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The responses have been given by Ankur Gigras, VP, E-commerce of 1mg

What are the objectives and your vision to start this organization?

1mg was launched in 2015 with a vision to make healthcare accessible, understandable and affordable. In the last five years, we’ve fundamentally disrupted healthcare in India and have emerged as clear leaders of the fast evolving digital health ecosystem.

Here is a look at what we have achieved so far:

  • ~35% share of category amongst medical apps; 350m monthly page views on 1mg platform
  • Integrated Healthcare Platform: “Wiki” for healthcare information & India’s largest ePharmacy, eDiagnostics and eConsultation lines of business
  • Strong supply chain across India and a fast growing profitable B2B business line [Pharma distribution & Phlebotomist network]
  • Strong ecosystem partnerships with unique integrations with Insurance, Hospitals & Pharmacos to deploy novel models of healthcare delivery to patients across India

Patient centricity forms the core of our values. In the times that we are currently in, a digital healthcare platform is incomplete without online consults or telemedicine. We believe in offering our users a complete treatment cycle: from online consultations to ePharmacy and Lab tests.

What do you think needs to change in the health sector?

In healthcare, the information around our medicines and lab tests is either unavailable or incomprehensible to us, and that is the biggest change the sector needed to go through. Hence, with an aim to democratise healthcare, we decided to create a platform that stood for transparent, authentic and accessible information for all.

Unavailability of doctors due to a low patient to doctor ratio is another issue faced by the healthcare sector, especially in rural areas. With our video, audio and chat consultations, we hope to reduce that gap.

What tools and resources do you propose to bring these shifts in healthcare delivery?

In addition to the transaction & information services, we have built and launched many popular digital health tools such as medicine reminders, digital health locker, emergency profile etc. We also work on several unique models for patient support programs, digital health education programs, insurance solutions etc;

eConsults or telemedicine is another tool that we believe can bring about this shift. With most people practicing social distancing and minimizing contact, online doctor consultations, as per the guidelines issued by the Government of India, seem to be the safest option of seeking expert medical opinion and diagnosis.

Can you share about your business model?

1mg operates on a marketplace model where we have tie ups with licensed pharmacies, accredited diagnostic labs and with registered doctors/medical professionals. 1mg is an information technology platform on a digital and electronic network and acts as a facilitator between a buyer and a seller. The business model of 1mg is tied to the online transactions completed by consumers for Pharmacy and Diagnostics. The partners pay a small commission to us for bringing them orders and as volumes drive up, so will the profitability. As consumer usage increases, we would try and also introduce other monetization models through advertising. However, we are going to keep the offering free for consumers. [ lil’ bit on how econsults operates]

As mentioned earlier, patient centricity has always been our focus. 1mg believes in taking care of the needs of the patients, bringing about transparency and making healthcare accessible to all. We started out as a content platform for all health and medicine related information and later on went on to become an ecommerce platform.

What is the key strategy you adopted for acquisition?

1mg is a leader in the industry, with a ~35% share of category amongst all medical apps in India. So far, we have received over 350m monthly page views on our digital platform. Our app downloads have crossed 33 million till date.

It was possible for us to acquire such a huge user base only after we built enough trust among the people with the authentic information we provided. A major chunk of our customers are those users who came to our platform to consume health content.

What are the factors that influence market innovation and its impact on your organization?

To put it simply, the needs of the customers impact market innovation. For example, in the current times as the world is battling COVID-19, there is an urgent need for authentic and updated information around the same. So, we took it upon us to keep people informed. We experimented with different forms of content like ebooks, mailers, app notifications, website landing pages and more to help people consume as much authentic and medically accurate information as possible.

What are your strategies to deal with your competitor and what makes you different from others?

Being an integrated healthcare platform, 1mg enjoys leadership position and is driving the digital healthcare innovation in the country. Today, 1mg has become the most preferred integrated healthcare app for consumers/patients, and we clearly stand-out in the competition in terms of

  • Relevance and speed of search results for users
  • Quality of medical data/content available on our platforms, which is kept up-to-date at all times
  • Predictive algorithms and machine learning

We have great respect for our competitors but our qualities and values set us apart from the pack:

  • Clarity of vision – Since day one, 1mg has believed in integrated healthcare as the only model of healthcare that works for a consumer. We believed in it even before it was fashionable and for the last 5 years, we have worked very hard to make it happen. Our thought process, our innovation is naturally ahead of time.
  • Superlative team – We have one of the best teams in the Indian internet space, with leaders who have built and led large consumer businesses or healthcare divisions. We have also had the good fortune of having worked (or known) each other for a really long period of time. As a result, our team has a very high degree of trust and works in a very agile and collaborative fashion to achieve quick results.
  • Clarity in values – Since the very beginning, we have been clear about the values we want to uphold at 1mg:
    • Our value of “done is better than perfect” enables us to rapidly innovate and test real products out in the market
    • Our value of “Be CEO” empower individuals to take charge and do what’s right without an organizational bureaucracy holding them back
    • Our value of “accountability with empathy” ensures meritocracy
    • And our value of “team before individual” enshrines collaboration

We strongly believe that this is our winning formula.

With respect to telemedicines, we are one of the firsts to introduce audio and video consults, as well as COVID-19 specific consults.

What were the challenges you faced in initial days and how are they different today’s scenario, especially during this pandemic and what is your role in that?

Access to healthcare has been a challenge even before the pandemic, and health tech companies have tried everything to knit the gap existing in the healthcare system, be it telemedicine, online doctor consultation, mobile hospitals, etc. But, with the demand surging due to Covid-19 across different parts of the country, health tech companies are witnessing a new behavioural shift in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, which is here to stay.

Do you see any major growth opportunity in the post COVID-19 world?

Doctors have now started recognising the need for technology to engage better with their patient base. Hospitals too have become receptive of the change, as most of them are seeing a 40%-50% reduction in footfall. Suddenly they have started to feel the pain that they are not connected with the patient when they are at home. Onboarding doctors on telemedicine platforms has been a major challenge in the sector. Realising which, existing telemedicine companies have even adapted to models like collaborating with hospitals, or local pharmacy chains.

In the post-COVID-19 world, we believe that consumer behaviour would shift towards teleconsultations. The consumer’s fundamental pain point has never been about saving money on healthcare or ignoring it, it’s always about access. Going to a doctor’s clinic, waiting for two hours, and having to leave work early is often seen as an inconvenience. But with telemedicine they can consult the doctor anywhere without having to go through the hassle of visiting a clinic.

Further, the involvement of corporates and insurance companies in digital healthcare is also expected to go up.*

Share a bit more about the culture and values of your company? What is important to you and why?

  • Our value of “done is better than perfect” enables us to rapidly innovate and test real products out in the market.
  • Our value of “Be CEO” empowers individuals to take charge and do what’s right without an organizational bureaucracy holding them back.
  • Our value of “accountability with empathy” ensures meritocracy.
  • And our value of “team before individual” enshrines collaboration

We strongly believe that this is our winning formula.

What are your Future plans and any message for our readers?

Since the inception of 1mg we have always believed that technology and data will fundamentally change healthcare delivery. 1mg has already changed the healthcare landscape by making consumer centric integrated healthcare real. Over the years we have invested significantly in product and supply chain and most of the investments will continue or get accelerated. Some areas which will see disproportionate investment will be the ones below:

  • AI and Machine Learning – Artificial Intelligence will fundamentally change healthcare and will make it personalized, predictive and preventive. With billions of healthcare data points, 1mg is already working on cutting edge AI models and we will continue to accelerate work in that direction. Our most recent peer review journal publication on teleconsultation is proof of our deep capabilities.
  • New healthcare models – It’s clear that at 1mg’s scale, we now have the ability to enable new healthcare models for the ecosystem. These models, such as smart hospitals, outpatient insurance etc. will be the models of the future and will make healthcare accessible and affordable. Accessibility and affordability are 2 core pillars of 1mg’s vision.
  • Integrated Care plans – Using the 1mg platform, our goal is to enable truly integrated outpatient care in the country. Such a plan will provide a patient with continuity of care both online and offline and across all their healthcare service needs.

We strongly believe that product and technology are our core strengths at 1mg and ones that have and will continue to help us deliver superlative value to a healthcare consumer.

Interviewed by Disha Soni & Dr Prateek Malhotra

InnoHEALTH Magazine

Author InnoHEALTH Magazine

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