Moving to a new city, a new house or a new office always seems exciting; but it comes a whole new set of unanswered questions. Though you might try your level best to select the best packers & movers for the relocation job, there is a chance that you choose price over quality. Another problem that consumers face is there is no way to track their belongings in real-time. ShiftKarado was founded with an aim to eliminate these challenges and offer a stress-free and transparent shifting experience by introducing a technology-enabled platform. Created by the promoters of Star Worldwide, the leaders in international relocations, ShiftKarado seeks to create a disruption through its transparent and real-time solutions for the domestic packing and moving industry.

ShiftKarado is focused on providing superlative, reliable, time-effective and simplified solutions to consumers looking to relocate a home, an office or a vehicle. With its services launched in late 2016, ShiftKarado was rolled out to plug the gap in the highly fragmented and unorganized Indian relocation segment which often leaves consumers stressed and perplexed about process and charges. The promoters of Star Worldwide observed that the pricing and relocating process was opaque, time-consuming and challenging due to the lack of reliable movers and packers in the city at affordable rates.

Catering primarily to B2C – House & vehicle relocation and B2B – office relocation, ShiftKarado crafts customized packaging options from start to finish without customers worrying about anything. Today we have a chat with Sahil Mithal and Mrs. Aulina Mithal Sood, Co-founders of ShiftKarado about the business, technology behind the offerings, competition, etc. & much more. So let’s get started with the Q&A….

Can you please walk us through on how did you come up with the idea of ShiftKarado and details about the core team behind the startup?

Our Founder, Mr. Atul Mithal saw a huge gap amongst the demand and supply of efficient packers and movers in the Indian market as compared to the international standards. He witnessed the problems of lack of rules and regulations, costly and poorly managed services and least to no security of cargo prevailing in the nation. It was then he started working on the idea and was later joined in by the company’s co-founders Sahil Mithal, Aulina Mithal Sood and Ashish Mullick.

While Sahil helped in technological aspects of the company, Aulina’s role is more customer-centric and training, while Ashish helped the organization in setting up of its initial structure, administrative and operation aspect. Then the employees kept coming on board and from being a newbie, the company has now become one of the crucial players in the industry leading in the race with its technological aspects.

Does ShiftKarado cater to the B2C segment only or it also caters to the B2B segment ?

ShiftKarado is not restricted to the B2C segment; it caters to businesses and institutions also and has a good clientele base in the B2B domain. Companies like Dainik Bhaskar, Prop Tiger, and CIANS  & OYO frequently hire ShiftKarado for transporting and relocating services.

Movers & Packers [in general the relocation market] is highly unorganized, how does ShiftKarado brings in more transparency and makes the sector more organized [than earlier] ?

In 2015, when ShiftKarado stepped into the packers and movers industry of India it was cluttered by companies that were providing unreliable services and ambiguous costs. An estimate for a move typically involved 2-3 days with the packers and movers wanting to first perform a home visit to conduct a Survey of the Items to be moved.

ShiftKarado simplified the entire process with its years of experience in international moving & a well-organized management system. The ShiftKarado Android App and Web Application were launched in August 2016 to provide a standard and simple interface for instant pricing, trouble-free bookings, and secure payments. This was a first one of a kind application in India and ShiftKarado had to rethink the pricing model that existed for decades to create an algorithm that would deliver prices to the customer in seconds not days.

The company makes use of the latest technology and analytic data to tailor their packing and moving services as per the customers’ requirements and engages with its customers in an interactive way with quick information and updates. With a full-fledged team of analysts, ShiftKarado works on a data-driven algorithm to calculate the distance between the two relocation sites, the volume of goods to be shipped and the time required for packing.

There are many startups in the logistics sector [either catering to pure B2B/B2C/only e-commerce shipments] that are also solving the similar problem, what are some of the core USP’s of ShiftKarado over these companies [in terms of technology, pricing, customer support, etc.] ?

It’s the technological aspects of our company along with our understanding of the international standards that primarily set us apart and give an edge over the competitors. Other than that, we also offer our clients, be it households or corporate with the instant booking, instant quotation, urban mobility, security, as well as transparency in our services.

ShiftKarado is currently operational in how many cities in India ?

The company is headquartered in Gurugram and has branches in New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Chandigarh, Mohali, Gurgaon, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Pune, Navi Mumbai, Jaipur, and Kolkata.  ShiftKarado has also joined hands with OYO rooms for the Pan India relocation of their employees.

Does ShiftKarado work in the marketplace model or it has its own team of Movers & Packers ?

Being part of the Star Group Company, ShiftKarado is utilizing a mix of fleets, their own in-house fleet services and outsourced. Depending on the peak season & availability, they either use their own in-house fleets or outsource it from the third party in case of high demand, but always ensure quality is maintained throughout the move process.

How does ShiftKarado leverage technologies like Machine Learning, Deep Learning, AI and other emerging technologies, in order to provide deeper tracking of client’s belongings [thereby ensuring that there are fewer customer complaints] ?

With a mobile app and website integrated with Artificial Intelligence (AI), ShiftKarado keeps the entire relocation process transparent and instantaneous. ShiftKarado’s mobile app will have a live feature very soon which will enable the clients to track the status of their consignment. When the goods are packed, loaded, shipped, unloaded, and delivered, clients will get timely updates. Currently, ShiftKarado uses AI and data-driven technology to give out the exact quote for relocating any volume of goods between any two locations instantly. This includes parameters like destination, route map, nature of goods being transported, and the volume of the goods, as well as the floor on which the drop-off is to be made and whether or not a lift is available for higher floors. The initial quote, therefore, remains the final amount to be paid. ShiftKarado also has a feature of providing insurance protection which enables the customers to reduce the shipping stress while their office or household goods are in transit.

In the past, estimating the value for the potential insurance claim was manually done by the customers according to their estimate. This process was too inaccurate and time-consuming. However, development in the field of analytics has helped the industry to opt for insurance quickly and in the most efficient way. The data-driven suggestive pricing offered by relocation service providers nowadays helps in calculating the value of goods, which makes the whole insurance process smarter, more personalized, and much simpler.

What are some of the unique challenges that your team faced while servicing the B2B customers [either for complete office relocation/employee relocation, etc.] since B2B segment is very different from the B2C segment ?

True that serving B2B customers is different from B2C customers because the material handling, logistics and audit requirements is more challenging for the former. When it comes to office relocation the equipment is often large in number and specialized. In the early stages of our venture, we had to take extra measures in packing and moving the equipment such as desktops, servers, furniture, heaps of necessary papers and documents etc., for relocations.

However, we focused on designing an effective office relocation plan with new packing and moving methodology tailored to the requirements of the various departments. We also have a Records Management company within our group which partners with us when managing large volumes of documents. As far as the employee relocations are concerned we closely work with the HR and Admin departments to manage the relocation budgets yet ensure the employee of the company is not burdened by the relocation process.

Being an offering from the promoters of Stars Worldwide, how those learning’s were helpful in scaling ShiftKarado ?

Star Worldwide Group has been a leader in International Relocations, Fine Art Handling and Records and Information Management Services, for over 30 years.  They have been serving top MNC’s, embassies and other international organizations for decades. Star is also an ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 certified company. Our Head office, along with branches in Mumbai and Bangalore are verified by FAIM auditors, Ernst and Young, to ensure compliance with the rigorous FIDI-FAIM quality standards. The standards cover the end-to-end moving process including, but not limited to, packing material, trucks, warehouse, and safety and are bench marked against global best practices.

Star Worldwide is also one of the most reputed names, globally, in fine arts packing and transportation. Due to its reputation, the company is the only one in India to be accredited by both, ARTIM and ICEFAT, which set the highest standards in fine art shipping.  The standards involved are very scientific and the greatest of care is taken to ensure the movement of priceless and rare artifacts. This work culture and attention to detail is also carried into ShiftKarado. Star Worldwide guidance helps us ensure that our clients get the best learning and experience accumulated and refined over decades, built into our systems.

Thus, ShiftKarado, apart from the benefits of the vast Group infrastructure, also have the privilege to learn and incorporate the same highest standards of professionalism, client servicing, seamless work processes, and safety measures, as followed by Star Worldwide.

[L-R] Founders – ShiftKarado [Sahil Mithal & Aulina Mithal Sood]

One of the major issues in relocation is parcels getting missed/material being damaged in transit, etc., how does ShiftKarado ensure that there are zero such issues for its customers and does it also provide any transit insurance ?

For each relocation consignment, we have project coordinators along with the full-fledged team of packers and movers who keep a complete check on what goods has been packed and loaded and what is unloaded and relocated. Before packing the goods, we develop plans in which the location of all office equipment, household furniture, telephones, computers, crockery, machines and everything else is charted out as a checklist. A packing inventory is shared with the client that contains the details of the goods to be moved.

Our operations mobile application and internal dashboards also help us track the activity, duration and the team members involved and take stock of the packages during its movement. To prevent the goods from any damage, high-quality packing material such as cartons, corrugated sheets, and bubble wrap etc., are used for packingOur crew and partners are trained to handle packages during the packing, transportation and loading/unloading as per their handling labels.

Though security and safety of the goods and materials are paramount in our services, however, we do offer risk cover to the clients. We have partnered with top reputed insurance company and offer ITC A and ITC B risk covers. You may get more information about risk cover and insurance here. Yes, we have our own customer support team which remains active in responding to the customers’ requests and queries.

Since ShiftKarado does not have its own fleet for relocation, please name some of the prominent partners of ShiftKarado and how does ShiftKarado ensure that there is a fair-pricing policy with its partners.

Being part of the Star Group Company, ShiftKarado is utilizing a mix of fleets, their own in-house fleet services and outsourced. Depending on the peak season & availability, they either use their own in-house fleets or outsource it from the third party in case of high demand. We only deal with trusted partners that have been associated with us for a number of years or have gone through our audit process. All prices are benchmarked with our existing providers within our application

We should have asked this question earlier, how did you come up with the name ShiftKarado [since it does not have a mass appeal due to the usage of a Hindi word] and what were some of the other names that had popped up during the discussion ?

Though the name ShiftKarado does not have a mass recognition as of now, it does trigger a sense of Indian-ness in the minds of first-time customers. When we were brainstorming for a name for this new venture, we did research on what kind of queries and responses the relocation service providers encounter.

As we are focused on the Indian market, we had to build a brand that is easy for Indian people to emotionally connect with and simple to memorize. The questions such as “Hume apna ghar shift karana hai!” helped us coming up to a conclusion that ShiftKarado would be a right choice to name our brand because “Hum Shifting karatey hain.”

Please walk us through the funding of ShiftKarado and whether you are open to external funding ?

ShiftKarado is a completely a bootstrapped company since its inception. We have the benefit of the strong financials of our Group.

Technology has been rapidly evolving at a rapid pace [with the advent of wearables, smart connectivity, IoT,etc.], where do you see the entire ‘Logistics sector’ evolve with the fast-paced technological changes ?

Versatile customer expectations, the burgeoning of relocation service providers, and technological advances will disrupt the industry as innovative ways to outrank the competitors would be brought up. But, digital technology is one of the major challenges that the transportation and logistics sector must deal with. Though many logistics companies are planning to invest at least 5~6% of their annual revenue in the blooming digital culture, those who do not adapt themselves until 2020 are vulnerable to business failure.

Also, Machine learning and Artificial intelligence integrated with data analytics help greatly in scaling the dynamic routing. Even the package delivery culture is being digitally transformed through the autonomous vehicles and drones which result in quick delivery and a reduced workforce. Augmented Reality (AR) may also make the drivers more efficient by giving them complete and detailed information about the environment, climate change, route planning etc. Using the Internet of Things (IoT), the inventory and warehouses can be safeguarded well. Safety alarms and sensors which use IoT can help detect and neutralize hazards remotely and/or automatically.

Can you share some tips for building an effective team for startups [especially the initial core team] ?

Startups success depends on the strength and commitment of its team and failure on the founder’s negligence and unawareness of his people. In any startup organization, a solid team calls for expert industry professionals who are not only best at their work, but also competent in self-governance and self-motivation. The initial core team should be built, not simply to fill the empty seats in the office, but to expand the office through the means of hard work and commitment to only one vision—the company growth. For this, individuals should focus on getting expertise, experience, and exposure corresponding to the requirement of the startup firm.

Entrepreneurs must create a productive work environment where each team member realizes his job role & the contribution expected. The team should be continually motivated by appreciating their small efforts and guiding them to rectify their blunders. Members should be given the liberty to take the road less travelled by; the approach never before is taken, to challenge their own capabilities. It’s also important not to slide into a comfort-zone within the first few months. Start-ups need to keep exploring, tweaking and questioning their game plan as often as weekly to ensure greater chances of success.

2017 was a tough year for startups [especially from a funding point of view], how according to you should entrepreneurs deal with such adverse situations ?

Entrepreneurs can seek expert advice from financial advisors who have a sound knowledge of startup culture, their needs, and functional dynamics. Will crowdfunding be the right choice or bootstrapping, the financial advisor can rightly assist the entrepreneurs in having a backup plan in case of hard times.

Situational analysis and short-term strategic planning should be given prominence so as to be prepared for the challenges which startups usually face in the inception stage.

How important is it for early-stage startups to pivot their business model [in case things are not working out as per their plan] or when is the right time to pivot ?

Pivoting in start-ups is key to survival. Entrepreneurs who are initially enthusiastic about their Plan A, may need to pivot to Plan B or C within a year, when the results are underachieved, or the market has greater potential. Switching to Plan B or C may open new revenue stream and growth opportunities, to push through giving 100% efforts, dedicated time, and right resources to Plan A is often a smart choice.

Pivoting involves group discussions, analyzing failure, looking at competition, redefining certain key positions, incorporating new ideas, and challenging your initial idea.

As per your entrepreneurial experience, when should an entrepreneur look out for external funding?

External funding definitely gives you a large canvas to work on and a lot more flexibility. When the startup has proven customer traction and now needs to expand its reach and double its sales exponentially, tying up with the giant investors for external funding can be a profitable deal. However, entrepreneurs should avoid investors when a strong and large base of customers is already funding the company’s growth.

Some books that you highly recommend for entrepreneurs ?

I enjoy reading books that tell a story of struggle and hardship. The ones that left me feeling motivated are ‘Zen Garden‘ by Subroto Bagchi, ‘The Buck Stops Here‘ by Ashutosh Garg and ‘Losing my Virginity‘ Autobiography of Richard Branson. There is no success story without failure and there is a need for successful business to use their means and participate in building society and work towards greater well-being of all.

Some closing thoughts for our readers!

Don’t over think, don’t over plan! There is no such thing as a perfect moment. Most of us miss the train waiting for the perfect moment. Believe in yourself, don’t doubt your capabilities and imagine yourself achieving success… Your thoughts will turn into action and action speaks louder!

We thank the co-founders for their time and sharing valuable insights with our readers! If you have any questions for the team at ShiftKarado about the company, starting up, scaling up, etc., please email them to himanshu.sheth@gmail.com or leave your question in the comments section.

Elbrit Life Sciences has announced that it is expanding its footprint in the domestic pharmaceutical industry. The fast growing domestic pharmaceutical company is presently in advanced talks with its parent investment firm Capital Investments and a Qatar based investment firm to raise 3 million USD. This major investment is aimed at expanding the company’s domestic footprint in branded formulation business. Elbrit Life Sciences started its operations in 2014 and has since witnessed an impressive growth rate of more than 100% per annum.

The official spokesperson of Elbrit Life Sciences, while talking about the expansion plans said

We are planning to use the additional funds to expand geographical footprint and to focus on nephrology, urology, gynecology and oncology therapy segments. The company majorly operates in South India and has sales force strength of 200 front line sales representatives. It has 45 brands and 150 SKUs. The company is currently not looking at any acquisitions and instead prefers to take the organic route to fuel further growth

In addition, Elbrit Life Sciences is aggressively focusing on cardio-vascular, diabetes, neurology and nutraceuticals market in the country. Operating in a country with a population exceeding 1.3 billion, Elbrit Life Sciences has a dedicated WHO-GMP manufacturing facility. Moreover, the pharma company is in the process of upgrading its facilities to foray into export markets.

The company is expecting that this deal may close before the second week of October and once the deal is closed, the company expects to pursue growth opportunities.  Furthermore, Elbrit Life Sciences also aims to be amongst the Top 150 pharmaceutical companies by the year 2020. According to the company spokesperson, Elbrit Life Sciences plans to go for an IPO somewhere around the year 2022.

About Elbrit Life Sciences

Elbrit Life Sciences is a pharmaceutical company established with a vision of ‘Making Lives Better’ by providing quality healthcare to patients. Established in 2014, with headquarters in Mumbai, the company aspires to be one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the country and across the globe.

Liferay Inc., which makes software that helps companies create digital experiences on web, mobile and connected devices, has acquired controlling interest in Triblio and committed to an ongoing strategic investment in growing Triblio’s Account-Based Marketing [ABM] business. The investment allows Liferay to explore opportunities for the DXP audience to further enhance and personalize the customer journey with account-specific content and messaging. In turn, Triblio will continue to focus on delivering long-term customer value and product innovation.

Bryan Cheung, CEO – Liferay said

Triblio represents the next generation of B2B marketing cloud and we are fully committed to investing in the platform and growing Triblio’s ABM business. Existing Liferay DXP customers will reap the benefits of this investment over time as we continue to help organizations build long-term relationships and deliver value to customers across their life-cycle.

Triblio will continue to operate as an independent entity led by CEO Andre Yee. Andre co-founded Triblio after serving as Senior Vice President of Product Development at marketing automation software provider Eloqua. Triblio is a leading ABM cloud provider with over 100 customers and triple digit annual year over year growth. The platform offers account-based advertising, web personalization, sales orchestration, account scoring and analytics, all powered by its unique AI-based purchase intent engine.

Andre Yee, CEO of Triblio, said

We are excited to receive Liferay’s investment. With their strategic commitment, we intend to extend our market reach and invest significantly in our customer success and product development teams.

Together, Liferay and Triblio are dedicated to bringing improved customer engagement and content targeting capabilities to enterprises. In addition, the two companies share a deep commitment to customer success and in giving back to the wider community.

About Liferay

Liferay makes software that helps companies create digital experiences on web, mobile and connected devices. Our platform is open source, which makes it more reliable, innovative and secure. Hundreds of organizations in financial services, healthcare, government, insurance, retail, manufacturing and multiple other industries use Liferay.

In a move to strengthen its position as one of India’s largest student co-living companies, Stanza Living has raised a total of Rs 73 crore [USD 10 million] in an investment round led by Sequoia India. This is in addition to Rs 13 crores [USD 2 million] that the company had raised in its first round of institutional funding from Matrix and Accel Partners in November 2017.

With the funding in place, Stanza Living will focus on strengthening its three key business pillars of technology, people and network of operations. Technology is at the centre of Stanza Living’s business and is one of its core differentiators. The fresh funding will be channeled to bolster the company’s tech engine that drives effectiveness in project management, efficiency in business operations and enables personalized service delivery. Stanza Living will further leverage the funding to expand to multiple markets and strengthen its core leadership team while on-boarding specialized talent across functions.

Commenting on the funding, Anindya Dutta, Managing Director & Co-Founder, Stanza Living, said

The student housing segment in India offers immense potential but remains largely unorganized. We are determined to transform this segment by offering a professionally-managed co-living experience that mirror international standards.

We currently operate 15+ residences in Delhi NCR with a total capacity of 2000 beds. The funding will enable us to unlock multiple opportunities that we’ve identified across important educational hubs and exponentially grow the Stanza community across the country.

Sandeep Dalmia, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Stanza Living, said

Marquee global players investing in Stanza Living underlines the confidence the investor community has in our business model. We understand that a student’s lifestyle is extremely distinct.

Our industry-first, full-stack business model fundamentally enables us to design our co-living spaces and tailor our services to cater to their specific needs and desires. It allows us to set up and manage end-to-end operations which we believe is absolutely critical to ensure an unmatched experience for our residents.

Ashish Agrawal, Principal, Sequoia Capital India Advisors, said

Stanza’s team and their execution is impressive, and Sequoia India is delighted to partner with them in their vision to provide quality housing to students in India. Student housing is an established asset class in the west and we believe Stanza, with its scalable business model and strong economics, can create the asset class in India. 

Gourav Bhattacharya, Director, Matrix India, commented

We are very excited about the progress the Stanza team has made over the last 12 months, and think they have a unique opportunity to create a large company by organizing the student housing space.

Their approach is a win-win for students and parents through better experience, as well as supply owners through better economics. We are delighted to continue supporting Anindya and Sandeep on their journey.

Abhinav Chaturvedi, Principal at Accel added

We are delighted to continue our partnership with Stanza Living. In a short period of time, Stanza has become the go-to place for student accommodation in Delhi/NCR. The new money will help expand the Stanza brand to other parts of the Indian market.

Stanza Living is challenging the status quo when it comes to student community living through dedicated programmes like ‘Stanza Springboard’, which focuses on providing career enhancement opportunities, and ‘Stanza Social’, centered around year-long community engagement events as well as exclusive discounted access to a curated list of restaurants, brands and experiences.

About Stanza Living

Stanza Living is a tech-enabled co-living concept which is re-imagining student housing in India by transforming it into an experience product, in-line with evolved hospitality sectors like hotels and serviced apartments. From smart-space planning in residences to gamifying delivery of food for operational effectiveness, from exclusive community engagement programmes to delivering reliable and standardized services through technology integration, Stanza Living operates with a full-stack business model that puts students at the heart of its product and service design, development and execution.

Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room Jeff Bezos

Completely agreed! I know several startups who have created an attractive website, their business is located at prime location, they spent a good amount of money on digital marketing, they are owning a team of skilled staff but still waiting for calls from customers. Is it happening to you too ?

If your answer is a big yes, don’t worry! You are at the right place. But before diving into the article, remember what Jeff Bezos has said. According to him, it’s all about your brand. Your brand represents your business and reputation. So, be sure to have a good one.

Many people argue that they already have a good and attractive logo, what else is needed in branding? Do you really think having a good logo is enough for the branding? No, definitely not.

Here I am going to mention some common startup blunders that businesses are making and how one can fix it.

Blunder #1 – Inconsistency

What is the color of the logo of social media giant Facebook? Blue, right? Did you ever see Facebook using its logo color as red in any of its marketing campaigns? No, I am sure. Consistency is very important in building a brand. If you are using yellow as your logo color on the website, keep it yellow everywhere. Otherwise, it confuses users and perhaps they won’t be able to recognize your brand at a glance. Inconsistent branding can lead to customer confusion and a high bounce rate.

Solution – Be consistent. Be consistent with your designs and brand color. It will not only help you in building brand image but also provides recognition.

Blunder #2 – Replicating competitors

This is another blunder that most of the startups make. It is good to know and research what your competitors are doing but copying exactly their marketing strategies lead you to a pitfall. Understand first, you are in the starting stages of your business. You don’t have enough capital like your already established competitors to spend a lot on everything. It is also possible that their marketing styles and trends will not work for your business.

Solution – Do a good competitor research, try to understand what they are doing in promoting their business. But don’t copy everything from them. Don’t try to replicate their marketing styles in hope of getting better results. You can also try some DIY. Tools like Canva help you create your own visual identity.

Blunder #3 – Marketing it everywhere

Do you join every function you are invited to? Certainly not. Likewise, every marketing platform is not a perfect place for showcasing your products. Just because, your company’s name can be somewhere, you started posting everywhere. Representing your brand at wrong places can directly affect your branding campaign.

Solution – Research and figure out what are the best-suited places for running your marketing campaign. Don’t try to be present everywhere.

Blunder #4 – Ignoring social media

Today, everybody has gone online. Even a 10 years old kid is hanging out with friends on several social media platforms. Social media has enormous power. Businesses, politicians, and everybody is seeking the help of social media in promoting their brand name. One can’t ignore the power of it especially startups should be more active on such social media platforms to reach out to the targeted audience. They are the best platforms to build your brand value.

Solution – Be active on social media platforms. Figure out which one works best for you out of a lot. Not every platform is of use to you. Post offers, spread awareness and post attractive contents regularly.

Blunder #5 – Neglecting the power of analytics

Do you really think posting and commenting on social media platforms is enough in branding? It is not. If you ask any digital marketing expert, he will explain to you the importance of analytics. The analytics will help you in knowing which type of content is driving more traffic than other.

Solution: Always have an eye on analytics. With the help of analytic tools, you should know what type of content you need to post and who is your targeted audience.

These are some blunders that most of the startups are making while building their brand. Try to avoid such mistakes and show your customers your real value. Build a brand in a right way. Don’t forget Jeff Bezos.

Don’t make these mistakes and before doing anything, do analyze your business well.

About the Author

Kavita Paliwal is Independent Marketing Analyst and Blogger. When not glued to her laptop, she can be found making travel plans that rarely happen. Connect with Kavita on Twitter & Linkedin

How many of us have faced a situation where we visited a doctor based on some symptoms and later on realized that the visit was not at all necessary. Also, there is a huge amount of difference in the healthcare services available in metros [tier-1 cities] vis-a-vis non-metros [tier-2, tier-3] cities vis-a-vis rural areas. However affordability of smartphones, increased mobile penetration, improved data speeds [with 4G]; are playing a critical role in improving the overall healthcare industry. Along with the advancements in the healthcare industry, Indian healthcare sector does face a plethora of challenges.

Image Source – HealthCare

For entrepreneurs, with huge challenges comes ample opportunities to create business that could solve the problem at a ‘larger scale’. With technology, there has been an emergence of ‘frugal innovation’ in the healthcare sector where entrepreneurs have come up with business models that has made accessibility to ‘quality healthcare services’ available to all [irrespective of your city/town of residence]. This is where serial entrepreneur Ashutosh Lawania [Myntra Co-founder] and Prasad Kompalli [former business head at Myntra] came across an opportunity and came up with the idea of mfine – an end-to-end doctor consultation app which would make it convenient for patients to access high-quality healthcare services at the click of a button.

mfine brings in instant and continuous connectivity with top doctors of the best hospitals. The startup has partnered with leading hospitals and senior consultants are made available for online consultations always and anytime. mfine‘s app for doctors boosts the efficiency and effectiveness using standard medical protocols and AI. mfine‘s AI driven platform helps improve the quality of diagnosis and promotes better outcomes with better engagement.

The company helps people make informed choices about their health with patient needs as a top priority. mfine is effectively creating a ‘cloud clinic’  and follows an unique model of partnering with leading and trusted hospitals instead of aggregating individual doctors on the platform. It acts as a virtual centre for the hospitals, rather it is a new OPD center on the cloud bringing in more patients and offering premium services, long-term care programs, super specialties without any upfront investments. Today we have a chat with Prasad Kompalli, Co-founder & CEO – mfine about the app, healthcare in India, why cloud clinic, etc. So, lets get started with the Q&A…

[Note – ‘I’ in the Q&A refers to Prasad Kompalli]

Please walk us through the core team behind mfine ?

mfine was founded in February 2017 by myself and Ashutosh Lawania [Myntra co-founder]. We were later joined by Ajit Narayanan, ex-Myntra CTO, Arjun Choudhary, ex-Myntra head of growth marketing and Dr. Jagadish Prasad, an interventional neuroradiologist, and founder of Femiint Health, a hospital in Bengaluru.

Every idea is born out of a problem, what is the problem being solved by mfine and how did you come up with this solution ?

mfine comes from the idea to make access to quality healthcare easy and simple. We strongly believed that technology, in particular mobile internet and AI can transform healthcare delivery in India leading to better quality and experience for the consumers. When you look at Indian healthcare industry, it is characterized by very low doctor-patient ratio [1:1700] and more than 70% percent of medical bills are paid out-of-pocket by patients. Not much is being done at the primary and secondary care level to prevent further expensive and life threatening complications.

Tech is an inevitable solution to this problem. mfine leverages on the massive adoption of smartphones and mobile Internet to dramatically change the access and reach of specialists doctors. We envisioned and are building a one of its kind virtual hospital that brings the best care providers and state of the art tech together. We have built an AI powered diagnosis engine that can be infinitely scalable assistant to those top specialist doctors. The combination of mobile tech and AI solves for access and quality.

Looking deeper at the Healthcare sector, we understood the complexities with the overall space being vast with many different players, different economic models, incentive structures and varied consumer behaviors. We zeroed in on high quality and on-demand access to be at the foundation of what we would build. To bring in the much needed trust and quality, we partnered with hospitals as providers and these hospitals are trusted and premium institutions such as CloudNine, Femiint Health and Aster CMI Hospitals. With technology we are able to take the high quality care beyond the walls of the hospitals.

The entire healthcare ecosystem is still broken [with some parts being organized and some being unorganized], how does a startup like mfine solve this problem and make the sector more organized ?

The healthcare sector is actually getting organized pretty fast. Several reputed institutions are setting up pretty high standard hospitals and existing ones are expanding. Mfine indirectly contributes to the acceleration of markets movement towards organized sector – as we work with branded, accredited hospitals and increase their reach beyond the physical boundaries of their hospitals. This will lead to more and more consumer spending towards organized sector that has senior high quality specialist doctors

Startups [as well as hospitals] are exploring newer avenues to engage with patients [even after they are done meeting the doctor at the hospital] e.g. Apollo Hospital has Ask Apollo app, Aegis has a similar app, etc. and other startups like Portea are looking into Home health care services, Practo acts more like an aggregator, how does an app like mfine solve lingering problems in the healthcare sector in India ?

We have a very unique take on the problem statement and solution approach as far as healthcare delivery in India are concerned. We are building the most sophisticated healthcare delivery channel for primary and secondary care – a category we call ‘cloud clinic’. The Cloud Clinic is designed to deliver high quality care from the biggest and the best in healthcare via an always-on, on-demand service. Our differentiation also comes from the fact that we are creating a digital assistant for the doctor and at the same time building a robust mobile health companion for the patient.

Firstly, we are focussed on bringing trusted, reputable and high-quality hospitals with top specialists into digital space and are not a marketplace of individual doctors. Secondly, our AI powered tech system can scale quality care and make it reach millions of people. Thirdly, hospitals look at mfine as a new centre they are opening without any upfront capital and marketing investment. They see mfine expanding their services to cloud so that they can serve more new customers and also retain existing customers better. These three aspects make us very unique in the way we build mfine as a tech-led and consumer experience focussed business.

Can you please list down the treatment areas currently being covered on mfine ?

mfine currently covers nine specialties: pediatrics, general medicine, fertility, gynecology, dietetics, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, and cardiology.

How many hospitals are there on-board on mfine and is there a provision where a patient can select a particular doctor on mfine ?

The patients can choose top doctors from more than 45 leading and reputed hospitals such as CloudNine, Aster, Rainbow and Ovum.

When it comes to medical treatment, most of us plan to visit the doctor first [irrespective of the symptom and the density of the problem], how is mfine building that trust in it’s customers [that they might not need/may never need to visit the doctor unless and until required] and how has been the overall response from the early adopters ?

We have done more than 30,000 consultations and aim to reach 100,000 consultations by the end of the year. We have partnered with 35 hospital brands in Bangalore and are expanding our network continuously.

There are some patients who have written to us about their experience with mfine. For example, We once had a user from Trichy, whose infant needed to consult with a pediatric endocrinologist. It was difficult to find one in such a small town and he used mfine to find a pediatric endocrinologist in Bengaluru, who treated the baby through the app.

There was another incident where a 70 year old woman was diagnosed with Dengue by mfine care team. From then on, the son used mfine exclusively for his mother’s treatment and with constant monitoring and help from our doctors, she was cured while being at home throughout.

Use cases are plenty and there are many more such examples. We believe that mobile can be a game change in the delivery of primary health care. From access, to diagnosis, to preventive healthcare, technology can disrupt the future of ‘visiting a doctor’..

mFine team with Prasad Kompalli [Center, Front Row – Blue T-shirt] & Ashutosh Lawania [Center,Front Row – Yellow T-Shirt]

How seamless is the overall process of registration, payment, consultation and doctor visit [if required] via mfine and can you comment on the O2O [Online-to-Offline] or vice-versa experience [i.e. Patient visits the doctor, reports gets uploaded and than again moves to mfine after the offline consultation] ?

With mfine app, one can easily reach the doctor that they select instantly, on demand. The process to get diagnosis and prescription online from a top doctor doesn’t take more than 30~40 mins. If the doctor decides that you need to a physical visit, mfine organizes the visit with the same doctor at the same hospital without charging extra and the appointment is pre-booked in the hospital system as well. When the patient is going for this physical visit, the experience is smooth no registration, no payment is needed to be done.

Similarly, when a patient chooses to follow up with the Doctor (s)he met at the hospital, (s)he can login to mfine and give the code of the Doctor/Hospital (s)he got along with the visit file and start follow up consultation with the doctor. (s)he can upload any information [test reports, etc.] and get the complete consultation done and get advised on the further treatment plan/actions.

How big is the overall healthcare market that mfine is trying to address ?

Healthcare sector in India is $280B dollar market. We are catering to a massive $50B market of primary healthcare and secondary healthcare in India. We see a huge opportunity to bring the much needed, tech-driven transformation in the $50B primary healthcare delivery. Coupled with the spread of mobile and smartphones in particular, along with dropping bandwidth costs, we expect services like mfine to take-off across the breadth of the country; starting with early adopters in metros and tier 1 cities. We see that solving for access is the most important first step in this journey.

Access to high quality care, access to super specialties and access 24*7 are going to be key levers of growth at this point. In parallel, we are also building the tech that can standardize and in turn scale the quality of healthcare delivery. This will help us reach millions of families and deliver better healthcare to all. We would like to be the trusted place for managing one’s own health be it preventive or curative. We believe we can scale this across the country and beyond and help people gain much more control over their health.

Many doctors might not be tech-savvy, what is overall learning curve involved in getting well-versed with the mfine Doctor app ? Also, please let us know if you have an in-house team of experienced doctors [for at least first level of consultation] ?

Doctors are very keen to adopt digital medium and they are excited to partner with mfine. The app is very simple to use and very structured for doctor to be very efficient. A new doctor gets comfortable with the app, typically in 1~2 days of using it. We have in-house team of experienced doctors that serve two purposes – a. They prepare the case sheet in detail for the Sr consultant and also follow up with the patients proactively and b. They define the triage protocols and implement medical standards in capturing data of the illnesses, suggesting treatment plan and also ensuring quality of communication.

Which are some of the best experiences [case studies] that customers have gained via mfine and how mfine has bridged the gap of bringing best level of healthcare for Indian citizens located outside metro cities?

Most people might have this notion that acute conditions always require a hospital visit. This isn’t the case for all medical conditions. Non-emergency health concerns can be addressed through digital space. One such medical condition that we treated on mfine was ‘Dengue’. The patient was 64 years old, female with a known history of hypothyroidism and arthritis. She had high fever, chills, loss of appetite, and complained about frequent, dark urine. Our team of doctors advised her to get a blood test done.

The results showed that she was dengue positive. Through mfine, doctors were able to monitor and manage her condition closely while she rested and recuperated at home. This was one example. There was another example where the patient [from a 2nd tier town in South India] needed Pediatric Endocrinologist and we could deliver the right care for the child with one of the doctors on our panel.

Which are some of the technologies being used in the development of mfine and how does your team leverage emerging technologies like AI, ML, Data Mining, etc. in enhancing customer experience and bridging the gap in the Healthcare market ?

We leverage AI/ML systems in combination with standard medical protocols, to make high quality care reach consumers across the country. We designed the system that can assist doctors in their diagnosis and treatment, not just business workflow automation. We are able to create a standard reference system for doctors in each specialty, that’s powered by a combination of well-established medical protocols and our AI system’s algorithms.

In a unique way, the same expert system is used to power the experience on the consumer app also, be it structured and effortless data collection, reminders for follow up based on signs/symptoms and execution of care protocols for chronic conditions.

So far mfine has tied-up with how many hospitals in India and it is currently operational [in terms of doctor engagement] in how many cities in India ? What are the future expansion plans, either in terms of offerings and cities in which it currently has doctor tie-ups ?

We are currently operational in Bengaluru with 35 hospitals. We will be expanding rapidly across India and will be having hospital network in 5 major cities by end of 2018. We will continually expand the specialties that we will offer and make mfine a comprehensive care platform for families and individuals. We will also be introducing long term care programs for consumers to be able get the required help in managing and recovering from chronic conditions

Can you comment on the overall funding of mfine and how has entrepreneurial experience of Ashutosh Lawania [w.r.t Myntra], your stint at Myntra and the experience of PrimeVp team helped in building & scaling mfine ?

Our seed round was closed in 2017 where we raised $1.5 million from Stellaris Venture Partners, healthcare entrepreneurs Mayur Abhaya and Rohit M.A. We recently closed our Series A, with $4.2 million led by Prime Venture Partners, and participation from our existing investors; Stellaris, and Mayur.

Overall we understand and feel deep passionate about ensuring high quality consumer experience. We also learnt how to set up operational processes, people processes to ensure we can scale the company and the product without breaking. Coming from successfully building a consumer internet firm earlier, we understand the importance of being data driven, developing deep domain expertise, creating systems and processes that can scale massively from the very beginning.

How has technologies like AR, VR, data generated from sensors in wearables, etc. helping in building a better healthcare experience, reducing stress & pain, remote surgery, etc.

Within our company’s focus most immediate relevance would be of wearables. Sometime during the next year we will be integrating with state of the art devices that can collect vital parameters of the patient and pass it on to the doctor he/she is consulting with. Heart rate monitors, pulse oximeters, glucose monitors are all relevant for us to integrate with.

If you can some insights into the DAU/MAU/other relevant details about mfine and how it plans to keep the customers more engaged [either with good content on healthcare/home remedies/etc.] on the platform ?

We will be focussed on providing personalized, clinically accurate information to the user. We will be building digital health tracking tools that consumers can use to track their various health parameters.

[mFine for Android can be downloaded from here & mfine for iOS can be downloaded from here]

We thank Prasad Kompalli for sharing his insights with our readers. If you have any questions for him about mfine, healthcare, etc. please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.

Investec Capital Services (India) Ltd has announced that it acted as an an exclusive financial advisor to Kissht for the Series C fund raise of $30 million. The funding round was led by Vertex Ventures, the venture capital arm of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, and Sistema Asia Fund, with participation from existing investors Fosun RZ Capital, VenturEast & Endiya Partners. This is one of India’s largest consumer Fin-Tech deal.

Image Source – Kissht

Investec India had also advised Kissht on its Series B led by Fosun in November 2017. Investec India has built a strong advisory business over the last few years within the Indian Venture Capital ecosystem. Investec India has advised companies across a wide range of sectors on Equity Fundraises at Series B and above, including Kissht, Bizongo, Treebo Hotels, OfBusiness, BigBasket, Pepperfry and Quikr. The firm also advised on the sale of CitrusPay to Naspers – one of India’s largest Fin-Tech M&A, and on the sale of Sokrati to Dentsu – one of India’s largest Digital Media M&A.

Frankie Brown of Investec Capital Services (India) Ltd said

With our unique position in the Indian market, we believe that Investec India is well placed to advise businesses across the Fin-Tech spectrum. We have a long-term relationship with Kissht, and this partnership has successfully resulted in both the Series B and Series C fundraises. The $30 million Series C round will see Kissht perfectly placed to consolidate their market leadership position. Investec is investing significantly in the Fin-Tech space across the both in India and globally.

Vinit Barve of Investec Capital Services (India) Ltd said

Technology led lending has opened up a huge credit opportunity in India. Kissht has established a leadership position in the consumer Fin-Tech segment. With its consistent growth, strong unit economics and enviable NPA record, Kissht has taken the right steps in the direction of building a mighty lending institution. This investment, led by Vertex and Sistema with participation from existing investors, will enable the company to achieve the next level of growth and cement its leadership position in the consumer financing segment.

Founded in 2015 by Krishnan Vishwanathan and Ranvir Singh, Kissht provides product financing and personal loans to its customers through a financial technology platform which is integrated with online and offline merchants. Kissht has developed its own self-learning proprietary algorithm which assesses a customer’s credit profile in a fraction of a second based on 2,000+ digital footprints.

Kissht has demonstrated remarkable growth with impressive record on credit costs. The business had previously raised its Series B round from Fosun RZ Capital, Prophet Capital, VenturEast and Endiya Partners in 2017. Currently Kissht is present in 50+ Online and 2,000+ Offline points of sale across categories including consumer durables, electronics, health, alternative energy & education, enabling customers to easily access credit for their purchases.

Kissht will use this funding to penetrate its business further into both offline and online merchants, and deeper across categories and further enhance its data and analytics capabilities as it seeks to cement its leadership position in the highly under-penetrated Indian consumer credit market, as well as investing further in technology and building the team.

NSRCEL the startup hub at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore has incubated over 225 startups, created over 5400 direct jobs and associated with roughly 46,000 entrepreneurs. Its ventures have a total portfolio of over $1.5 billion. As NSRCEL readies itself for the future its new logo and website reflects its transition, scale and trajectory of growth.

The increased scale & scope of operations include NSRCEL preparing to mentor 4000 entrepreneurs, to launch 3-5 new programs supported by industry partners and to incubate 200 new ventures. The new logo and website mirrors the centre’s value system of being an open incubator, sector agnostic, agile and flexible. It has been running incubation programs for women, social sector, engineering students within and outside the IIMB community. It has been successful in bringing together innovators, academicians and industry giants to create a real-world impact in the entrepreneurial community.

Sharing NSRCEL’s future plans at the launch of the new logo and website of NSRCEL, here on campus today, the NSRCEL Chair and faculty from the Entrepreneurship area at IIMB, Prof. Suresh Bhagavatula, said

Success stories are important, but impact made on society is more significant. Future businesses must have a commitment to the environment. India has so many social challenges. That is why NSRCEL encourages social and women entrepreneurship. We are the first incubator in the country to have started incubating social impact ventures, and we hope to build on all these positives in the coming year.

In 2017, NSRCEL was selected by NITI Aayog’s Atal innovation Mission as one among the top 10 incubators in India. It partners with government bodies, global corporations and foundations for it programs. In 2018, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India [DST] also joined in to support its initiatives.

The India Innovation Design Challenge [IIDC] was launched with Texas Instruments for engineering students. Women Startup Program [WSP] with support from Goldman Sachs and the DST, and the social venture incubation program with support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Mphasis Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

The centre has on board a panel of over 50 mentors that include entrepreneurs, IIMB alumni, academicians, investors and industry veterans. Private equity, venture capital funding and government support has led to the growth of a number of start-ups making Bengaluru the startup capital of India. Capitalizing on this opportunity the scale and scope of NSRCEL’s operations has also grown exponentially.

Rajiv Sawhney, Chief Operating Officer of NSRCEL, said

An idea is at the centre of everything at NSRCEL. Every person that walks through the door with an idea will be assessed on two parameters – willingness and ability. At NSRCEL, we believe that these two aren’t mutually exclusive. If you have the willingness and the passion, with a gentle nudge, you can learn skill and ability. Our job is to focus on helping every venture, that incubates with us, take the next logical step.

The well-known startups that began their journey at NSRCEL include global private equity (PE) major KKR backed Amagi, Mango Technologies that was acquired by Qualcomm, One Click that got sold to Freshdesk, among many others. The centre is betting on the success of some of its newer ventures that include Milaap, Vsnapu, Settlrs, Automoville, GoDesi, Tenexer, Zoojoo.be

With plenty of plans in store, NSRCEL will work with entrepreneurs to help them build successful business models. It is also looking to add its network of mentors, partners and build an ecosystem for ventures.