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The untimely death of 7-year-old girl inspired this startup to start e-clinics in villages

The untimely death of 7-year-old girl inspired this startup to start e-clinics in villages
  • DigiQure is a telemedicine-based healthcare startup providing essential healthcare services to the rural population.
  • The Bhopal-based startup was founded by three NIT-Bhopal alumni.
  • The founders struck a deal for a lower valuation — a decision that sharks Anupam Mittal and Peyush Bansals didn’t agree with at all.
Despite advancements in the medical field, rural India continues to struggle under the weight of inadequate medical service. DigiQure, the latest startup to appear on Shark Tank India S2, aims to tackle this problem.

Founded by three NIT-Bhopal graduates in 2020, DigiQure is a Bhopal-based healthcare startup. It establishes telemedicine-based e-clinics where ‘caregivers’ ie. trained healthcare workers facilitate video consultations with specialist doctors. It also offers digital prescriptions, medicines, lab test services, and required referrals to partner hospitals for secondary care.

Akanksh Tandon, one of the founders, pitched DigiQure on the show and received multiple offers from the sharks. Shaadi.com founder Anupam Mittal remarked that in order to bring a change, the business needs a non-traditional approach to healthcare.

Inspired by a childhood tragedy

Tandon grew up in a village in Bhopal. He saw firsthand how people from rural areas lost their lives to preventable healthcare conditions when his house help’s young daughter succumbed to diarrhea. He was seven at the time.

“We (Tandon and the child) were good friends and often played together. After I returned from visiting my grandmother, I got to know the house help’s child was no more. She (the child) suffered from diarrhea and her mother didn’t have enough financial resources to go to the city for treatment,” shared Tandon.

After graduating with a B.Tech degree in electronics and communication engineering from NIT-Bhopal, Tandon worked with BHEL, but never forgot the incident.

“I had a feeling that I was part of the crowd (at BHEL). I wanted to do something that would positively impact the lives of millions. No one in my family ever had a business — for us (his family), a job, especially a government job, is the peak,” shared Tandon.

Determined to bring about a change, Tandon got in touch with two of his batchmates from NIT and founded DigiQure. The other co-founders are Saket Asati and Ankur Chourasia. All three founders left their jobs, as they didn’t want a fallback option. They believed the problem they aimed to solve couldn’t be pursued as a side hustle.

Apart from consultation, lab services, and medicines, DigiQure also offers a subscription-based Saksham card costing ₹1 per day, through which customers can avail free consultations at e-clinics. Saksham card was launched in January 2022 and had 1,800 subscriptions at the time of appearing on the show.

At present, DigiQure has ten working e-clinics in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It plans to expand into North-East India with Mizoram. DigiQure doesn’t charge commissions from partner hospitals for consultations. Rather, it charges hospitals anywhere between ₹1.5 lakh to ₹2 lakh for marketing them and arranging medical camps.

From January-September 2022 the startup generated a revenue of ₹12.2 lakh. Tandon also shared that the startup’s most mature outlet has monthly sales worth ₹80,000.

The founders also run a tech company IOTA Informatics, which worked on DigiQure. IOTA also takes on tech-based projects for other companies. DigiQure also has an alliance with two other healthcare startups that appeared on Shark Tank India — AyuSynk and Spandan.

Disrupting the traditional healthcare business

Though impressed by the startup’s vision, Aman Gupta, co-founder of boAt backed out from investing in it, stating that while it was a great service to support, it’s not an investable business.

Sugar Cosmetics’ co-founder Vineeta Singh and Emcure Pharmaceuticals’ executive director Namita Thapar, though, made a joint deal — ₹40 lakh for 20% equity, which valued the company at ₹2 crore. But on the condition that IOTA and DigiQure are merged into one company.

Meanwhile, Peyush Bansal, co-founder of Lenskart.com, also made an offer of ₹1 crore for 25% equity, valuing the company at ₹4 crore. He too asked Tandon to merge the two companies — IOTA and DigiQure.

On hearing Bansal’s offer, Thapar immediately revised their offer — ₹40 lakh for 15% equity. Bansal, though, claimed that the ‘disruption’ that Tandon wanted to bring didn’t need healthcare expertise (Thapar’s forte) but rather technology and a non-linear approach.

At the same time, Mittal also made an offer, but with multiple conditions. He asked Tandon to merge the two companies, change the name of the business to Geeta (inspired by the name of the child), and not increase the number of clinics till the product was fit for the market. All this for an investment of ₹1 crore for 10% equity. This valued the company at ₹10 crore.

Tandon requested Namita to join in for 10% equity instead, at which point Singh backed out but Thapar agreed. Ultimately, the deal was finalized with Thapar investing ₹40 lakh for 10% equity, valuing the company at ₹4 crore.

Both Mittal and Bansal believed that it was the wrong decision as this would push DigiQure into the field of traditional healthcare.

“This is a big mistake. This will not disrupt healthcare… by partnering with a medical firm, they’ve killed their business. The worst decision of their life, I’m so sad for them,” remarked Bansal, after the founders left.

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