“Avoid the trap of falling in love with brilliant products that fail the market test”- Rahul Shukla, Co-Founder of LabsAdvisor
StartupEd had an exclusive interview with Rahul Shukla, Co-Founder of LabsAdvisor. Read their inspiring journey below :
Tell me a little bit about your venture. What stimulated you to start your venture?
Healthcare industry is very opaque for consumers, and diagnostics is worse due to poor regulation.
80-85% of the market dominated by small labs, majority of lab owners are not marketing savvy and operate at sub-optimal efficiency and capacity utilization. Market size is estimated to be ~Rs. 60,000 Cr and expected to grow at a healthy rate.
We experienced this opacity and inefficiencies of the healthcare industry through our personal experiences. Since we came from strategy consulting, we found healthcare surprisingly opaque compared to other industries and that stimulated us to start LabsAdvisor.
LabsAdvisor has been established to enhance transparency and customer experience through technology as a curated marketplace of reliable diagnostic labs. Key pillars of our customer value proposition are quality, pricing and convenience, offered for the largest range of medical tests.
LabsAdvisor has developed a strong customer base with a healthy repeat rate, despite a moderate marketing budget. We have also established a strong B2B business, including both domestic and international clients. We have achieved break-even already and growth in B2C and B2B businesses will help us sustain and grow.
Entrepreneurship is all about problem-solving. For E.g. – A young guy couldn’t find a taxi, he founded UBER which transformed the way people commute. What is the problem set you are working with?
Healthcare industry is very opaque for consumers, and diagnostics is even worse. This leads to unreliable quality, unnecessary testing and high variance in prices. As most patients lack awareness about medical tests, they don’t know which lab offers what kind of quality/ reliability of tests, often leading to poor diagnosis and incorrect line of treatment. This opacity and lack of awareness can be easily used to manipulate consumers about test prices as well. Further, the alignment of some unethical doctors with diagnostic labs has led to significantly inflated prices of almost all medical tests.
Patients suffer from lack of availability of simple details about the location, operating hours and availability of a female radiologist or a specific machine (e.g. open MRI). Lastly, many patients find it difficult to safely store and preserve paper reports, which over time may get lost or torn and so may not be available for doctors to refer in future.
LabsAdvisor has solved for all these problems, offering complete transparency, awareness of price, quality and convenience features, along with online storage of medical test reports to empower consumers’ diagnostic experience.
What are your plans for growth?
Our, growth plans can be divided into four parts:
B2C, Now – Digital marketing: We have relied heavily on digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) as this allowed us to grow consistently and reduce customer acquisition costs. Angel funding rounds have allowed us a moderate marketing budget and we have achieved significant growth because of this budget on the back of smart, content-driven digital marketing.
B2C, Future – Radiology brand: We intend to become a radiology brand serving across the country in the near future. We would like to develop this as an asset-light business, in a co-branding arrangement with selected partner labs of our network. This will give us greater control on lab operations to standardize service level and introduce some innovative measures to improve capacity utilization.
B2B, Now – Portfolio of global clients: We have set up a strong foundation working with a couple of international healthcare firms. We support their testing and health data needs, including sourcing of patients, conducting medical tests and supplying scans. This business line offers us high margin revenue and stability to cash flow. We are looking to build a portfolio of global clients offering similar services.
B2B, Future – Big data and AI-related services: We intend to develop capability in big data and artificial intelligence, working with global healthcare firms. As we gain adequate experience in this field and set up a stable core business generating healthy cash flow, we will develop more risky, AI-driven services and products for Indian and international markets.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your journey and if you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
It is very difficult to balance different priorities as an entrepreneur when you are trying to build a business from scratch and juggling many balls. Mistakes are inevitable and I have made more than my fair share of them.
One of the two most important mistakes I made was to pay less attention to building competitive differentiation, to build sales momentum. We needed to build defensible competitive differentiation and in our services-oriented business model, it proved to be difficult.
The second big mistake was to build a solution misaligned with the most important stakeholder of the healthcare value chain – doctors! As both Co-founders came from non-healthcare backgrounds, we should have got some strong advisors or mentors from doctors fraternity and build a solution aligned with their interests.
This is a hypothetical situation- imagine that you can invite anyone for dinner and they would surely accept your invitation. Who would you invite and why?
I will invite India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. I have tremendous respect for him and what he has done so far for our nation. In my view, he’s the best leader India has got after gaining independence in 1947 and his thoughts, viewpoints and eye for detail are very impressive. Most importantly, in everything he does, he thinks only about India – India first is the unmistakable theme of everything he does. So, if I do get such an opportunity to invite anyone for dinner, I would love to have dinner with Modiji and will hope to learn & be inspired by his wisdom and pragmatic approach.
What is that one piece of advice you would like to give to all the entrepreneurs out there?
Starting and building a business is pretty demanding, so I will advise the following:
1.)Build a business only in an area you feel strongly passionate about – in plenty of tough phases, this passion will help you get by
2.)Focus on consumers and the problems you are trying to solve, avoid the trap of falling in love with brilliant products that fail the market test
3.)Carefully understand the key influencers in your industry and build a business model, keeping these influencers aligned.