The company that makes Cardiotrack is called uber Diagnostics and it recently won the Red Herring award. In a conversation Mr Ashim Roy, CEO of uber Diagnostics, he describes how Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is impacting our lives.
How your company started?
The company was started in 2013 based on research conducted by the founders and St. John’s Research Institute in Bangalore. The findings of the research is summarized below:
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is impacting lives of more than 0.5 Billion people, globally
- More than 75% of CVD deaths occur in low and middle income economies
- Cost of healthcare and lost wages due to CVD exceeds $1 trillion
- Impact of late detection of CVD on the family of breadwinner is life time of debt
- India with 60 Million CVD patients has only 8,000 cardiologists
- CVD diagnosis is needed at primary care level.
This led to development of a handheld, network-connected affordable tele-cardiology solution – Cardiotrack.
2.What was the vision behind it?
In many of the developing countries, the lack of formal health disability insurance leaves the population at a huge financial risk, should a major health problem to occur in the family. When it comes to heart health, rural communities are at a complete disadvantage due to lack of availability of cardiac clinics. They must travel to the nearest urban center for heart health diagnosis.
Due to high cost of intervention, a cardiovascular incident doesn’t just end a life; it also ends the dreams and aspirations of family forever. This is because of the significant debt the family incurs to save the live of a loved one.
There are numerous studies that indicate that 50% of the people who receive assistance through micro-finance and other programs remain in poverty because of high health care costs. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills 18 million people globally. During this decade, India will have 100 million people with Cardiovascular disease due to adjacent illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes.
Today, we can find one CVD patient in every 5 families in India and by 2020, we will have one CVD patient in every 3 families. Many of these families live in non-urban areas. The cost of an invasive procedure (by-pass surgery, stent etc) is upwards of INR 200,000, which in many instances is equivalent to annual wages of the family. These families must borrow money to save lives of a family member only to write off the future of the next generation because of the high debt. Early detection of CVD can be treated through low cost medication and avoid many instances of invasive procedure.
3.What your company actually do?
Our company, uber Diagnostics makes CardioTrack, a 12-lead ECG monitor that is easy to use, provides clinical grade ECG output and performs predictive diagnosis to start the intervention immediately and thus reduces the need for invasive intervention. It is network-connected and a patient’s ECG scan can be instantaneously transmitted to a cardiologist anywhere in the world. The biggest advantage it offers is saving cardiologists’ time by performing the diagnosis at the primary care level.
The goal is to use CardioTrack for early diagnosis of CVD/ CHD to reduce number of expensive invasive procedures. Number of patients diagnosed with any CVD condition is a good measure of socio-economic impact of CardioTrack. Without CardioTrack, CVD condition of these patients would remain undetected leading to expensive intervention or death.
4. Difficulties which you have faced or you are facing.
Deployment of Cardiotrack must happen at primary care level. The Government health-care organizations must be partners in save journey to save lives and livelihoods. As a start up we do not have wherewithal to engage public health-care organizations.
- The process of engaging Govt agencies is time consuming. The red-tape and corruption is a huge barrier to entry to any Govt organization. We are getting zero support from Govt agencies.
- There are too much paperwork and red tape to set up and operate a manufacturing company
- There are daily obstacles when it comes to import of source material.
- There is too much paperwork when it comes to export of products.
- The procurement process at Govt hospitals/ healthcare organizations lean towards foreign product when there are good quality products available in India.
Here established MNCs have a huge advantage because of the FDA, CE and other international certifications for their products. For a startup such as uber Diagnostics to get CE and FDA will take more than a year and cost of getting these certificates is typically INR 1 Crore, a huge sum for any startup. Even after hundreds of trials at Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research and other hospitals, the foreign vendors remain the preferred vendors.
5. How your company is helping India to grow?
For India to grow, we need a healthy population. Through our efforts, we are able to screen people for heart health problems. Through early intervention, these patients can lead a healthy and productive life.
6. Your view on Startup India Campaign
Unless bureaucratic red tape and corruption is eliminated in the procurement and other process, these campaigns will have very limited success.
There must be Govt supported mechanism for equity funding to help the startups in their journey. Ease of getting loan and other such initiatives will not solve the problem because the startups need risk money to develop technologies. Venture capitalists come into picture much later.
In the first 3-5 years of startup’s existence, risk money is needed. Govt must make such funds available. And, there is no reason for Govt to not have equity position in the startup. The successful startups will have a financial exit for the Govt in 7-10 years and the funds can then be reused for the next generation of startups.
These programs have been launched in many countries (Singapore, Chile, Canada and others) have successfully created a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem based on a combination of grant, debt and equity funding program. An independent funding agency is needed to address the risk/ patient capital requirements of early stage startups.
7. Message to young entrepreneurs.
To build a successful start up is difficult anywhere in the world. The probability of success of a startup in developed countries such as USA is 1 in 20. In India, building a successful startup in light of prevailing conditions is extremely difficult.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a very successful Indian serial entrepreneur, Desh Deshpande. He commented that :
Because of lack of abundance in India, there is a starvation of great ideas as well. And, to make the situation worse, entrepreneurs with good ideas in India find it extremely difficult to get funds to take the idea forward.
Several successful startups have recently emerged from India. However, these are very few compared to the size of the population. If you have a great idea today, find a way to take the idea to US and make it a grand success. Hopefully, things will be different in 5 years from now.