Building a primary care brand for corporate customers

Founded by the former CEO of UnitedHealthcare (UHC) India, HealthAssure is building a centralised platform with an extensive network of primary care centres and insurance companies. It leverages this client base to deliver primary health check-up services to corporate employees and individuals. Thus far, it has partnered with 2,500 centres across 850 cities and catered to just over 94,000 customers.

Varun Gera, Founder-CEO, HealthAssure

Although Varun Gera’s professional experience extends to multinationals such as GE Money and ICICI Bank, where he spearheaded teams in the consumer banking division, he admits that the turning point in his life came during his stint as the CEO of UnitedHealthcare (UHC) India, where he played a vital role in establishing its presence in the Indian market. “When you work in a Fortune 14 company, you learn to set realistic benchmarks for your company, you learn decision-making and that kind of an experience is very vital for a businessperson,” he recalls. In fact, establishing UHC in India and promoting its health services across wellness, claims management and primary care network gave the first opening for Gera to consider entrepreneurship. “If you observe the Indian healthcare market, in 2015, the opportunity in primary, secondary and tertiary care alone stood at over US $46 billion, with an estimated year-on-year growth rate of 15 per cent,” he cites, and adds that while India did see early investments, particularly in the primary care space, it was still largely neglected in terms of business opportunity.

Hence, instead of tapping on this opportunity as an offshoot of UHC, Gera decided to step out and turn entrepreneur with his maiden venture, HealthAssure. Founded in May 2011, the company has built a network of primary care medical centres, diagnostic centres, laboratories and doctors across cities and provides this network access to corporates, insurers and individuals for their various day-to-day medical requirements. This is made possible through an online application and in some cases is integrated with the clients’ portal.   HealthAssure services corporate clients like Deutsche Bank, Cigna, Fedex, etc. who can either create a customized health plan for their employees or each employee has the flexibility to pick and choose their primary care medical need from a quality network within 3 km of their location, anywhere in the country.

In terms of scale, the company has thus far aggregated 2,500 primary care centres across 850 cities and touched revenues of Rs. 125 crore in FY16. Its services currently range from pathology, dental and ophthalmology to counselling, diagnostic centres and gynaecologists, to name a few.

Moreover, with 115 employees spread across Mumbai, Bengaluru and Gurgaon, HealthAssure’s customer reach has touched just above 94,000, with an 8x growth in this base since inception. “We operate on a model wherein we offer access to quality medical network at discounted rates. Our revenue model is such that most of the discount is passed on to customers and we keep a share of it to ourselves,” shares Gera.


We are currently focussed on catering to corporate customers and building our insurance network. We’re already working with companies like Religare, Max Bupa and Birla Sun Life in the latter segment


Building A Reliable Network

No doubt, building a trusted, quality network of primary care centres was no easy task for the HealthAssure team. “In such a market, it’s important to steer the customer towards the right medical centres, which means, we need to know everything about the centre; the facilities they have, the timings, the rating and such,” explains Gera. To roll out this process, the team also realised that they need technology and call centres to understand and network with each of these centres. Hence, as a first step, once the medical centers are identified, they are graded, facilities updated in the system and the centralized model of operations can access the entire medical network across 850 cities. “This centralised system also acts as a core database centre where doctors and healthcare institutions add, update and view all patient records, and insurance companies refer to this data to manage customer underwriting, thus preventing fraud,” explains he.

We’re looking at a market size of 50 million customers and we want to capture a significant portion of this share in the coming years

The Standardisation Aspect

Over five years into the venture, Gera still feels that healthcare is a complicated industry to work in. “It takes a long time to build a business in this sector,” he adds. Among the key challenges he faces is in ensuring the quality of centres the company has partnered with, year after year. “The data we have should also be updated to cater to changing customer needs,” he opines.

When it comes to marketing, the company is largely reliant on direct corporate sales and distribution channels such as brokers. This apart, it occasionally does digital marketing to stay in tune with the times. “We are currently focussed on catering to corporate customers and building our insurance network. We’re already working with companies like Religare, Max Bupa and Birla Sun Life in the latter segment,” he adds. Particularly in the corporate sector, the company is pitching for its employee health benefits schemes to drive revenues into the business. “Through this, if employees want to add individuals into the network, we then extend an e-application to them too,” he states.

A largely bootstrapped venture, Gera claims that the company has thus far raised external capital of US $ 1 million in two tranches (in 2014 and 2015) from two undisclosed angel investors. On his game plan for the business, Gera shares that in five years, HealthAssure will target serving up to four million customers and potentially explore foreign expansions into Far East and Middle East. “We’re looking at a market size of 50 million customers and we want to capture a significant portion of this share in the coming years,” he adds, on a concluding note.


Snapshot – HealthAssure

Founder:

Varun Gera

Year:

2011

Impact:

Networked with 2,500 centres across 850 cities

Concept:

A centralised platform which brings primary care centres and insurance companies on a single platform, and in turn offers employee health packages to corporate customers and individuals.

Investors:

Self-funded plus raised one million dollars in two tranches from two undisclosed angel investors


Critical Success Factors For Growth

When you break new grounds, you have to be doubly sure about what will and will not work. During the initial days, we faced a lot of setbacks because people were not familiar or accustomed to a business model such as this. It took a long time to go out and pitch to the market and earn the first clients. The key is to have conviction.

Secondly, keep customer at the core of your business. Keep verifying the process, keep identifying ways to improve the process, improve your IT and technology infrastructure, build a strong product – for all this you need a good team to work with