “All we had to give up was campus placements,” Shashank told.

Seed capital of about INR 10 lakhs ($16,250) came from friends and family. In 2009, their startup, then called Turbodoc.in, was incubated by Morpheus Venture Partners in Bangalore, one of the few support systems available to startups in India then.

In May, 2009, Shashank and Lal launched their first product – Practo Ray – for doctors, clinics, and ambulatory care providers to manage their practices using the cloud technology. From electronic medical records to billing, and cloud telephony, Ray covered a lot of ground.

Around then, the most prevalent advice on selling SaaS products was to let customers do a self-sign-up. Occasionally, follow up with a call. So that’s what Shashank and Lal tried. Soon enough, they realized that convincing doctors who already had enough on their plate to try out new softwares, that too over telephone call, was next to impossible.

“We had no choice but to do feet-on-street selling. That was a real startup graveyard. Nobody sells SaaS products via feet-on-street model,” Shashank recalls.

But that sales tactic helped them get their early adopters. Doctors who tried it out, recommended it to their friends, and slowly they found more and more accepters. “It had an SMS feature, which sent out a message to all patients reminding them about their appointments. In turn, the doctor would be informed if the patient cancelled. Also, it sent a daily schedule to the doctors.

Business model of Practo

The company has multiple sources of revenue. They have a premium listing, like Zomato has the same. The first listing is a sponsored listing and the doctors, clinics and hospitals have to pay for the listing price to keep them on the top.Apart from it, the source of revenue is practice management software called Practo Ray, which is sold to doctors on an annual contract basis. It is a tool for doctors to manage their practice, managing the patients’ health record, the billing and the clinic.

Mobile commerce

Its iOS app was launched last month, and theandroid app was launched six months ago. The application has reached #1 position in the health category in both the app stores. It has clocked 250,000 downloads. Over 35% of usage coming from the mobile app, that shows the interest of people towards the few months old app.

Funding and Growth story

In its initial days, it started as a tool for doctors to manage their appointments and patient records that was Practo Ray. Four years hence, it launched a consumer-facing website and app for patients to connect with doctors. Two years after that, it broadened the scope of Practo to every facet of healthcare, connecting with pharmacists, hospitals, and diagnostic centers, as well as wellness centers for preventive health. And now, with its product well and truly embedded and validated in the healthcare ecosystem, it’s time to strap on the seat belt and take off globally.

The company had earlier announced acquisitions of Fitho and Genii to target preventive healthcare and the enterprise segment respectively. The 1500 member team plans to hire another 500 people by this year end.

It will expand from the current 35 Indian cities and three countries to over 100 Indian cities and 10 countries across South East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Practo already had a majority of the earlier funding($30M) in its banks and current funding of $90 million has concreted the roots of the super concentrated healthcare startup.

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