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"Before we came on TV, nobody knew we existed," Shashank ND, CEO, Practo

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | May 19, 2015
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With its first-ever television campaign, doctor discovery portal Practo aims to increase awareness about its platform.

Digital has solved many consumer problems in the last decade, from connecting consumers, booking tickets, ordering food to, now, even booking an appointment with a certified doctor. Practo Technologies was launched with a vision to empower consumers while making crucial medical decisions.

According to estimates, the overall Indian healthcare market is valued at US $65 billion, states a report from India Brand Equity Foundation. The private sector accounts for almost 72 per cent of the country's total healthcare expenditure.

In a bid to tap this market, Shashank ND and his classmate Abhinav Lal, in 2008, founded Practo Technologies. The company has raised $30 million in a second round of funding in February to fund its expansion in 35 cities in India and overseas.It offers two products - practice management software for doctors, Practo Ray, which is sold as a subscription-based SaaS product, and a doctor discovery portal, Practo.com, for consumers.

For the records, Practo Ray is an online medical practice management software that provides doctors with appointment scheduler and electronic medical record services, prescriptions along with billing, IVR telephony and other healthcare management services. Most doctors use practice management software to assist their practices on administrative and financial matters.

While Practo is an web and mobile based platform where a consumer can discover a doctor and consequently book an appointment for a particular specialty near his/her vicinity. The platform allows consumer to filter through doctor listing based on distance, availability, consultation (fee, days and hours), gender and recommendation.

The company does not charge consumers or doctors to book an appointment or to be listed on Practo respectively.

The doctor discovery platform currently claims to receive four million hits every month and has 130, 000 doctors listed on its healthcare practice management software, Practo Ray.

The company launched its consumer app in August last year, and has recently come out with its first television campaign, in order to increase awareness about the platform.

Executed by Lowe Lintas, the campaign features consumers across various age-groups facing health-related problems like aching back, weak eyesight, fatigue, resorting to the Practo app to find the best doctors near their locations.

Shashank ND

Speaking about the brand campaign, Shashank ND, founder and CEO, Practo, says, "In the first four years of our operation, we focussed on getting the doctors use our software Practo Ray. We launched the consumer app only in 2013. Once we had coverage of consumer products across India with a presence in 35 cities, we decided to launch a TV campaign. The campaign has caused a surge in the number of app downloads."

Focus on the app comes after the encouraging response the company received on mobile as compared to its website. Shashank informs that they have witnessed far more engagement on the app as compared to the website.

"A typical consumer on Practo app does four to five searches, vis-à-vis one to two searches on the web. In the consumer mind-space, mobile app is a more convenient way to find a doctor than the web," he adds.

The Practo app, available for Android and iOS devices, has so far received one million downloads.

Although Practo's primary target group is consumers in their late 30s and early 40s, the company aims to solve a bigger problem by providing access to better healthcare across socio-economic groups.

"Through our product, we want to reach out to mid and low income groups where access to good healthcare is restricted or denied. Through Practo, they now have a choice of good healthcare specialists within their budget," explains Shashank.

Although, Practo's debut campaign is rather urban-looking, the company aims to focus on smaller markets. Currently, almost 25 per cent of the platform's traffic comes from tier II and III markets.

Recognising the various malpractices marring the healthcare industry in India, Shashank explains that the company goes an extra mile to ensure background verification of each and every doctor listed on its platform - it cross-checks educational details, membership and registration details with the Medical Council of India (MCI).

"Every single doctor on our platform has MCI number on them," he says, adding that trust is an important factor in an industry where he operates.

The platform claims to record six million searches every month. Dermatology, gynecology and dentistry are the three top searched specialty services on the platform, comprising 25-30 per cent of the overall searches.

"I think, while initially consumers may look for non-serious ailments, once the trust is established, they will come to our platform for research before making a choice to get treated. Earlier, there was no alternative available to consumers than to resort to a family doctor or a recommendation from friends. Practo is helping consumers make informed medical decisions," Shashank states.

The company has earmarked $10 million as advertising and marketing budget for this fiscal, dedicated to creating awareness and educating consumers. Although digital-heavy, the company is cautiously evaluating traditional media channels like television, print and radio.

"Before we came on TV, nobody knew Practo existed. Post our campaign, we have seen a surge in our app downloads. Therefore, our primary medium continues to be digital, but we will have considerable share of traditional media as well," Shashank informs.

The company is currently working on the 'My Health Records' feature on its platform where a consumer can upload his medical history through invoices and reports across hospitals. The feature aims to ensure that a patient can have his/her heath records at one place.

With a broader strategy to become one of the crucial options to resort to while making a medical decision, Practo is cleverly positioning itself as "Your Health App", treading a territory where not many have succeeded earlier.

Practo is bullish on driving its growth on the mobile medium and becoming a one-stop shop when it comes to making informed medical decisions.

It faces competition from players such as Delhi-based HelpingDoc, DocSuggest, Bengaluru-based Qikwell Technologies and Mumbai-based MediAngels.com.

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