Kunal is a third-generation entrepreneur with a vision to make Vandelay a premier lifestyle and personal care brand. Kunal has worked in the IOT (internet of things) space for a long time, catering to different segments including but not limited to Logistics, Education, Food and Beverage, & Manufacturing. He joined SFT Technologies Pvt Ltd, in the business of IOT, with end-to-end solutions in the last mile for the cold food chain industry 13 years ago and gained substantial experience with the IoT before launching Vandelay in June 2020 in the peak of the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, when all businesses were at a standstill globally due to the pandemic. Exploiting his knowledge in the digital space, Vandelay was born.
India is one of the world’s fastest growing large economies and one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world. Health is one of the fastest growing segments, especially in the wake of the pandemic when restrictions on movements and gatherings have prompted people to seek health services at home. The reality is, the e-commerce segment has disrupted the healthcare industry, augmented by the pandemic when people choose to avail services or buy medicines while remaining indoors. The days of going to the nearest pharmacy are almost gone, as the pandemic brought a sea change in consumer behaviours tilting their preferences towards things delivered home. Public-private partnerships (PPP) such as the one between Practo and Thyrocare to conduct COVID-19 tests, authorised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) or Portea Medical collaborating with the Karnataka government to launch a telemedicine service to diagnose COVID-19 cases are some great examples of how India, as a whole, rose up to the occasion.
The scope, however, is far greater. India has around 5,295 healthtech startups, 133 of which have been backed by investors or are funded. The eHealth market in India is projected to reach USD 10.6 Bn by 2025, even though that marks only 1.6 per cent of the total addressable healthcare market, likely to be valued at USD 638 Bn by 2025.
Emerging trends redefining e-healthcare
- One-stop solution providers: Just like ease of doing business is deeply connected to the easy access and availability of permits without running pillar to post, digital healthcare platforms bringing all or popular services have emerged as the forerunner. Therefore, while services like e-pharmacies were better known in the pre-pandemic era, digital healthcare platforms are increasingly trying to offer more services under one roof, or banner.
- Consolidation under conglomerates: The above trend has picked up with the segment gaining interest and foray of conglomerates into the marketplace. While it ensures a steady flow of substantial funds without waiting for ‘rounds’ of funding, it also hastens the consolidation of diverse and multiple platforms under one big banner. Tata Group investing in 1mg can be one such example. It also helps the platform to gain publicity faster by virtue of the associations.
- Availability of vital but lesser-known services: While patients suffering from potentially fatal, chronic diseases suffered the most and needed the most urgent help, a clear telemedicine guideline during the pandemic helped the most. Hospitals used telemedicine solutions to offer lesser known but vital services such as paramedics, critical care, etc. for faster delivery of healthcare. The use of what can be termed as paratelemedicine not only ensured timely treatment, it reduced costs and helped people avoid unnecessary travel during the pandemic.
- Use of tech and artificial intelligence: With AI practically disrupting every field and industry, it is impossible to think that healthcare will not be among them. More and more healthcare providers are choosing to implement AI-based software in various degrees for a wide range of services – right from determining skin cancer to a pulmonary nodule or to connect with the first-time and repeat patients. Qure.ai, for example, uses AI to detect abnormalities in results of X-rays, CT scans and MRIs and the software can suggest the next best steps for the patient or the best set of questions that a patient should be asked to decide on the steps.
- Purchasing made easy: This is possibly the biggest benefit consumers have derived since the onset of e-health services. E-commerce platforms offering health related products offer 3Cs: convenience and care at a competitive cost as well as a variety of authentic products. It is a dependable option for bulk buyers such as hospitals who found managing a long and wide supply chain difficult due to restrictions during lockdown. This helped them avert a possible shortage of life-saving medicines and equipment, though these were enlisted by the government as essential items.
Given that a large number of people who do not have access to smartphones remain out of the ambit of e-health services, building a trusted, transparent digital marketplace will be the key to future success of this segment in India.