The responses have been given by Ankur Gigras, VP, E-commerce, 1 mg
All around the world, people are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As InnovatioCuris (IC), we are always on a lookout for healthcare innovations that are affordable and provide quality care. Most governments across the world have lifted restrictions or limitations imposed on telemedicine to provide home-staying patients with remote access to healthcare. The US, for example, allowed Medicare payments for virtual visits, while India’s Ministry of Health issued new guidelines permitting registered medical practitioners to use telemedicine services. In the wake of this, InnoHEALTH magazine scouted and interviewed some innovative telemedicine providers/startups to build an army of health transformers to mobilize and address this global health crisis.
Disha Soni and Prateek Malhotra interviewed Ankur Gigras, VP, E-commerce, 1 mg, on behalf of InnoHEALTH magazine to bring out some virtually perfect telemedicine solutions available during the Covid-19 crisis, also to understand challenges and opportunities posed by such a situation and how our startup ecosystem is tackling it.
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, they have moved fast and have contributed towards evolving the digital health ecosystem. With a strong supply chain across India and a fast growing profitable B2B business line, and a strong partner ecosystem with unique integrations with Insurance, Hospitals & Pharmacos to deploy novel models of healthcare delivery to patients across India, patient centricity forms the core values of the company.
In the times of this pandemic, a digital healthcare platform is incomplete without online consults or telemedicine. With a belief in offering the users a complete treatment cycle: from online consultations to ePharmacy and Lab tests, 1mg’s integrated healthcare platform is acting like “Wiki” for healthcare information & India’s largest ePharmacy, eDiagnostics and eConsultation lines of business.
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, they came up with a platform 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 video, audio and chat consultations, they are working wholeheartedly towards filling the gap.
What tools and resources do you propose to bring these shifts in healthcare delivery?
In addition to the transaction & information services, they have built and launched many popular digital health tools such as medicine reminders, digital health locker, emergency profile etc. They also work on several unique models for patient support programs, digital health education programs, insurance solutions etc.
eConsults or telemedicine is another tool that they 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 they 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. Their business model is tied to the online transactions completed by consumers for Pharmacy and Diagnostics. The partners pay a small commission for bringing them orders and as volumes drive up, so will the profitability. As consumer usage increases, they plan to try and introduce other monetization models through advertising. However, they have plans to keep the offering free for consumers.
What is the key strategy you adopted for acquisition?
With a ~35% share of category amongst all medical apps in India, by far, they have crossed 33 million app downloads.
Building trust among the people with the authentic information was the key mantra for them to acquire such a big user base. Ankur also shared that the major chunk of customers that they have are those who came to their 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 is contributing to drive the digital healthcare innovation in the country. Today, they are one of the most preferred integrated healthcare app for consumers/patients, and stand-out in the competition in terms of – (i) Relevance and speed of search results (ii) Quality of medical data/content available (iii) Predictive algorithms and machine learning.
Ankur shared with us that they have great respect for their competitors, but as per him, their qualities and values set them apart from others. Clarity of vision,superlative team and clarity in values is an integral part of their winning formula.
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, there is a belief 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?
“Done is better than perfect”, “Be CEO”, “accountability with empathy” and “team before individual” are some of the values that enable them to rapidly innovate and test real products out in the market, to take charge and do what’s right without an organizational bureaucracy and enshrines collaboration.
What are your Future plans and any message for our readers?
Since the inception, the organisation has believed that technology and data will fundamentally change healthcare delivery. Over the years they 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, according to Ankur, 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, they are already working on AI models and will continue to accelerate work in that direction.
– New healthcare models -The 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 their vision.
– Integrated Care plans – Their 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 congratulate and wish all the luck to Ankur and his team to continue to help deliver superlative value to the Indian healthcare ecosystem.
Interviewed by Disha Soni & Dr Prateek Malhotra