After the global community was impacted by the severe pandemic the importance of healthcare and the healthcare IT sector have felt like never before. There have been many healthcare startups who have come across and are doing quite well. In recent years we have seen healthcare becoming an integral part of the Indian business ecosystem. There are successful entrepreneurs who are adding valuable contributions to different economies around the world. We at Medicircle, a healthcare media company, are interviewing healthcare CEOs to know more about their contribution and journey. We aim to inspire the younger generation with recent facts and observations of the healthcare industry.
Subir Batra is a seasoned professional and entrepreneur with a wealth of domestic and international experience. He has held senior management positions in both consulting and industry. Having the right mix of strategy and operational experience, he has advised large Indian and multi-national companies on their strategic initiatives, sales and distribution set-ups, and operational efficiencies. As an entrepreneur, he has set up multiple companies in the healthcare space. He is an alumnus of BITS Pilani and IIM Bangalore. He is attached with the SafeOps Surgical and Surgical Disposables and Docuses Healthcare India.
Challenges of healthcare are somewhere linked to each other
Subir says, "All healthcare challenges are linked somewhere. By solving one you end up solving the others as well. The primary reason why this problem exists in India is the supply shortage. In other sectors, supply always matches up to the demand. Demand, in turn, reduces the price and improving the quality, solving the problem of affordability. Once we tackle the problem of supply in healthcare, every other problem will get solved."
Subir adds, "We have 1 doctor for 10,000 people, where the world average is 1 doctor for 1,500 people. India is the most populous country in the world. The reason is we don't have enough colleges, medical seats which restrict the number of doctors we produce. For higher education, there is very little availability which restricts the supply. This challenge is more of a government challenge where they need to increase the number of medical colleges."
Indian doctors going abroad
Subir expresses, "India is the only country in the world that takes pride in sending its doctors abroad. India is sending its best people for the best organizations in the best countries. This is not the case with other countries. China sends its people abroad and then brings them back. On the contrary, India lobbies the US to give Indian students extended visas, green cards, and even citizenship. This puzzles me, why do we want to send our best abroad? Instead, why don't we send our services that are run by people in India? The fraction that comes back, does well here too."
Fusion of traditional system of medicine with the modern system
Subir talks, "When we talk about availability, the responsibility should be to provide incentives to the private sector to reach out to people or the government should reach out to people. We have alternative medicine in terms of homeopathy, ayurvedic and more. Why don’t we promote them? Why do we have such strong resistance to alternative medicine within the Indian medical fraternity? In many cases, alternative medicine has been more effective than allopathic medicine. Why don't we train alternative medicine practitioners in allopathy? The rural and small-town doctors aren't trained in modern medicine. Most of them are homeopathy practitioners administering allopathy medicines. We can train them by lending diploma courses or some sort of interventional training. Such things are happening, we just need to equip them better."
Subir adds, "The primary or basic medicine being too complicated is a myth. They aren't. With good training, people will pick up the basics. The goal is to not bring them to a tertiary level but we can certainly bring them to primary. The way to do this is through training and mentorship. The best doctors don't want to go to the village or small town. If doctors don't want to go to the small town, why can’t they train those people who are practicing there? Mentorship can help them. The doctor can help in training village-level practitioners. Even an hour or two per week would suffice. On the other hand, a village-level practitioner would love to connect with a city doctor to learn the required skill. In a year or two, you will have many well-trained doctors, thereby solving the issue of limited doctors. The solutions are available if we take efforts."
Unfolding the Career experience
Subir speaks, “I have always been in consultancy and later lost the spark in my previous sector of finance. Although having many options in finance, I believed it didn't impact people as much. That nudged me into healthcare. My first company SafeOps Surgical Limited delivered surgical disposables. While working for it, I noticed many inefficiencies in the healthcare sector. That pushed me to cater to the problems faced by the people. That's where the problem of affordability and accessibility came into the limelight. I wanted to make the tools that are accessible to a doctor outside the city. The biggest cost factor to a hospital, after manpower, is procurement. So, I decided to tackle that. This in totality brings the cost of healthcare down and helps with affordability."
Explaining Medical Supply chain
Explaining the medical supply chain, Subir says, "In the supply chain we want to send the product to the hospital in the best possible way, in the fastest possible time and at the lowest possible cost. Traditionally, India has a multi-layered supply chain. Usually, companies take their products to a super-distributor then to a dealer, who goes to a sub-dealer and then to the hospital. If it's a big hospital they get their products directly from the manufacturer but here there are multiple inefficiencies. The other way inefficiency is observed within the hospital is because the procurement function of the hospital is not evolved enough. They have no scientific method to predict which product to order, how much inventory of the product to keep and how to stop the amount of breakage, expiry."
Subir's method of dealing is to go directly to the doctor and let him choose how one would choose on an e-commerce site. For unexpected urgent needs, we are trying distant models and the other one is close to you. To do so one needs to get inside the hospital and help them to understand and improve purchases and orders. Using scientific methods for such predictions helps to reduce inefficiency. It becomes a more frictionless process.
On India's GDP allocation in Healthcare
Subir voices "India's public spending in healthcare is 2-3%, private spending is 10-12%. Many people in India don't go to the doctor because they don't know if it would be affordable. Even with the AYUSH ministry, many people don't want to travel 300 KM to take their relatives for free surgery. They would still be paying to provide shelter and other needs. The answer would be to increase spending on healthcare. So, either help them, get cash to spend on healthcare or like other countries provide them with healthcare cards or with insurance."
Valuable Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
For future entrepreneurs, Subir advises, "Healthcare is an excellent field of choice. Most people start a business because they want to make a difference. Healthcare and education remain the most influential sectors. Entrepreneurs entering these sectors should know that they are in it for the long haul. Things would turn out not so fast. Even I have faced resistance initially. But you will make the difference in the end."
(Edited by Renu Gupta)