From being an aspirant startup destination, India soon became an emergent hub and today is the third largest startup ecosystem in the world. According to Mr Amit Dixit, Senior Managing Director, Blackstone India, outside the US and Europe, India is the number one private capital investment destination on Blacktone’s priority list, even ahead of China. Flipkart, Ola, Zomato, Practo and Paytm are some of the leading unicorns that are part of the thriving Indian startup story. Concerning government initiatives, India has seen immense solidification, which has paved the way for a strong foundation of a global startup hub. Indian startup topography is very vibrant as seen by the number of companies founded here. In some of the sectors, the number of startups founded in India is close to the number of businesses founded globally. As compared to India, the average investment per round in a startup is higher globally, but this difference is marginal. A primary concern would be the minimal proportion of startups that get funded in India, though this will reach comparable levels to the world as the Indian startup ecosystem matures. With this scenario as a backdrop, Medmonks brings to light its journey as a startup in India.
India is witnessing a massive upsurge in its geopolitical position. With its newly attained status as an accelerating dynamic economy clubbed with its growing infrastructure, it has an ecosystem for providing the solution to various global problems. India plays a pivot role as a leading medical tourism destination, providing access to quality healthcare. With the rising global burden of diseases, accounting for nearly 36 million deaths annually, India is seen as a healthcare provider bridging the supply and demand gap. On the ground, a glaring problem remained – How would the global patient feel empowered to make the right choice, of the right doctor, the right hospital, the correct location at the best price. Realising the magnitude of the problem and the scope of a solution, we decided to quit our jobs and start the platform called ‘Medmonks’. What gave us the courage to take this leap of faith, was the conviction, that we have it in us to solve the problem and facilitate global citizens make right health care choices while accessing quality healthcare. The solution was lucid, and we could visualise how it would help solve the problem at hand. Picking the right problem, asking the right question and being clear in the vision is very important as you begin. This will help you place the bricks rightly as you construct the business and help traverse the multi-dimensional challenges your venture might face.
India – the changed landscape
We started Medmonks in 2015 and since then have realised how fast the investment scene in India has changed and for the better. When we started, the stage was being set for ease of doing business through Make in India, Startup India and similar government initiatives. Modi had begun his sojourn of drawing India as the ultimate destination for foreign investment and industrial and services growth. However, to bear fruit from these seeds more time was required. With the absence of the results of these initiatives that we witness in today’s ecosystem, we faced various challenges. It was akin to driving a manual transmission car when today’s entrepreneur gets to pick an automatic transmission machine. The registration of the company and getting the support of professional services like accounting and legal were burdensome, and so were the regulatory requirements. The statutory requirements still exist, but there is greater clarity and awareness on the ground. Initially, we were advised to register as Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), with the expectation for an easy conversion into a Private Limited Company (Pvt Ltd), a year later. Further validation of your company under Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) was extremely challenging. Today things are much more straightforward. DIPP has reduced the regulatory requirements to register as a Pvt Ltd entity and also provided the policy direction and much-needed directory of certified professional services through IPR lawyers, legal cells, company secretaries and accounting professionals. You can now get a quick validation as a Startup through DIPP in two days, providing numerous tax exemptions and benefits. In the world of an entrepreneur, this single window concept ensures speedy completion of regulatory formalities and allows the founders to get down to business instantly. Though there is still a lot that Modi’s team is doing to make India a business-friendly destination, we have a long way to have comparable processes to Singapore. Yet we have from instead of the convoluted route we had to follow to get simplest things in order. A startup today can easily expect their journey to be fast-tracked by at least six months in comparison to ours.
The not so straightforward strategic path of a startup
We had heard it from enough entrepreneurs that their journey had lots of twists and turns, but nothing prepares you until you experience it. Simply put, ‘A startup happens to you’. It tests you of your strengths, your limits, your patience and finally when you overcome all challenges; it’s time to reap the results. Our strategic journey parallels a similar course, not that our challenges are behind us but the journey now comes with a compass and a map. As we started up in the period before the Startup India movement came to fore, we struggled to get ready access to investors. Hence, we ‘Bootstrapped’. In our business, this meant a strategy driven by offline marketing and nurturing a local network in countries to help the patients get right treatment options. Had we started in today’s era with presence of Fund of Funds for Startups and an investment-friendly landscape, we would have gone predominantly digital and launched our product much sooner. All in all, a start-ups strategy changes a lot according to the ecosystem, be it funding scenario or customer behaviour or market readiness and the firm should be prepared and resilient for it.
The most significant challenge we faced as a health-tech startup
All three of us come from the healthcare industry. That was the natural part in our startup. The tricky bit was technology. Since we did not have a CTO, we ensured a veteran Tech Advisor watched our back as we outsourced the technology requirements. The lack of a CTO on deck turned out to be a missing piece yet we moved forward. We realised the need of having a technology team in-house was critical to experiment with new product features, faster bug resolution and a crisper user experience. We strongly feel if you have a tech offering an in-house team can only do justice to it and ensure your customer wins every time they use your product. Outsourcing so far has only given us a refined minimum viable product.
The other major challenge for us was putting a structure in place to make our idea a reality. Every start-up faces this, and we were no exception as the three of us worked diligently in silos of operations, marketing, finance and strategy. We learnt early on that silos are good at compartmentalization and work great in large corporates like ones we worked for in the past but are a formula for suicide in a nimble startup. Communication is key and what is more critical is to know how to practically weave this in to your startup. Be it productivity suites, team management apps or sync services one needs to find their fit, but our advice is to not discount good old huddles, they work wonders if we know what we are doing. At a personal level, it will stretch you and challenge yourself, and you need to be flexible to take on anything that comes your way individually and as a team. While you will try to silo roles, it is important to be hands-on and ready for any task. While you chart your journey, you will realise that it is the mindset that will evolve.
When we got funded
The funding brings with it a validation of your idea. It’s a pat on the back for your endeavour, but it marks the start of the race. A race that you have been preparing and warming up for. Funding made us more target based and result oriented. While it gave us the comfort of capital and allowed us to invest in various strategic spaces like marketing, product development, it also made our results more accountable. The one thing which strikes us in this journey is the timing of investment. You should know when you need money and how much of it is required. Jumping the gun, may not give you the results if you have not thought through the growth trajectory.
We may be one of the many fish who have described this to you, but despite the pivots of a startup journey, it has given us far more satisfaction than anything else we ever ventured on. It has given us the power to realise the creative force of converting vision into reality and even more so, into an actual solution for a global problem.