Making doc appointments in just a click: How chemistry between 2 college mates triggered Practo

Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.

Do you recall asking friends and neighbours for the 'good' doctor in the locality or the health specialist they would recommend? And partly based on the responses, make a decision to visit a doctor? When ND Shashank, a student at NIT Surathkal faced a similar issue with regard to finding information about a doctor, he and his classmate Abhinav Lal realised that it had potential for a startup. Practo, a healthcare IT specialist started by the duo in 2008, has made available information online about doctors and appointments. The tedious process of going to a clinic or hospital to make appointments is now just a click away. The company also has a product for doctors, Practo Ray which helps them streamline their medical practice by using electronic health records, practice management analytics and digital calendar. This week Practo announced acquisition of Genii, a product outsourcing firm with domain experience in building bespoke e-commerce portals. Firstpost caught up with ND Shashank for a tete-e-tete.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What is the gap that you are aiming to plug in the medical field with Practo?

Healthcare is one of the last industries to be completely transformed by technology.  In an era where one can book movie tickets without getting out of bed, people have to jump through hoops to find the right doctor. In the age of Internet, there are a billion spam emails but getting health records digital is a tough task. With the help of Practo we have successfully addressed the gaps by helping consumers to reach out to the right doctor on the basis of locality, specialty, availability, customer feedback and costs.  Patients can now search through over 150,000 doctors and 4,000 diagnostic centres listed on Practo in order to make the right healthcare decision.

ND Shashank, Founder & CEO, Practo

ND Shashank, Founder & CEO, Practo

Practo literally means Practice Online and it comes from the intent that we want doctors to bring their practice online and with that, bring healthcare into the digital era. Our mission with Practo is to help people make better healthcare decisions and live healthier lives. This is why we’ve built Practo Ray - our cloud-based clinic management software that helps doctors manage millions of patients every month and Practo Search that helps millions of consumers find the right doctors every month.

Did you test market the product to realise its potential?

The first version of Practo Ray was created from scratch based on the feedback we got from doctors. In 2009, Practo Ray went live and was circulated among doctors in Bangalore, many of whom started using it to streamline their practice. Dr Ranjani Rao, founder of V2 E-City Dental Centre, a chain of three dental clinics in Bangalore, was one of our first clients.

Practo quickly scaled up and approached medical practitioners in Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. In 2011, private equity firm Sequoia Capital invested $4 million in the firm, which was used to expand Practo Ray’s reach which is currently panned across 35 cities in India. Over 150,000 doctors are registered on Practo Ray today. We are expanding our offerings beyond doctor discovery to diagnostic search wherein consumers now have access to nearly 4,000 labs across eight cities including the largest chains. We have expanded to countries like Singapore and Philippines and have plans to further increase our presence in South East Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Singapore specifically, we cover over 70 percent of doctors.

What is the revenue model? What is your business strategy?

Our search product is free. We have two revenue streams currently:  Practo Ray - a cloud-based clinic management software which doctors can subscribe to. It has over 90 percent market share among clinics who use software to manage their practice and currently helps doctors manage millions of patients and their healthcare records every month. The other source of revenue is Practo Reach - which allows clinics to showcase patients' hyper contextual and factual information cards about the clinic based on the user search query on Practo.

Where do you think founders go wrong that lead to startups failing or shutting down?

The foundation of every start-up should be the vision to solve an existing problem in a specific industry. The problem arises when founders lose focus of that vision. Another problem is that some entrepreneurs fail to pay heed to the importance of hiring good talent and employees who share the same level of enthusiasm in taking the company to the next level. Fund raising is something that will follow if the product is good and the customer base is loyal and content with the product offerings. The aim of every start-up should never be to make money, but to solve problems, build great products and follow a remarkable culture within the organisation.

How do you and your co-founder, Abhinav Lal, manage to work without getting in each other’s way?

Abhinav and I have been friends since college. We started Practo when we were still pursuing our second year at college. Over the past decade we have been able to establish a great level of understanding on how to deal with various issues on a small scale and large scale. While Abhinav has different focus areas, I put in all my efforts on getting the product right. The important thing is that we both share the same vision and the same line of thought of where we want Practo to be, one year from now and 10 years from now. That is extremely vital when two founders work together. Abhinav and I speak to each other on a regular basis and share insights and updates on all the latest and upcoming developments at Practo and this helps both of us take faster and better decisions for the company.

How do you unwind? What are your hobbies?

You have to disconnect to connect. Squash is what I turn to when I need to unwind. I play squash on a regular basis and  apart from unwinding, it keeps me fit and agile too. I also meet some friends at the court and enjoy the one hour games we play. I am an avid reader and I used to read a book a month. Now I try to read a book a week. I have picked a few techniques that help me read books faster. Also, if there is a subject that interests me, I pick up 3-4 books and dig into it. When I get time, I enjoy catching up on good movies as well.


Published Date: Jul 13, 2015 10:55 am | Updated Date: Jul 13, 2015 11:07 am

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