It’s the sheer belief that the Indian healthcare sector needs disruptive ideas and the interest of the government that is inspiring entrepreneurs to enter and continue in health-tech or med-tech startup space, although it is quite different from other comparatively easy sectors.
Its not easy for a med-tech startup to get funding in the first place as it takes about a decade before it has a product that’s ready for the market and its only then Venture Capital (VC) firms can hope to make an exit. Most VCs are looking to exit after 5 to 7 years of investing in their ventures and that’s the reason why money flows easier to e-commerce than to health-tech.
Med-tech startups also need to get multiple regulatory approvals from the US and EU authorities before they can ship their products. Getting safety approvals can take years and there’s no domestic revenue till then, as most major hospital chains in India wait for global approvals. India’s regulatory authorities are not equipped to certify cutting-edge technology which is a big disadvantage.
But still entrepreneurs in Indian health-tech startups are busy being disruptive; building medical devices at a cost which is a third of what their global competitors are charging; focusing on high quality, portability and more importantly tailoring them for Indian hospitals including those in the remote areas.
The Cardiac-care Opportunity: India has 64 million cardiac patients. 90% of them go to smaller hospitals which don’t have the capacity to do diagnostics. Even in urban India, 75% of clinics do not own Echo-Cardio-Gram (ECG) machines. So a patient with heart-condition or a heart-attack is first sent to a lab for ECG, then to a hospital for the report to be read and by that time the chances of survival dip to 20%. A startup – Tricog Health addressed this problem by connecting ECG devices on the cloud. So the moment a report is generated, the information is sent to a team of 16 doctors who send the diagnosis via SMS and a mobile app. Another startup Cardiac Design Labs has built a low-cost, wearable cardiac monitor, Mircam which aids initial diagnosis and sends alerts to doctors.
There are startups making drugs for oncology, arthritis, diabetes, metabolic disorders. Some are building medical devices including robotics at much lower costs – taking on global giants; despite lack of mentors, difficulty in raising funds.
The Numbers: There are around 120 startups in the medical technology space in India, which have received $117 million in funding till date.
Startup Focus (Free): The Forus Health‘s maiden product 3nethra screens for common eye-problems that can lead to blindness. It costs a 4th of what global giant Retcam does.
Event Focus (Free): The Medical Expo – Delhi (Pragati Maidan) from Sept.09 to Sept.11 ’16
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