An Interview with Saurabh Uboweja, Founder Managing Partner, BOD Consulting and Co-Founder, Credihealth
The National Chanakya Award winning entrepreneur discusses the growing need for digital health- care in the midst of a pandemic, the road ahead for companies and his start-up experience
Credihealth provides a new age technological prowess to the practice of seeking medical help. As the company website says, the startup is all about bringing transparency in the Indian healthcare sector. As its co-founder, what inspired you to start it?
Credihealth was created to transform how tertiary care is delivered in India. Tertiary care is a specialized consultative health care, usually for inpatients and on referral from a primary or secondary health professional.
When patients need any form of advanced medical investigation and treatment, such as life-saving surgeries, they have absolutely no source of credible information or guidance on which doctor or hospital to approach, how to compare their options, how to plan for the treatment and how much they need to budget for it. Even if they end up at a good hospital, it is a challenge to navigate the in-hospital processes for most patients and their caregivers. As a result, they end up spending 30-60% more on treatment than what they should for a treatment that may unfortunately not work for them. If this expense runs in lakhs, it can be devastating for patients and their families as it eats into their life time savings. When we started the company in 2013, just a little over 15% Indians had a health insurance. You can imagine the plight of 85% Indians who either don’t have access to trustworthy advanced care or they stand to lose whatever little they have in terms of their savings and assets for medical treatments.
Credihealth is all about enabling reliable, affordable and convenient healthcare to patients in India, ensuring an exceptionally high quality patient experience throughout the treatment journey. I can say that we have lived this mission every day and have become the largest such platform in India today.
Coronavirus brought a paradox of providing healthcare, something which traditionally involves extensive physical contact, with the need for social distancing. Creative solutions like organising medical appointments through the internet will now lead the path, where Credihealth fits perfectly. What do you think it means for the company and the digital healthcare industry in the bigger picture?
Telemedicine had been around the corner for over 5 years now but never found many takers as both patients and doctors felt the need for physical contact. Patients wouldn’t mind visiting doctors far away from their homes and waiting for hours in the clinic or hospital before their turn came. Doctors on the other hand, weren’t as comfortable or enthusiastic with technology and found it cumbersome and unreliable to provide medical advice over a call or video. Additionally, there weren’t clear guidelines from the government for providing remote healthcare over internet or phone. COVID-19 has disrupted this overnight. Today, telemedicine has become the first and the preferred mode of seeking advice from doctors. Being a digital company, Credihealth is geared to lead this trend and is scheduling hundreds of teleconsulting appointments every day. This will become the norm going forward as patients look to avoid the risk from infections due to people contact and seek the comfort of their homes to access timely care.
Credihealth has also launched a comprehensive health programme, introduced specifically for the virus offering trained ‘COVID Care Managers’ to clients. Can you elaborate on it?
As the COVID-19 pandemic grips the nation, there is a serious need felt for bringing timely, nation-wide access to COVID-linked healthcare services. People are inquisitive and apprehensive about the recent developments around COVID-19 and what they require is a platform where both these issues can simultaneously be handled with ease and comfort. While they require updated content as to what, when and how the COVID-19 virus functions within a human body, at the same time, they must also be educated about what ones needs to do in case of symptoms. To solve this problem, Credihealth brought together under one care platform, a range of services which include COVID-19 screening tests by our partners, same-day pharmacy solutions, air and road ambulance service across the nation. The platform also hosts a bevy of content pieces that encompass basic ‘do’s and don’ts’ for the patient under quarantine and his caregiver and how Credihealth can bring the aforementioned services to them. We put together a dedicated team of highly qualified and trained COVID Care Managers who assist susceptible patients or those who require any of the aforementioned services.
You have authored an article talking about a 2-year blueprint for organisations post COVID-19 which circles around a Respond, Reimagine, Reinforce and Rebound approach. An interesting read, it talks about aggressive marketing strategies to establish a renewed position in the market for companies. How do you think consumer behaviour will change after this pandemic which will require this repositioning?
The current consumer behaviour in India is that of a survivalist, a self-preservation behaviour that ensures nothing but survival. There are some interesting and somewhat useful ramifications of this behaviour. One is change in attitude from splurging in non-essential goods and services to preserving the essential to make it last as long as possible. One of the positive consequences of COVID-19 is an inward shift in orientation, which means consumers are able to reflect more. They are able to develop a caring attitude towards family, community and the overall environment. This is a dramatic switch considering the reckless consumption culture prevalent pre-covid.
Post COVID-19, we are looking at a new consumer who is healthier, caring, frugal, more conscious, less mobile and yet more productive. An enterprise that focuses on this new consumer behaviour is likely to benefit out of this seemingly adverse situation.
After a sizeable experience and heading growth at BOD, you started a consumer-facing, tech-startup. A lot of students in our college look for a similar career trajectory, moving from consultancy to entrepreneurship. Is there anything you’d like for them to know, about things they should keep in mind to make the best out of this experience?
My first entrepreneurial venture after a brief career in banking was consulting. Credihealth happened midway in that journey as the consulting venture continued to become stronger and more influential.
Serving as a strategy consultant for over 12 years has been an extremely fulfilling journey for me. I can confidently share with you that there is no other profession that prepares you well for entrepreneurship than management consulting. You end up working with a multitude of clients across industries. You develop a deep understanding of how an organization works and how entrepreneurs think as you solve important problems for them.
Having said that, consulting is not a pre-requisite for becoming an entrepreneur. Most successful entrepreneurs aren’t ex-consultants. They are people who are visionary and have this uncanny rare ability to rally really good quality people alongside them as they live their vision, one day at a time.
As a Director of Marketing at Credihealth your current job profile has quite a difference from your banker role at Citibank. What have been your cross-functional lessons?
Marketing simply defined is an ability to persuade people to take an action that can potentially benefit them. In that sense, I do not see my role as a banker an anomaly. I did the same at Citi when I was advising clients on where to invest their money. What is important is ensuring that you never market anything that will harm your customer. It is important to be authentic and not be over enthusiastic in the pursuit of sales. Customers are intelligent and they find you out.
As a college publication, one of our objectives is to keep not only our students but also our alumni base updated about the institution, as we feel a robust alumni network benefits everyone. As a visiting faculty at your alma matter, IIMC, you would know it better than anyone. Would you like to share how maintaining contact helps both the alumni and the institution?
Coming from a prestigious institution, your role is not just to look out for opportunities to benefit your career path, but also to look out for ways in which you can give back to your institution so that it can benefit thousands of other students. It’s a virtuous cycle. Maintaining contact with alumni helps in keeping emotions warm and creates that possibility.
As students, we have multiple entrepreneurs in our college and many more planning to materialize their ideas in the near future. One question they all have is, ‘When is the right time to own a startup’?
Talking from experience, is there a correct answer here? Entrepreneurship is one profession that doesn’t have a starting age. You can start when you are 14, or in college or at 65. Reid Hoffman founded LinkedIn at the ripe old age of 35. Robert Noyce founded Intel at 41. Col. Sanders first franchised KFC at 62! My co-founder and our CEO at Credihealth was 53 when we started in 2013. There is one lesson that works really well in entrepreneurship as it does in any important project that you take up in your life. Think big, start small, scale fast. When you are starting out, think as large as you potentially can. Do not worry about how you will get there. Don’t limit your vision by any constraint – money, education, network, team, etc. Once you are confident of your vision, start small. Starting small doesn’t take much resources.
Additionally, it gives you a chance to make mistakes and learn as you improve on your idea with each passing day and transaction. Don’t rush to scale, though. Take plenty of time to fine tune and sharpen your business model. You must build sufficient proof of evidence before you decide to scale, which is the third stage of entrepreneurship. At that stage, you will be a lot more confident about your ability to attract investors and other resources necessary to get closer to your vision.
What are your thoughts on the long-debated question: ‘Should I work on my startup right after college or wait to gain some industry experience/higher qualification’?
I have worked with and coached over 2000 entrepreneurs in addition to being one myself. I have come to the conclusion that entrepreneurs aren’t particularly rational thinkers. They don’t usually plan highly sophisticated pathways. There is no doubt that higher education and industry experience makes you more confident to pursue your dream. It also adds more credibility to your profile as a founder if you are looking to attract good quality people and investors to your business. Yet, most entrepreneurs are instinctive in nature and would jump into deep waters without a second thought if the urge to start out is strong enough. Entrepreneurs are on the lookout for that small nudge that will trigger a chain reaction in them. At that stage, it is like falling in love. It’s completely irrational to most people around you and yet means the world to you. Just like love, it can happen at any age and at any stage of your life irrespective of whether you are pursuing a degree or you have become the CEO of a large multinational.
As a grounded reminder to ourselves that life at college is short and worth cherishing, we want to know one thing: Looking back, is there anything you’d like to tell your college self?
Do not ignore the subjects you don’t like or find difficult thinking that you can get away with doing well in subjects that interest you more. I paid less attention to finance and operations at IIM Calcutta as I found it boring and challenging both. I thought I will never need to learn it and there is always someone who will be there to help. We often get biased by the skills and talents we naturally possess and start to imagine that it will get us through in life. While what you are good at will create new possibilities for you, what you are not good at will become the single most important constraint for you to do really well in those possibilities. You will have to learn them anyway. Do it early. The same is true for making all-weather friends, falling in love, doing theatre, dancing in the rain or enjoying a relaxed day doing nothing at all. Learn to do that in college itself. Don’t postpone thinking you will get time to do it later.