Free Press Journal

Deepak Sahni, co-founder and CEO of Healthians, on potential of home-based pathology testing


What was the genesis of your business idea?
The idea of home-based pathology testing crystallised in April 2014, after my 12-year exposure (direct and indirect) to healthcare services. In 2006-08 in my personal capacity, I had represented India in the USA, pitching the country as an ideal medical tourism destination. An association was created, and I helped individual hospitals set up their international patient departments, and in making a sound digital presence.

By 2013, I had a clear vision to focus on a patient-centric activity to fill a major gap in healthcare activities in our country. Unlike the US hospitals, Indian hospitals do not offer alternative therapies to their patients and have a single business-focused approach. This impelled me to take this cause further. Also, the Indian population is predominantly young and not disease-prone. Therefore, rather than targeting illness, it made sense to make this segment aware of potential lifestyle diseases by enabling them to timely checks and prevention or Also, the Indian population is predominantly young and not disease-prone. Therefore, rather than targeting illness, it made sense to make this segment aware of potential lifestyle diseases by enabling them to timely checks and prevention or managment.

The first contact point of the disease and the wellness industry is diagnosis and this became our patient-centric area of focus. Currently, this business is driven by doctors and is commission-based (50-60 per cent). This cost burden is very conveniently shifted onto the patients. A breakthrough was required and hence, Healthians  came into being.We directly go  to the patients saving them upto  50 per cent compared to the traditional route.

How do you deliver home-based pathology testing without compromising service reliability and quality?
Our end to end process is based on customer convenience. We have created a web and app based process. Healthians provides options for our clients to create customised test packages, wherein the cost invariably works out better than the individual packages. Our services are available from 6 am onwards.

At the back end once the order is booked, it goes to our trained phlebotomists who are equipped with the latest app and equipment. Each field representative is a diploma/ degree holder as medical laboratory technician, some are even M.Sc. holders in MLT. Each of them are medically checked and vaccinated.

Learning from the challenges faced in home sample collection, we have, over a period of six months evolved a proprietary sample of collection kit. This kit keeps all collected samples safe from sunlight, environment and temperature challenges. Moreover, it is barcoded and cannot be re-used. Special training is provided to each phlebotonmist to strictly comply with all processes and hygiene standards. For an industry where such measures are practically non-existent or at an infant stage, we have paved a new process-oriented path already. Hopefully we can lead the way in some aspects.

Additionally, we have worked on the collection process for over a year to efficiently control 50 different factors. The most harrowing challenge in sample collection is the maintenance of the right temperature and now our Cool Sure technology ensures it.

As of date, we have operations in Delhi, Noida, Greater Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Faridabad. The laboratory set-ups are not our investments, but they are strictly controlled by us. Similar to the collection process, we have established standards for equipment, processes and manpower in the laboratory set-up also.

How does the pathology testing market stand in terms of size?
The diagnostics market in 2014 stood at around USD5 billion, wherein pathology was 70 per cent and radiology was 30 per cent. Our estimate is that overall market growth would be 15-17 per cent and pathology testing would be growing at 20-22 per cent. Today, the overall market would be USD8 million and pathology testing would be close to USD6 billion.  Home-based testing does not have any significant share, but is a rapidly expanding segment. Look at Thyrocare, with a direct-to-patient model, their turnover is around  Rs 270-280 crore.

There is a genuine untapped demand. In our model apart from convenience, there is speed in our module which is quicker than the 1-1.5 day cycle. The high technology quotient when used properly increases reliability. All this makes it a complete value for money proposition for users. Moreover,the free add-ons that we provide to each of our customers, like doctor consultation of the report, and diet and nutrition advice, adds to the trust factor. Technologically, we are building artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms which will help people get better insights.

We estimate the market size to easily double in 5-6 years. India’s medical spend is approximately USD160 billion, out of which 50 per cent is spent on curing and managing lifestyle diseases. With rising awareness about preventive health, the necessity of regular monitoring of various health parameters is become vital. Adding to it is cost and convenience benefits which is a no-brainer that a major section of this expenditure will be added to our segment model. Market expansion will also be triggered by comprehensive testing. Hence, when the share of pathology testing reaches USD10 billion, we see home-based testing at 15-20 per cent of that market.

Where does your business stand?
In FY2016, we notched up 70,000 transactions and this year we are already tracking 2 lakh transactions. Our target next year is 6 lakh transactions in Delhi NCR. We also believe that ticket size from same client will also go up, as the comfort factor sets in.Regarding investment, our first funding round was USD3.25 million and we had completed another round recently, though we cannot disclose details right now. We plan to raise our next round by end of this year and already have few commitments for the same.