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Digital technologies are the backbone of delivering good diagnostic services to our customers: Satkam Divya

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E-diagnostics has the potential for positively disrupting the Indian diagnostic sector, opines Satkam Divya, CEO, KlinicApp. In a conversation with Raelene Kambli, he explains his vision and the current opportunities for such a concept

What is your opinion on the advances in the Indian diagnostic industry?

India is experiencing a great shift in technology adoption. With tech-enabled platforms coming in to provide to ease in day-to-day life issues and also provide better service in the on-demand space; things have really changed in the recent past. Diagnostic industry is also not untouched with this change and have seen advancements in these areas. Some of these advances include: core diagnostic techniques in early detection and accurate detections of wider variety of diseases; and service delivery to increase accessibility and give customers a better service and control on taking care of their health. With advancement in early detection and new diagnostic techniques, diseases can be caught early and accurately which increase the survival rates and also new techniques and rapid testing drastically reduces turn around times for results and dependency on blood by relying on other bodily fluid as well. Traditionally, healthcare accessibility has been a challenge for a country as diverse as India but start-ups working in this area are making it more accessible to a larger population. Also, with so much thought being spent on the accessibility, the pricing have also been brought down considerably to help a wider population get tested at affordable rates.

How do you see digital technologies shaping the diagnostic sector?

Digital technologies are the backbone of delivering good diagnostic services to our customers. Now online bookings are increasing bring diagnostics at home, removing the need of a collection centre altogether. Efficient management of a fleet of phlebotomists collecting blood samples, live tracking of the temperatures at which the samples are kept during transport and uniquely connected testing process so that reports are not mixed up, these all operations are enabled by digital technologies. Also reporting has seen a lot of changes from hand written to PDF to interactive reports. Also, a major shift has been in the area of awareness and self-help. People like to study and improve their knowledge on health-related issues. With digital content discovery of these self-help and awareness material has increased. A lot of our users choose preventive health packages as they want to take charge of their health earlier, this is due to increase awareness among youth. Another important aspect is the 24-7 presence, which being a digital platform helps us achieve, our customer can book test anytime, can connect with us anytime, can also access their reports which are saved in their profiles on app and web. This is very relevant to chronic patients who need all their reports in one place. Our proprietary platform helps us deliver these propositions to our customers.

Tell us about your rational behind bringing in a concept of an e-diagnostic platform?

It was a decision which I took after very closely experiencing this industry. My sister and father-in-law underwent kidney transplant within a spread of two years. There are a lot of tests involved both before and after the transplant; so diagnostic tests had become a routine thing for us. But, my experience with getting the tests done were very inconsistent. Be it variable prices at different POS of same brand, sample collection experience, phlebotomist who visits for sample collection. The whole system was just so broken and not customer centric. We wanted to be always present for our customer so that they can always connect with us to book test, see reports and give feedback, being an e-diagnostic service provider helped us achieve this. Today, people research online to know more about their health issues and also about diagnostic tests. They check the purpose, availability and pricing of these tests before booking them, so it was important for us to position ourselves in a way that we are able to resonate more with our customers. You really can expect your customers to walk upto your collection centres and wait for their turn in today’s time. Things have become ‘on demand’ and ‘at home’ now a days.

How does your model work?

We keep customer experience at the centre of our universe and design all our processes around it. When I was thinking about starting KlinicApp, I visited a lot of labs to know how they operate. Most of them were only 20-30 per cent utilised. So, this got me thinking that capacity is not the issue, service delivery is. Right from the start we focussed on two things: listening actively to our customers and analysing data to answer a lot of questions for us scientifically. These two things later helped us become who we are today. As an e-diagnostic company, we serve our customers end to end i.e. we design the products which includes tests and packages, we decide the pricing, we take the customer booking and our team takes care of the post sales support. At no point customers need to call any external entity to get their test done. At the moment, we are outsourcing our tests to high quality labs because as I said earlier, capacity was not an issue. We operate via distributed lab capacities which help us reach more geographies. For sample collection, we use our fleet of phlebotomists are hired and trained by us to give a good sample collection experience. Our automated process which has deep technology integrations with our labs help us seamlessly deliver customer reports on time accurately. So we never leave our customer high and dry.

Tell us about your financial performance so far? How much funds have you raised in the last three years and how have you utilised them?

We have a very stellar performance for a start-up that is so young. Our revenue till date is ` 13 crore, serving almost ` 1 lakh customers and doing more than six million tests. We have largely been profitable and have burned only about ` 1 crore to achieve this revenue.

How is this model better than a brick and mortar model?

Brick and mortar model has served so well for so many years but increasingly agile companies are doing away with them for one reason: it is not the most efficient use of funds. Relying on this model, companies have invested deeply in building lab facilities and collection centres as well as have amassed enormous assets which are under-utilised. Also, to source customer they have to work via franchisees. Also, it is very difficult to drive new customer engagement initiatives through them as there is a resistance to change the way they deal with customers. Along with this they don’t want to take the additional cost burden. This whole thing makes this model very uninteresting and bulky. We have ‘customer first’ approach and we don’t source customer via franchisees or trade. We source our customers online or organically thereby in the absence of any middleman, we are 40 per cent cheaper. This is how we bring down the prices as there are only two parties involved: customers and us. This is also to the benefit of ecosystem as we are putting to use the underutilised capacities. Also, rolling out any new initiatives or technologies becomes easier as we control the fleet. Needless to say it saves a lot of costs in terms of having no collection centre as all of our collection happens at customer’s home.

How do you ensure that the labs you tie-up with follow highest quality standards?

We have a very stringent lab onboarding process and we work with very handful of high quality labs. We do this for two reasons; first being availability of sufficient capacity at these labs and second we don’t want to overlook quality by stretching us thin with managing multiple labs. The process typically begins with finding qualified labs with certifications like NABL, ISO and CAP. This is followed by a personal visit cum inspection of the facility. We have a long list of stringent SOPs which a lab has to agree before on-boarding. Our SOPs broadly covers labelling, handling, processing and reporting of a sample along with instruments and devices check-ups. Our SOP additionally also covers record management for proper storage of the samples so that it can be retested again if required within a stipulated time. We also have SOPs for keeping the digital records of the reports and instances of processing. After on-boarding also we routinely visit these facilities to check and inspect on their adherence to our SOP. We also look for technology capability available with our potential lab partners, as our processes are highly tech driven. In some cases, we also help them achieve these technological capabilities.

How many diagnostic centres have you tied up with?

We have tied up with 10 diagnostic labs all of them are highly certified like NABL, ISO and CAP. They provide us with good coverage geographically.

In five years’ time, how do you see your company shaping the diagnostic business model in India?

The next five years are going to be very exciting for us. We are actively working on cutting edge technologies in building predictive models using AI to help customers know how susceptible are they to contracting lifestyle related disorders like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, asthma and many more such diseases based on age, gender, location, lifestyle choices and many more intelligent aspects affecting overall health. We are also working on service delivery solutions to have consistent and scalable model of delivering great experience to our customers along with uncompromising focus on sample handling and processing. Our focus on continuously working quality, affordability and accessibility will definitely motivate others to come up with creative ways to find and solve customer’s concerns regarding diagnostics.

Any immediate plans for expansion?

We plan to strengthen our phlebotomist fleet and enter newer geographies. Also we’ll add a few labs to maintain the distributed lab structure.

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