MyDentist, a chain of multi-speciality dental clinics, currently treats 10,000 patients a month and aims to setup 150 clinics across Mumbai, Pune and the western region by end of 2014
In 2009, when Vikram Vora visited dental clinics in the suburbs of Mumbai, to sell dental equipment, the time he spent in the waiting room made him realise that the patients who visited there were most bothered by the long waiting hours, the inaccuracy of information shared about the procedures and the lack of transparency in the cost of treatments. Eventually, these factors became the crux of starting Total Dental Care Pvt. Limited, the company that operates a chain of multi-speciality dental clinics under the brand MyDentist.
Vora founded MyDentist in 2009, in a move to provide affordable, flexible and transparent dental care treatment to patients. Today, the company has 45 clinics in Mumbai and Pune and caters to nearly 10,000 customers per month, of which 70 per cent are through referrals. During inception, the company raised Series A funding from Seedfund (amount undisclosed) and in 2013, has raised Series B funding to the tune of Rs. 50 crore from Asian Healthcare Fund and Seedfund. “The initial investment took care of building the back-end such as the initial team, real estate, technology and training modules to support the hub and spoke model that we use. The second round of funding will help support scale and ensure continuity,” shares Vora. The healthcare retail chain is now growing at a pace of five clinics a month and aims to expand to 150 clinics by the end of 2014. The company will invest Rs. 30 to 45 lakh per clinic.
While the company offers membership cards, preventive plans and oral care merchandise to its patients, its primary revenue comes from the clinical treatments it provides. The cost of treatment varies from Rs. 300 to Rs. 90,000 and the X-ray and consultation, for any number of visits, is free of cost. Interestingly, for treatments that cost Rs. 500 and above, the company offers EMI facilities, in partnership with leading banks such as HDFC, ICICI, Axis and HSBC, to name a few. “Primarily, the EMI facility makes treatments like root canals and orthodontics available even to the lower-middle class, who otherwise cannot even think of paying for such expensive surgeries,” adds Vora.
Today, MyDentist’s network comprises 400 professionals, including 200 doctors. The departments in the company include logistics, marketing, human resources and skill training.
The initial struggle
During the initial phase, Vora struggled to arrive at the right business model and generate funds to implement his business idea. He had taken loans from friends and family and started six clinics in far-flung locations in Mumbai. While the business was doing reasonably well, it was clear that it could not scale up, as taking continuous debt was not an option. It was at a chance meeting with his ex-boss, Anand Lunia, which gave him the idea that if he shared equity, he could raise funds to expand to nearly 100 clinics. That is when Seedfund Advisors incubated MyDentist in 2010 and eventually increased its investment in 2011.
Once the expansion plan was mapped out, the second challenge was to hire the right team. “We needed a large number of dentists to run our clinics. It is always tough to convince people to join a startup before it has proved its worth. Thankfully for us, the initial success helped us in building up a reputation and a team,” he shares.
Design firm Lemon Design and bookstore chain Crossword’s founder R. Sriram also played a key role in establishing MyDentist as an accessible and scalable chain. “While we had a panel of senior dentists to help us recruit the doctors and streamline the medical procedures, we also chose to have personalities like R. Sriram, who it an advisor to Seedfund ventures, help us give our clinics a retail service oriented touch, through logo, design, interiors and branding” states Vora.
Choice of location has played a key role in generating positive word-of-mouth for MyDentist and the company ensures that customer accessibility to its clinics is top priority. As part of its business model, the company pays rentals for its real estate and does not own its clinic spaces. As for the cost involved in setting up a clinic, Vora says, “As a corporate house, we have invested a fair bit on the technology, HR and training front, to ensure smooth functioning of each clinic. Typically, the ground level equipment cost is more than 50 per cent of the entire setting up cost.”
Today, MyDentist operates on a large volumes and lower margins model. The company buys dental equipment in large quantities from renowned companies such as 3M, GC Dental and 3iBiomet, and in turn delivers treatments to patients, at competitive rates. “We believe that we have the efficiency of scale. Scale is what makes our costs lower. It also helps us negotiate for better training sessions provided by the suppliers, adding to the talent and knowledge of our team of doctors,” says Vora.
In a move to ensure consistency in quality of service delivered to the patients, MyDentist has installed a cloud-based patient and knowledge management, a HR suite, telephony and payment management system across all its clinics. While the patient management system records all patient data, EMR records, treatment data; the knowledge management system helps its dentists share cases and information across all clinics. For payment, it uses an IP-based payment gateway for credit and debit card payments, making the process of EMIs extremely accessible and efficient.
To spread the word, MyDentist has adopted a multi-pronged marketing strategy. It comprises mass media advertising and below-the-line customer engagement initiatives. The company also comes up with regular discount offers, to attract new customers. One area that is particularly dear to Vora is that of generating awareness on dental care. “People need to make dental care as a regular feature rather than on an emergency basis. Ideally, if there is a preventive dental care plan that is followed, patients can save on costs,” he states. In a move to better the existing situation, MyDentist conducts regular dental camps at schools and colleges across Mumbai and Pune.
Vora aims to make MyDentist the largest dental clinic chain in Asia, excluding China. He wants MyDentist to be known for its world-class treatments at affordable rates. To get there, he lists out his key growth drivers, which include enhancing quality and speed of delivery of service, extending reach and coverage, improving efficient operations, adopting latest technologies and economies of scale.
“We are currently only in Maharashtra but do hope to take our clinics to several states in the future. Our focus will continue to be on providing quality services and we trust that our differentiators will help us achieve our goals,” concludes Vora.
Founder: Vikram Vora
Investors: Seedfund, Asia Healthcare Fund
Key differentiators: Transparency in cost of treatment, and free of charge x-ray facilities, flexibility in payment through EMI options
Concept in brief:
MyDentist is a chain of multi-speciality dental clinics founded by Vikram Vora in 2009. It aims to provide affordable, flexible and transparent dental care to its patients. Today, the company has 45 clinics in Mumbai and Pune and caters to almost 10,000 customers per month, of which 70 per cent are through referrals. It is now growing at a pace of five clinics a month and aims to expand to 150 clinics by the end of 2014. During inception, the company raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from Seedfund and in 2013, has raised Series B funding to the tune of Rs. 50 crore from Asian Healthcare Fund and Seedfund. The cost of treatment varies from Rs. 300 to Rs. 90,000 and the X-ray and consultation is held free of cost, for any number of visits. For treatments that cost Rs. 500 and above, the company offers EMI options, in partnership with leading banks such as HDFC, ICICI, Axis and HSBC.