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Ekohealth: Making healthcare affordable

Apr 23 2012, 10:35   |   By CNBC-TV18

Dr Akash Rajpal-led Ekohealth provides low-cost healthcare to senior citizens and diabetics.

Image: SME Mentor

Thirty seven year old Akash Rajpal believes that quality healthcare should be available to all. With this thought in mind, Akash launched Ekohealth, a venture that helps uninsurable patients like senior citizens and diabetics avail of healthcare services at reduced cost.

With 1500 members on board and a projected turnover of Rs 80 lakh for 2012, Akash is hoping to touch the ten million member mark in next five years. Here is a look.

After 13 years of working in both the public and private healthcare sector, Akash Rajpal founded his venture Ekohealth Management Consultants in April 2011. Ekohealth caters to uninsurable patients like senior citizens and diabetics bringing healthcare services to them at reduced cost.

Having already partnered with over 150 health centers like Bombay Hospital, Lifecare Diagnostics and 1298 ambulance services, Akash claims that his partners offer discounts ranging from 5% to 50% and even certain services for free. Currently, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, Akash now wants to scale up his business to ten more cities by the end of this year.

Rajpal says, "I saw a lot of unethical cut practice happening. The pin point for the patients was specially those who cannot be insured like the senior citizen or diabetics or people who are on renal dialysis or even cancer patients. They will never get insurance or they typically don't get insurance. There is no one who actually helps them out and especially when they are not below poverty line, even the government aid does not come to the rescue. So, there was no one to bridge this gap to help them get low cost healthcare."

He further says, "The other pin point why we started this was that we were finding that the hospitals or the medical centers or the healthcare providers who are really struggling to get patients. At one end, there are hospitals who are over capacity full and on certain aspect there are nursing homes and other hospitals who are newly opened have just 30-40% bed occupancy. This was a very skewed kind of a aspect which I was seeing. The reason behind was that these hospitals really don't know how to project themselves, how to tell people that they have such brilliant people or brilliant doctors or brilliant staff at hand."

Helping heal over your medical bills, Ekohealth manages to generate revenues through sale of annual family subscription fee of Rs 1,000 for a family of four and Rs 365 for an additional member. With active sales beginning in November 2011, Ekohealth is already managed to sell ten memberships a day and is targeting one lakh patients by next year. Akash believes that this is achievable with a help of Zensar Technology that manages Ekohealth's call center.

Rajpal says, "We have a central call center based out of Pune. It is run by a fantastic firm called Zensar Technologies. They are based out of Pune. Zensar showed an amazing confidence in us, in our early times also. We started off with just two seats initially and now we are a team of ten people including call center seats and the field staff which is operated through Zensar. They are the once who do strategic database lead generation and customer support. We have a toll free number where the customers would call us for any kind of support they need. Zensar handles that. So that is our backbone that is the central call center or the customer support we have which is to acquire customers and to support them."

In order to scale up further, Akash is now looking for funding of Rs 5-10 crore and is in advance talks with venture capitalists and angel investors. The funding Akash claims will be used to build a management team, increase call center capacity and for marketing and advertising. To stay ahead of competition, Akash has come up with value additions like Reverse Health E-auction and other unique IT based health services.

Rajpal says, "We are developing a product called Reverse Health E-auction which is unheard of in this country. I have not seen that anywhere else in the globe too. What this would do is that interested patients which actively go online and write their requirement of a surgery at a desired price. For example, the patient may say that I want an angioplasty done with XYZ for Rs 50,000 which is unheard of today. But there maybe a newer hospital and there maybe interested hospitals who may want to use the spare capacity and who were not having an access to this patient would now get access to 100s of such patients. They would be willing to give it away at that price for them at a quality which a patient wants."

He further says, "The other aspect is lot of other people are also doing what we would like to do is, a person just SMSes his brand of drug which is prescribed to him and there are lot of other brands which are available at a cheaper cost. He will come to know on an immediate basis, what cheaper branded drugs are there and we would like to offer that too to the patients. This will further reduce the cost of medication to that patient who would have an option to choose from."

While Akash has almost perfected the art of living a healthy life, he has also cooked a recipe of success for insurance companies. With 1,500 subscribers already on the table and a projected turnover of Rs 80 lakh for 2012, Akash hoping to grab a bigger bite into market by touching ten million members and a turnover of Rs 250 crore in the next five years.

Rajpal says, "My vision of healthcare in India is that patient should be aware that they should be better informed in terms of health education or disease profiling or what to expect from a particular surgery. My vision is that patient should be aware of that, this will ultimately bring the cost down because they would know that an angioplasty should not ideally cost say more than an X amount of money, so why it is costing one-and-an-half times, so that they are not cheated further."

He further adds, "My vision is that I should cater to about atleast ten million patients in this country who become a very strong group of bargaining power and ultimately brings the cost of care down. I am visioning a reduction in cost by atleast 30% from the present levels. I am visioning a very clean healthcare practice."


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