By Vinay Dwivedi
The thought of making quality healthcare accessible to rural India motivated Ajoy Khandheria, a technology evangelist with more than 25 years of experience in building telecom, telematics, taxi aggregation and healthcare businesses, to start Gramin Health Care. The first healthcare centre was set up in Ghaziabad, UP, in April 2016.
Based out of Gurugram, NCR, the startup has a presence in six states— Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. “We have successfully ventured into the villages of India to provide consistent healthcare to the rural population at a cost they can afford, at a distance they can travel and with the dignity that they deserve,” says 57-year-old Khandheria. The medical services are availed via a health card which costs Rs 120 per year. “As we grow, the health card is going to be the means through which secondary services too will be delivered,” says Khandheria.
Founded with an investment of about Rs 1.5 crore put in by Khandheria, currently Gramin Health Care is largely into primary healthcare services and is working to provide access to secondary and tertiary care as well. “Our vision is to make Gramin Health Care a one-stop healthcare and wellness facility,” says Khandheria. The startup generated a revenue of around Rs 1 crore in 2017-18 and expects a five-fold increase in 2018-19.
The promise of Gramin Health Care prompted fertiliser major IFFCO to buy 26% stake in the startup in April 2017 for an undisclosed sum. “IFFCO provides us with the infrastructure for hosting permanent healthcare delivery units,” says Khandheria. Gramin Health Care, with the help of IFFCO, has set up more than 100 clinics across six states and has conducted over 4,800 health camps.
Last month, it conducted about 700 health camps. “Each of our clinic organises 6-7 camps a month, so as we open more clinics we’ll be conducting many more camps a month,” says Khandheria. Besides it own clinics, the startup has been aggregating hospitals and other healthcare providers for offering secondary care. “They have agreed to provide their services to our patients at highly discounted rates,” says Khandheria.
The biggest challenge this startup faced was bringing the right kind of technology and trained human resources to the rural areas. “We also had the toughest market to capture, which many larger organisations haven’t been able to explore successfully,” says Khandheria. Another challenge for the startup was to get more women nurses to work with Gramin Health Care. “Male nurses, although easier to hire, were not the right choice for reaching out to farmers’ families as we found that female nurses performed better, particularly when treating women,” says Khandheria.
Managing operations remotely from health centres and its base office at Gurgaon was also a challenge the startup had to negotiate. “We were able to overcome our challenges by not just delivering on our patients’ expectations, but actually exceeding them. Additionally, IFFCO being our strategic partner and shareholder, has been helpful,” says Khandheria.
Gramin Health Care aims to touch 10 million families in the next five years but is finding it tough to change consumer behaviour to avail institutionalised health care. “Change in behaviour is generally a long and hard process and, when it comes to the rural healthcare consumer, it is even more challenging. But we are developing models and processes that would allow us to scale up faster,” says Khandheria.
Source: Economic Times