A hospital employee checks supplies inside a delivery room at Hong Kong Baptist Hospital in Hong Kong, China (Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg)

India’s Newest Unicorn Is Nursing A Healthcare Dream

The parent of India’s newly minted unicorn PolicyBazaar wants to emulate a Chinese success story by selling medicines and offering medical consultancy on the web.

The Chinese healthcare services firm Good Doctor, backed by the Ping An Insurance group, went public in Hong Kong in April and raised $1.1 billion. Gurugram-based EtechAces Marketing and Consulting Pvt Ltd. wants to do an encore in India. The company has at least one thing in common with Good Doctor— it’s also backed by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp.

EtechAces, which raised nearly $206 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors, will funnel half of it into its healthcare vertical DocPrime in the next two years. It even delayed plans to go public and is willing to sacrifice profitability—the company turned profitable in the year through March 2017.

“We’ll invest heavily in the healthcare business, which will create losses,” Yashish Dahiya, co-founder and group chief executive officer of EtechAces, told BloombergQuint. “We’re deploying thrice the capital we have deployed in any business so far and are serious about this.”

The world’s second-most populous nation ranks 154 on the global healthcare index, said a 2017 Lancet study. The country, according to the World Health Organisation, has less than one doctor for every 1,000 people, below Sri Lanka, Pakistan and developing peers like China, South Africa and Russia. That provides enough room to grow. The Indian healthcare market, a report by Assocham and consulting firm RNCOS said, is expected to grow over three-fold between 2016 and 2022 to about  $372 billion.

Healthcare is still an untapped market, said Vivek Belgavi, leader for financial technology at PwC India, adding that the existing players only account for single digit of the overall market share. “There is an opportunity.”

EtechAces runs PolicyBazaar.com, an online insurance seller; and Paisabazaar.com, a platform to compare loans and credit cards. Its DocPrime is expected to go live by early August, pitting it against startups such as Practo, Netmeds and 1mg.

Through DocPrime, EtechAces wants to offer free consultancy by qualified doctors to patients over phone or the web. “We’ll build a team of certified medical professionals which will be supported by a robust offline network,” he said. “Artificial Intelligence will help build scale and efficiency.”

PolicyBazaar’s existing network in the insurance vertical can make it easier for the company to build a network with doctors and hospitals, Satish Meena, forecast analyst at New Delhi-based Forrester Research, said over phone. He said that it might take time for customers to adapt to their platform. “The way healthcare costs are increasing, it could drive growth on such platforms.”

Meena, however, also had a sobering word. “Getting doctors on the platform could make the ride difficult,” he said, pointing out that most of them are already working with rivals. “Getting customers, especially from tier-II and tier-III cities, will also be challenging, given that even established players are facing this difficulty.”

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