It was “trust issues” that made three young entrepreneurs – Himesh Joshi, Arjit Gupta and Karan Gupta – think about creating a new technology-based healthcare model for India. And the moment they unveiled their model through their startup Ayu Health, the pandemic hit the country and showed how unreliable the country’s existing healthcare system was for much of the population.
“During our research, we found that there are only a few trusted hospital brands in the country,” says Joshi, CEO of Ayu Health. “But these big brands are often out of reach for most patients. For the average person, differentiating between hospitals is often a challenge. Previously, we had a family doctor system. People trusted him and he would suggest which hospital they should go to. We no longer have this system and patients do not know which hospital is good and which is not.
This led the tech trio to think about offering clear information to the public about the number of beds, doctors, surgeons, and medications available at each of the hospitals near their location. They observed that by providing adequate information, people will have more confidence in hospital facilities and also help them to make timely decisions.
So, the tech trio decided to create a chain of branded private hospitals that an average Indian can trust and afford for its transparency and quality. “We believe that this trust should be built on three main pillars: consistently good clinical results, transparent and affordable pricing, and a quality experience,” says Joshi. “Our mission is to make quality healthcare accessible to everyone, everywhere.”
Ayu Health started operations in 2019, partnering with a hospital in Chandigarh. The hospital has started using the technology platform built by the startup for patient management. Ayu Health has digitized the whole consultation, drug prescription and payment process to provide a better experience for customers. He also helped his partner hospital create a more “asset-light” network, where Ayu Health handles end-to-end administrative operations and the medical school focuses on clinical outcomes. This partnership model quickly attracted many other small and medium-sized hospitals. Now, this unique model has over 40 hospitals in Bengaluru and over 20 hospitals in Chandigarh under its chain.
Joshi says there are many multi-specialty and super-specialty hospitals in India with good health care records but they are not doing very well commercially. “We found that these hospitals lag behind in terms of drug and consumable supply management, insurance, and ongoing evaluation of technology to improve the patient experience,” he said. “So we co-branded these hospitals, gave an operating system to run the hospital, [and deployed] technology to improve patient conversion and patient experience. We have also helped them to get medicines and other equipment at better prices, and to have better insurance partnerships.
Before diving into the healthcare industry, Joshi, Arjit and Karan were in e-commerce. Their refurbished product marketplace, Zefo, was acquired by online classifieds platform Quikr in 2019 for 0,200 crore in an all-stock deal. Karan comes from a family of doctors. And that connection was crucial in the trio’s move into health tech.
“Karan’s father had established this 100-bed super specialty hospital, in which he had invested a lot of money and effort,” explains Joshi. “He had been running it for three or four years, but the hospital was not doing very well. [on the business side]. [After Zefo was acquired]Karan’s plan was to go and help his father [with the business]. And that’s where his research — and later ours — into the problems faced by unbranded hospitals began.
The trio launched the startup after five months of research. Joshi says the pandemic has been a hindrance to their growth. “We probably would have grown more in the last two years [if there was no pandemic]“, explains Joshi. “But a silver lining of the whole pandemic was that it accelerated the adoption of technology in the Indian healthcare sector. And, we were always available for our partners [to provide solutions demanded by the Covid phase]. For example, we launched a telemedicine app for our partners within 24 hours after the government released the new telemedicine guidelines.
He hopes the push for digitalization will make patients more informed and more demanding about the quality of medical care they receive. And he is confident in Ayu Health’s unique healthcare model.
In September 2021, the company raised $6.3 million in funding to expand its hospital network and create new technology solutions for hospital management. The startup plans to increase its business tenfold in fiscal year 2022. It is also targeting 5,000 additional beds in six cities by December.