As India witnesses a surge of healthcare startups offering innovative services both to patients and healthcare providers, startup incubators are focussing on coaching innovators to not only develop products that solve healthcare gaps but also train them to raise growth capital. iCreate is one such institute that aspires to be a force to reckon with for entrepreneurship in the healthcare space. Anupam Jalote, CEO, iCreate shares his strategy and vision with Raelene Kambli
What was the founding vision of iCreate, and how is it being realised ?
iCreate is an autonomous centre, founded by the then CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. It has been set up for the sole purpose of promoting and facilitating enterprise. The way IIT is well known for engineering and IIM for management, iCreate aspires to be a force to reckon with for entrepreneurship.
iCreate is much more than an incubator or an institution. At iCreate, an innovator can come in with an idea, and receive technical help, labs and space and money with which to create a prototype. Those with prototypes are helped with visualising and understanding their customers and creating marketing penetrating strategies as well as high growth business plans. They are then encouraged to revenue generation and raising growth capital.
iCreate supports idea to prototype, prototype to proof of concept, and then onwards to market penetration and commercial scale up. It is sector-agnostic, but its thrust areas are emerging tech: AI, ML, IoT, absorption spectrometry, robotics, EVs, energy storage, agri-tech, FinTech etc. to solve the developmental needs of India.
Not being an academic institute is a powerful strength of iCreate – enabling it to collaborate with the best knowledge workers in the world, and therefore attract bright talent from all over the country and outside, to create tech innovation driven solutions that help take India forward.
Over the past five years of its existence, iCreate has been able to create an enviable track record of creating successful startups that have already entered the market, are generating revenue, employing people and raising growth capital from angel investors as well as venture capitalists.
Where do you see the healthcare startup culture moving in the next 5-10 years?
There are many different directions that tech innovators in the healthcare space are taking. At iCreate we are focussing on devices for early disease detection. More specifically on the use of absorption spectroscopy on various bodily fluids by low cost handheld devices that can give warning of early onset of several diseases.
This will enable a wide spread of diagnostics facilities into rural and peri-urban areas that currently are underserved and it also allows for very wide spread data capture that will enable better informed decision making by the health care professionals and policy makers.
Many startups are already working on products that are able to map early detection of diseases, we could definitely need more such innovations. We are also seeing some unique innovations within the space of ayurveda, prosthetics, gene therapy and related areas.I believe, that the rise in healthcare tech will also result in pharma and healthcare companies loosening their purse strings to encourage more activities within R&D, innovations and prototyping so that India can give new devices and solutions to the world, rather than taking. We can safely assume that the next 5-10 years will see an accelerated growth towards newer healthcare initiatives.
What are the key challenges faced by healthcare startups in India and how would you bridge the gap?
Within the healthcare sector specifically, startups are challenged by the large fragmented population of the country. Medical records are very often scattered and this makes it very difficult to understand and record a patient’s medical history.
The long developmental cycles means that in this space, it takes a lot of time, effort and money to develop new products, and precisely due to this reason, early stage funding is not easy to attract.
For many startups, just the cost involved may deter them from innovating.
One constant challenge seen – be it within the healthcare sector or any other sector is the lack of business fundamentals. While they may be excellent innovators, many of them falter when it comes to customer orientation and the basics of running a successful business. This often leads to businesses not scaling sustainably.
Many startups also falter as they do not have access to guides or mentors or experienced healthcare professionals who can expose novice entrepreneurs to newer avenues, ideas and approaches of tacking a certain situation.
iCreate realises these gaps and aims to bridge these gaps by offering incubation wherein startups have access to world class infrastructure, state-of-the-art equipment to help further their innovations, access to well-known industry experts within the healthcare and the medical, access to investors who can help address funding requirements.
With access to industry leaders, academicians, investors and seasoned entrepreneurs, startups can discuss challenges faced on a case to case basis and accordingly find solutions to address these challenges.
To address these challenges, at a broader macro level, companies need to mobilise their CSR spends on driving research, innovations and prototyping wherein startups are more encouraged to innovate. We must work towards awareness and confidence building amongst startups that they are not alone in their journey and they have access to some of India’s brightest minds in the healthcare space.
Looking more broadly, what are the biggest opportunities and obstacles you see for innovation in the Indian healthcare environment?
We have a very strong base of tech innovators that is comfortable with both hardware as well as software – and it is the combination of both, along with Big Data Analytics that is the need of the hour in driving new innovations in this space.
That will allow us to leverage another big strength – our huge demand base – the population of India.
For any company in the healthcare sector, India’s market size is a huge opportunity. The population’s demand for accessible, affordable, effective and safe healthcare environment is higher than many other countries thus offering any startup a huge audience base.
The other opportunity for startups is the rapid pace at which technology is developing. If companies are able to synergise their solutions with emerging technology such as Blockchain, IoT, ML, AI, many challenges within the sector could be addressed thus widening the opportunity for Indian healthcare startups to flourish.
How important it is to come up with a blueprint that encourages research and innovation in healthcare? What partnerships do you have with academic and research institutions in this regard?
One of our biggest strengths is the fact that we are not an academic institution, and therefore we are open to partnering with innovators across the globe. That is why, over the past years, iCreate has established partnerships with 31 institutions such as leading technology companies, industry body associations, investors, international universities and academic institutions and other incubators.
Some of our partnerships include with companies and organisations like Cisco, US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), Invest India, Pears Program for Global Innovation, Piramal Sarvajal, Dassult Systems Solid Works Corporation, FICCI, University Houston(UH) ,Texas, BootUP Ventures, Impact Centre, University of Toronto, iNDEXTb Aqwise, Biofeed, IIT Gandhinagar, Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), Technion, Gujarat Technological University(GTU), Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC), GVFL (formerly Gujarat Venture Finance Limited), Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology, Ranchi (CIPET RanchiYoung Indians(Yi) amongst others.
How is the entrepreneurial culture at iCreate different from others?
When you set up an institute to be the IIT / IIM for startups, the levers that drive it forward also become different. This is an institute that is in no hurry to ‘just do numbers’ and demonstrate throughout. We do the hard work and heavy lifting needed to support and nurture a project till it becomes a successful revenue and profit generating organisation. That is why we have a ‘High Touch’ model – we spend a lot of time supporting projects, and continue to support them even after they have spun off and are out in the open market.
At iCreate, we offer entrepreneurs a blend of creativity, innovation, engineering, product design and leverages emerging technologies to develop out-of-the-box applications. We handhold our projects in areas such as prototyping, market access, go-to-market strategy, funding, operations etc. At the same time, our projects also have access to industry leaders, investors, academicians, government, researchers who can advise them on various aspects of building a business.
Entrepreneurs at the iCreate campus have access to fully furnished office rooms, classrooms, a 500 seater auditorium and two seminar halls, conference rooms for board meetings, meeting rooms for brainstorming sessions, laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, Student Idea Lab and project rooms.With these offerings and infrastructure facilities, the centre aims to seed a new ethos wherein people will understand and encourage entrepreneurship as a preferred career option.
Which healthcare startups have graduated from iCreate so far?
While there are several very exciting projects that are being incubated at iCreate, let me share with you details of three of our healthcare startups. Founded by Shilpa Malik, Bioscan Research has developed a hand-held scanner that can detect and pinpoint the location of a haemorrhage in just two minutes. Their innovation is a low cost, medical device for early detection of intracranial bleeding to save lives and screening in the fastest way.
The product is a non-invasive screening tool for quick on-site scan that minimises the loss of waiting time. Early detection of traumatic brain injury (TBI) directly and/or indirectly can save more than two million people in India, who are caused by accidents, falls, violence, or natural calamities. Several investment organisations have recognised Bioscan’s efforts and the company has won several awards such as the Indo-Israel Innovation Challenge, Starhealth 2017, Lufthansa Runway to Success, Lufthansa Runway to Success Top 4 startups, AICTE Canada India Accelerator Program, Qualcomm Design Challenge, Top 47 Product Innovations in Design Impact Awards amongst many others.
Our other project, Purple Docs founded by Deepak Gupta is a health record management company that digitally preserves vital records which are retrievable within few seconds. A cloud-based software solution that is user friendly, saves time and simple to use. One can easily access records, scans, MRI, X-rays, reports, from anywhere and reduces operating expenses. PurpleDocs safeguards all the physical and electronic records related to hospital operations, patient records etc. It also helps comply with the MCI rule that says that the patient record needs to be reserved for up to seven years and a hospital should be able to produce it within 72 hours if the patient demands, hence minimising litigation risks of the hospitals.
Founded by Abhin Kumar and Cameron Norris, Social Hardware is designing a low cost, fully-functioning, life-like prosthetics for amputees from low-income and rural communities. Their aim is to maximise the product lifespan for amputees from low-income and rural communities. Their products are made of silicone rubber prosthetic hands that are UV, dust, stain, and water resistant. Social Hardware has been successfully competing in many competitions including Enable Makeathon Finalist 2015; Top 3000 smart fifty solution – 2018; CII- Healthcare and medical sector finalist presenters – 2018 and Design Impact awards top 49 2018. To ensure that amputees receive the necessary support they need, Social Hardware has also set up disability rehabilitation programmes with The Association of People with Disabilities and Jaipur Foot to provide amputees from rural communities with access to the physiotherapy and training required to effectively utilise a prosthetic hand in daily life.
What kinds of IP are being created by your healthcare startups?
From our healthcare startups cohort, our projects Bioscan and Social Hardware have IPs that are being created and have been filed for.
What are your recommendations for Indian policymakers to make business easier for incubators, accelerators, investors, researchers, and startups in India?
There has been a very strong momentum built up in the innovation and startup space in the recent years. This is reflected by not only the quality but also the quantity of applicants.
However, there is still a huge, unmet need for median funding to be given – in the Rs 30 to Rs 75 lakh band, for pre-revenue starts as money to support early market penetration and growth. This money is very hard to come by, and is in our opinion the single factor that will have the largest positive impact on the number of successful innovations entering the Indian market.