Innovative Health Sector Enterprises @ Sankalp 2013

Editor’s note: Shruti Veenam represents Swasti, a new organization joining the CHMI network to connect program managers, investors, donors, researchers, policy makers, and others in India’s fast-growing healthcare market, with an eye on scaling up promising initiatives. CHMI will welcome several other new organizations to its network next month.

I recently attended the Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2013, in Mumbai. For me, the big highlight was Annual Sankalp Awards 2013, a competition among social enterprises in five categories, including Health, Water & Sanitation. While most of the conference was dominated by international investors and funding groups, the Awards offered the opportunity to meet real heroes of the industry.

The Health category saw five innovative enterprises make a three-minute pitch on stage for the coveted Award. Eighty percent of the entrepreneurs were below the age of 35 years and all were confident of their work, passionate, inspiring, yet humble. Not all of them targeted poor consumers (in fact only two did), but they were committed to reaching the poor eventually. They had acheived proof-of-concept and were looking to scale up. Many used technology to solve problems.

Here is a bit of information about each of the innovations showcased—and questions posed from the audience.

Axio Biosolutions, pitched by Leo Mavely Axio Biosolutions has developed an emergency haemostat to control profuse bleeding from wounds or cuts caused by accidents. This can save lives during the golden hour, the first hour post an accident, considered most critical. Portable for use by frontline workers or paramedics, the product is well suited for rural settings where access to a health facility is difficult. The company plans to scale up to produce one million pieces per annum with a turnover of Rs.500 million.

When questioned by the audience about the product’s affordability, Mr. Mavely said the current cost per piece is Rs.400 but they plan to bring down the costs to the range of Rs.150-100 making it an affordable, essential part of every emergency first-aid kit. About competition from large pharma companies like Cipla/Ranbaxy, Mr. Mavely answered that he had an agreement with an existing pharma company already.

My take: Axio presents a simple, clear value proposition, solving a critical need. The maturity of the management team seems to indicate the company will see greater horizons!

PharmaSecure, pitched by Nathan Sigworth

PharmaSecure offers a range of web and mobile based solutions that prevent the use of counterfeit medicines, empowering consumers to identify if their medicines are genuine or fake. Their pioneer solution is a mobile service through which a user can SMS to a unique code printed on the medicine strip and instantly know if the medicine is genuine (featured here on CHMI earlier).

Nathan faced tough questions from the audience. Who, they asked, would pay for this service? PharmaSecure currently charges pharma companies, who have an interest to ensure their medicines are not being faked. There is still a small increase in price to the consumer.

Nathan also responded promptly to questions about consumer awareness about their service and counter attempts break their system. He stated each of their codes are unique numbers which are system generated, making them difficult to fake.

My take: It’s definitely a great product, but it needs more marketing. It may have the potential to grow rapidly.

ERC Eye Care, pitched by Dr. Parveez Ubed

Their inspiration is the Aravind Eye Care model, and they aim to become the Aravind of the East, since they operate in Assam. Targeting low income consumers with a hub and spokes model, ERC covers the entire chain from community to hospital; they currently run two vision centres, one clinic and one hospital. Patients are screened through vision centres and access surgical treatment at the hospital at affordable costs. Their clear value-addition is providing surgical care in a state with severe shortage of trained ophthalmologists.There is more about this company on the CHMI site.

Dr. Parveez said the public system does little for the poor. He was confident of their growth and financial returns too, stating he could bring down costs of surgeries further.

My take: ERC offers much needed solution in this geography. Bring an ‘Aravind’ fan myself, I can barely question any enterprise following suit. Dr. Parveez’s clarity and drive are positive indicators of their potential.

Banka BioLoo, pitched by Namita Banka

Banka BioLoo is commercializing a unique technology developed by Defence Research and Development Organization to provide safe, environment friendly toilets. Their technology converts human waste to recyclable water and uses bio-tanks instead of the traditional septic tanks, which can contaminate ground water. They have done several installations across India and are also working with Indian Railways. Their solution is ideal for congested slums and rural settings.

Because of the price point (Rs. 1.5 to 10 lakhs), the BioLoo didn’t look, at the moment, as a market solution for BoP. The audience asked about whether people would want to use recycled water in kitchens, Namita said the water we currently use is what is actually contaminated!

My take: She was my favourite presenter—also, she was the only woman contestant! She is to be commended for foraying into a space ignored by markets and governments. Her presentation was clear and confident.

Kanungo Institute of Diabetes Specialties (KIDS), pitched by Dr.Alok Kanungo KIDS provides comprehensive diabetes care to patients in Odisha, including preventive care and awareness on managing diabetes, to prevent common, associated complications like failure of heart, kidney, feet, etc. They are committed to provide timely care and prevent diabetes complications. They run a 100-bed hospital and conduct regular education and awareness campaigns in rural communities.

When questioned on their singular focus on diabetes, Dr.Kanungo said most other diseases are addressed by others. There is shortage of diabetologists in Odisha that is compounded by a lack of capacity within existing providers, which they also address.

My take: A sincere and commendable attempt, a model that is needed urgently to address lifestyle diseases. Their focus on preventing allied complications due to diabetes distinguishes them as a true social enterprise.