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Health & Fitness 2011-10-14

Making health affordable via franchising

By Sub Editor
Making health affordable via franchising

Ekohealth, a new venture in the health care industry aims to provide affordable yet good treatment to patients. In an interview Akash S Rajpal, MD&CEO, Ekohealth Management Consultants Pvt. Ltd shares the venture and his future aspirations.

Abha Garyali (AG): What inspired you to start a unique service brand like Ekohealth Management?

Akash S Rajpal (ASR): Being in health services in public and private sectors for 13 years, I am sensitive to pain points of both patients and healthcare providers. I saw a huge opportunity to bridge the gap here. To make healthcare affordable, patients better informed and providers better learned, Ekohealth (sanskrit 'ek' for 'number one' choice in health care, and sounds economical) was launched.

AG: When and what inspired Ekohealth Management to adopt the franchise route for expansion? Where do you see the brand in five years?

ASR: We have partnered with Zensar Technologies, a global BPO firm, a call centre with excellent team and leadership. We have got an amazing conversion rate and response and our initiative at Mumbai grew bigger than anticipated. Looking at this great response, we have decided to expand pan India more rapidly. We feel that the franchise route will be a cost effective and efficient way to spread our wings faster. Pan India presence will also allow us to optimally use our central marketing budgets better to give a boost to all our branches and partners.

AG: How is it different from other health care business? What facilities does the brand offer? What is the USP of Ekohealth Management?

ASR: The mission of the company is 'making healthcare affordable'. We see that the senior citizens, patients with diabetes etc do not get insurance. They spend a lot on their health on daily basis. Moreover these patients do not visit healthcare providers more often because of cost constraints which worsen the diseases. Patients at large are still unaware of their rights in a hospital, they do not know what to expect, the cost comparisons are not known, health awareness as such is poor related to pros and cons of a surgery etc. This lack of doctor patient engagement and lack of transparency makes healthcare costs more expensive. Ekohealth will educate patients bring in certificate courses in disease knowledge, awareness on leading doctors and centres, and costs. This will make patients better informed and they can negotiate with hospitals better. Ekohealth will also update electronically by e-mails, sms etc to member patients on desired health profiles, dosage/medication schedule alerts, second opinions, and forum interactions with leading doctors.

AG: Ekohealth is a unique opportunity. However, it is bound to face competition. What strategies have you adopted to face this competition?

ASR: Yes, competition is there. We have few other small players in similar businesses, limited to one city or region, and fortunately for us people do not know about them. They have not well propagated it and have slowly promulgated into therapeutic and health delivery route rather than education and awareness. That beats the purpose. This concept should go out beyond corporate and reach out to the retail customer at large. We are propagating our memberships as 'gift a health' to your loved ones, and are trying to tie-up with malls, gift shops, housing societies, health magazines, shopping stores, airlines, etc to reach out to the desired target base.

AG: Is the future of this industry bright in the years to come?

ASR: Senior citizens and patients with pre-existing diseases are not covered by insurance and these are the ones who have high medical bills. No one is there to help them. Such patients are hungry to know well about the disease troubling them. Ekohealth will come to the rescue here and will create a phenomenon. Ekohealth has a potential to be a 2,500crore business in the next five years.

AG: How many franchisees do you have presently? What are your future expansion plans?

ASR: We just took the franchise route. Therefore, presently we have two franchisees. Expansion plans are to be present pan India as our market survey has shown a high receptiveness everywhere. We would like to be present in top 10 cities initially and grow to tier II and III cities in next three to five years.

AG: What are the qualities and qualifications that you seek in your franchisees? How much investment is required by aspiring franchisees?

ASR: We need people ideally from health care or allied experiences who understand pain points of both provider and patients. Labs, clinics, hospitals, physiotherapy centres, chemist shop etc, owners of these would be a good fit. However, people from any industry who have a drive and zeal to take this forward with creative thinking and networking skills would be the best choice for us to partner.

The investment varies from city, region, state and country. The investments primarily are into sales and dispatch force and admin office. There is a franchise fee and operational cost.

AG: How does the company plan to support and train franchisees?

ASR: There is a central training centre at Mumbai where the franchisees will nominate key personnel to train. The corporate team will train the staff. Supervision will happen on site from time to time. Daily MIS of sales will be shared.

AG: What challenges do you see for your franchisees? How can they overcome the challenges?

ASR: Many people still have not understood our business as it is new. Therefore, domain knowledge is lacking. Franchisees may have a higher rate of attrition in staff. These problems can be overcome with our support by sending cvs, training, right selection, and networking.

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