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Practo Growth Breakdown: How 2 NIT Graduates Unified the Healthcare and IT Industry in India

The Complete Story of Growth, Iteration and Experiments.

Practo's Shashank
Practo's Shashank

 

 

Practo (formerly known as Turbodoc.com) is a healthcare information technology provider based in Bengaluru, India. Founded in May 2008, Practo works as a search engine for doctors/clinic, book medical appointments, consultations, insurance, health records storage and medicine delivery through its mobile applications and website for the patients. For doctors, they have a SAAS based tool that helps doctors manage scheduling, billing, and patient details.

Fact Sheet

Company: Practo

Business: A healthcare information technology provider

Founders: Shashank ND and Abhinav Lal

The goal has never been about being an Entrepreneur or starting a company. It has always been about solving a problem we deeply care about”  – Shashank ND, Practo

  

Practo’s TImeline Infographic

Practo timeline
Practo timeline

 

Year on Year Growth of Practo After It’s Conception

In early 2008, Shashank ND was in the final year of B. Tech at National Institute of Technology in Karnataka. During those days he was frantically getting together his father’s medical records and scanning them. He was unable to access enough information about the doctor before his father was about to undertake a surgery. He felt nothing but helpless. This incident urges Shashank and his classmate, Abhinav Lal, to set up Practo Technologies Pvt. Ltd while they were in their final year of engineering.

Practo Ray was launched in 2009. Practo Ray is a software dedicated to doctors which removes the complexities from a doctors and clinics practice management. With Practo Ray software, doctors can schedule appointments, generate printed bills, access digital health records, access clinic & patients analytics and even print prescriptions.

Sequoia Capital invested $4 million or Rs 25. crore in Practo in 2012. With this investment Practo aimed to reach one lakh doctors and 50 million patients in the next three years.

In 2013, Practo opened up in Singapore. After just two years of launching in Singapore, Practo became the largest online clinic management software provider in terms of market share and reaching milestones.

In 2014, Practo Ray had 10,000+ doctors on their system. Over 10 million electronic patient records (doubling every year at that point) had been created with over 7.5 million unique patients and over 7 million appointments are being made every year. A comprehensive coverage from metros and 310 Indian towns and cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Singapore, Practo.com had over 1,00,000 doctors listed with 1.3 million page views and 30,000 appointments booked every month. The traffic was 24% month-on-month and the revenue was 50-100% QoQ.

2015 was a very resourceful year or in other words the most fruitful year for Practo. In February of 2015, Practo raised $30 million from Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners in Series B funding. Later came a number of acquisitions In April, Practo acquired fitness tech startup FitHo and in July 2015, Practo acquired Genii. The funding kept on coming from Tencent, Sofina, Google, Matrix Partners and more with the amount of $90 million. In October 2015, Practo launched itself in Malaysia.

The year 2016 was even greater compared to 2015. Practo witnessed 10 times growth in revenue, launched in Brazil (exactly 3 years after their launch in Europe).

The Urge to Solve A Problem Makes An Entrepreneur

 

Practo founders: Shashank and Abhinav
Practo founders: Shashank and Abhinav

 

Shashank was born in 1988 and finished his schooling from National Public School, Rajajinagar, Bangalore. He started his B. Tech at National Institute of Technology in Suratkal, Karnataka. Even though the crowd was not very entrepreneurial at his college, Shashank setup the first e-cell and got his first sniff of entrepreneurship in 2006. On top of that, Coding and Computer Science were really endearing to Shashank.

Shashank’s family had a chock-full of distinguished engineers and doctors but still starting a business was an alien concept to them. It was 2008 when his father had a health setback and had to undergo a knee operation. He was not able to get enough information about the doctor online. He was talking to a doctor in the U.S to take a second opinion before handing over his father’s health to doctors.

He was able to scan and take photos of his father’s health documents and send them via email to the doctors. In return, he would get a print of his father results but the tool won’t allow sending a mail. Shashank was bewildered, being a coder he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that the development team of the product wouldn’t add 3 lines of code to just add an email option.

He later realized that it was not the doctors who were at fault. It was a tech problem. Entire healthcare around the world was broken. Doctors didn’t the have tech help the patients. He researched and found out that Google and Microsoft were already doing it. He had his Eureka moment but to make it user filled first it had to be doctor filled. He asked himself a question, “Can we create a single health platform?” and the answer was yes.

 

A Fresh Idea Takes Root In The Form Of Practo

Practo's Shashank
Practo’s Shashank

Shashank knew that he had to build a platform where all the digitized information, new and old would be available to both doctors and patients at any point in time. Once he thought of what needed to be built he began his hunt for a Co-founder. He knew that this was not a one-man job. He contacted Abhinav who was an excellent coder and the only guy who was with Shashank at E-cell. It peaked Abhinav’s interesting and he sat on it immediately.

Shashank and Abhinav worked day and night and created the first draft within 14 and they made it as lean as possible. They asked themselves a question, “How do we create the software and permission to share it with patient and distribution it whenever they wanted?” The answer was to build a software and they got on it on the double.

The first obstacle they needed to overcome was to create a software for doctors. The second problem that raised its head was that doctors were not tech savvy. People were discouraged that doctors were not using the software. Doctors were really unhappy about the fact that the software was offline and it needed to be fixed. Shashank and Abhinav grabbed the opportunity and decided to sell the product online as SAAS in 2009.

This created the difference.

Practo’s 3 Top product rules to rule them all:

Always Sell Before You Build: Both Shashank and Abhinav sold the concept and collected money beforehand to know that they were serious. They wanted to confirm if they are interested or not. Giving a product for free losses its value. They made sure that they got paid upfront even small checks between 8k and 10k were enough.

You Write Code, You Have To Make Money: Practo was bootstrapped and didn’t have wonderful things like MVP and Lean Startup. They created a dashboard that correlated the number of code they wrote and the amount of money they made. They decided that if they wrote a piece of code, they had to make money off of it, no questions asked. They were focused on the product and selling it.

Start With Customer Development: They didn’t waste time on networking or meetups. They spent time talking to clients instead. This helped them focus on the software and all the energy went into a single direction which made the docs use the product.

Vision Turned Into Reality For Practo

This time was between 2008 to 2009. During this time a lot was happening for Practo.

What was the product all about?

Shashank and Abhinav launched the first version of the product while still in the last year of college and called it Practo Ray. The main aim of the product was to simplify the practice of doctors by taking care of things like

  • Billing & Accounting: Generating bills became easier with Practo and keeping track of periodic income-expenditure reports was made simple.
  • Price Catalog: Eliminating the hassle of having to key in how much a certain treatment costs. When you choose a treatment, the cost will be automatically saved.
  • Track Outstanding Dues: You could access the exact amount was due from a particular patient
  • User-Friendly: It was simple enough for a receptionist to use.
  • Safety: All the data would be online with 100% data warranty.

First Customers And How They Got Them?

The first few customers of Practo were small clinics like Dermatologists, Multi-speciality Poly Clinics, and Nursing homes. Cold calling was their first weapon of choice for acquiring customers. They picked up yellow pages and started calling small clinics. After a lot of rejection, what they found out that they couldn’t call big facilities and only SMEs were willing to meet because they had time.

Pricing: A Tough Nut To Crack

Both Shashank and Abhinav had made a few rules of their own regarding pricing and they followed these rules diligently.

Out of market acceptance: Shashank and Abhinav say that pricing is very difficult to do. They knew from the beginning that software wasn’t their end game. It was not going to the only product that they would focus on. The primary focus was to get on as many clinics as possible. Their strategy was to make sure that everyone gets the software. After the software in place, they would make a different product and a strategy. For this purpose, the software should not be too pricey. Hence, the starting price of the software was decided at Rs. 699/month.

Zero Discounts and Bargain: The harsh reality of this industry was realized by both of them. This whole industry was very much built around discounts. They didn’t want to give any discounts. This made sure that they would have less number of meeting with doctors. Without any negotiation meetings, the doctors would not take them lightly.

Revised Pricing: Both Shashank and Abhinav will revise the pricing every year. They would start at the bottom and would increase it strategically.

Later they registered as Naabo medical solutions which created a product called Turbodoc.in

The Upward Trajectory of Practo

With such a pain point in the Healthcare Industry, Practo was bound to grow but they had to make some alterations on their way to progress. Refining the targeted audience and rebranding the product fall in these alterations.

The founders decided to focus on a new customer segment because as mentioned before ‘Software was not their end game”. They started focusing on,

  • Dental clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Skin/Dermatology centers
  • Wellness clinics
  • Multispeciality polyclinics
  • Eye care centers & hospitals
  • Nursing homes & Small-scale hospitals

After the customer segment was refined, On 1st October 2010, the company announced that they are also refining and rebranding TurboDoc.in as Practo.com. It became India’s largest and leading online practice management software and the success motivated them to do even better in the future.

The Renaming of the Product

On October 1st, 2010, Turbodoc.in was rebranded as Practo.com. The rationale behind revamping the platform was to make even bigger and better than before. A lot of gratitude was expressed by Practo.com to all the users of the software and provided the valuable feedback which made the software a huge success and the leading online practice management software. All the customers were automatically upgraded to the new user interface on the launch date.

Not only Practo.com was rebranded but also it was launched internationally because Shashank and Abhinav wanted this advantage to spread worldwide. In addition to it, a plethora of features were added to the software and a free trial was introduced.

The upgrade of the software was far simpler and a number of New features which will benefit both the doctors and patients. Here are the upgraded features:

1) All medical practices were added to the software such as Eye, Skin, General Physician, Orthopedic and more. In fact, a whole range of new healthcare establishments was added such as Spas, Wellness Centres, and Homeopathy.

2) The Dashboard was modernized on the left side which provides the information on the latest appointments scheduled. You would never forget any appointments because of the new Alerts section on the right side. It would display new online appointments, SMS updates of the failed appointments.

3) The SMS feature update was the most badass because they added an unlimited number of Transactional SMSes. So, you don’t have to worry about the number of SMSes you have used. You can personalize the patient SMS by adding their name to it. The patient follow-up SMS can be customized to the date of choice.

4) A new ‘Manage Staff‘ feature was added in the settings page. You could assign roles of doctors, receptionists and practice administrators to make the experience much better.

5) Patient Profile page was added to create Remarks, Pin code and custom medical history of the patient. A new support management software was added to manage all the queries of the users.

6) Track your invoices and payments on the right-hand top corner in the new Subscription section. Subscription payment can be done online via debit, credit or net banking.

7) Manage multiple clinics together with the networking option. Use one single login and manage a chain or franchise of clinics.

Introduction of Structured Pricing

Along with flexible pricing, Practo.com gave some discounts and accepted offline payments. This made the whole platform more approachable and user-friendly.

The pricing range is between Rs. 699 to Rs. 2,999. As you can see from the screenshot below:

The pricing was adopted and adjusted based on market acceptance. The flexibility of Unit Economics was tested and stretched to reach a pricing suitable for all.

On top of that, Practo.com provides an unwavering support to its customers. They claim that they reply within minutes. If they are not satisfied with this, then they can directly reach out to Shashank at +91 98863 02739.

How Did Practo Spread the Word?

Practo’s sales and marketing strategy were simple, convention and powerful. They did a number of things that shot sales through the roof like:

Referrals:

After the first few sales, referral sales picked up the pace. It was all word of mouth because doctors trust other doctors and didn’t trust software companies as they were cheated in the past.  Doctors are a tightly knit community and as the word spread and the sales figures went up, they gained a sense of validation and a lot of confidence. Doctors promoted their products without any fee and doctors would give them 2 pages full of leads. In short, referrals means market validation.

In-Person Sales:

Practo’s strategy for sales was nothing less than genius. They didn’t believe in rambling about the benefits and features of the product. They understood the pain point of doctors which usually was a “Late Patient.” They would notice this pain point within 30 seconds and convince the doctor in the next 30. There is a small window to grab their attention.

Practo developed a sales strategy and divided it into 3 steps:

1) Dedicated sales teams to a certain region.

2) 3 to 4 times the compensation of the salary for the Sales team.

3) Practo Epicenter was used to measure Sales.

 

Affiliate Program:

Affiliate program proved to be a very efficacious sales and marketing tool for Practo. In a few steps, anyone can be a part of Practo’s affiliate program.

1) Sign up for the affiliate program.

2) Practo will reach out to you via call.

3) Affiliate programs terms and conditions will be explained to you.

4) Start generating leads for Practo.

Here is the Affiliate link to sign up.

Conferences:

Conferences were also a part of Practo’s strategy to get some eyes on them. As a part of the strategy, Practo attended Indian Dental Conference twice. Once in the year 2010 and the other in 2012. In between, they participated in Expodent Bangalore. This is where they started getting informal and casual with there customers. They invited their customers to meet them and share their feedback. To make the events/conferences even more approachable and successful, they hired Nishanth Iyengar as the head of Events and Activations.

Blog AKA Content marketing

Practo used their blog as more of an information portal. Every new launch in every city was updated on the blog. Nothing was left for the customers or patients to guess. Everything like an upgrade in Medicine technology, Product Updates, News related to the company and news related to the community of doctors was often updated on the company blog. Similarly, using their blog as a weapon to bust the myths surrounding Practo was absolutely genius.

The updates didn’t stop at news and product updates, the events that are being conducted and the achievements of doctors was also celebrated on the blog post by congratulating them.

Driving The Existing Users To The New Product

Digital Marketing played a vital role in driving the existing customers to the new product. The marketing efforts can be divided into two sections:

1) SEO & SEM

2) Partnerships

1)SEO AND SEM

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing were the key factors in this process.

Shashank and Abhinav learned SEO and understood its technicalities by attending courses and learning new concepts.  They got their hands on the data that Google didn’t possess. So, Data + SEO became a lethal combo.  Plus they kept the data as much fresh as possible which did half of the work.

To get fresh data they used Google Analytics and Crazy Egg. They analyzed the data like Retention on the App, Month on Month growth, Total Revenue, A/B testing and the Lifetime Value.

All the latest updates about the company like Product Updates, Company Updates, What their customers love?, The practice of the month, How to take care of your body? i.e. Nutrition, Teeth were sent to the customers via Newsletters and Email marketing.

They ran a lot of ads using Google Adwords for problems potential patients could have. Keywords related to medical problems assisted in running the ads.

Off-Page SEO helped a ton in marketing their new product.

2) PARTNERSHIPS:

Practo used conventional marketing as a tool to spread across India and South East Asia. They partnered with Uber in countries like India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Singapore. According to the partnership, the patient will see the closest Uber available when they get a reminder alert for their appointments.

Practo further copped the Social Media field by partnering with Twitter.

The benefit of using the Twitter platform was to answer real-time healthcare queries via Twitter handle @AskPracto

Challenges Faced by Practo overtime

Seeing the success of Practo now, it is hard to believe that the company was frugal for the first 3 years after it’s conception. Every company faces its fair share of challenges and Practo was no exception.

In the year 2010-2011, because of lack of experience in funds management, they almost ran out of money.

In the year 2010, Practo tried to reach all the kidney patients and tried to provide a donor to all of them but failed in this attempt too.

Till date, Practo is suffering from a major problem because of India’s large population and less treatment accessibility and donors.

Series A Funding – Practo Gets Its First Cash Inflow

In the year 2012, Practo Technologies got its first round of funding of a whopping $4.6 million from Sequoia Capital.  At that point in time, Practo had over 10,000 doctors across India. Their plan was to expand and launch various products worldwide. So, with this funding, Practo aimed to broaden its team from 80 members to 350 members. Like every other company, funding was used by Practo Technologies for expansion, not survival.

Growth to Expansion

Launch In Europe:

After the funding from Sequoia Capital in 2012, Practo launched itself and it’s product ‘Practo Ray’ in Cologne, Germany on March 16th of 2013. It was International Dental Show (IDS) where Practo launched itself in the European market which attracted 1118,000 visitors, 1,950 exhibitors from 55 countries making it a perfect place for the launch.

Launch In Indonesia:

Right after expansion in Europe, Practo Technologies targeted Indonesia and launched itself there in September 2015. The healthcare market in Indonesia weighs around $21 billion. With a database of 4,200 doctors and planned to cover around 60% of Jakarta.

Launching in Indonesia was a wise decision because of a combination of perfect demographic, economic, and critical factors made Indonesia a ripe market. A rise in the standard of living of the middle class made it more feasible. Other factors like the lowest doctor to patient ratio in the world meant that the number of doctors was to rise in the future.

Launch in the Philippines:

In September 2015, Practo technologies were launched in the Philippines. With 11,000 doctors and clinics across all 17 cities in the Greater Manila area, Practo covered 70% of the market.  This made Practo the largest database in the country Customers will get access to the Practo Ray app. It was a team of 50 people when they started and expanded the team to 150 people by 2016.

Launch in Brasil:

After launching in several aforementioned South East Asia markets like Indonesia and the Philippines, Practo eyed the Brazilian market and launched itself in the $200B Brazilian healthcare market in March 2016. Two of the reasons for launching in Brazil was that it is similar to the Indian Market which was unstructured and the smartphones were on the rise.

Numbers And Figures

By the year 2014, Practo had a huge database of 10,000 doctors, 10 million electronic patient records, 7.5 million unique patients, 7 million appointments every year. In just two years of presence, Practo became the No.1 Clinic Management Software in Singapore.

Shashank claims that the company stats doubled in 2015 as compared to 2014. There was a 50% bump in queries/searches on a quarterly basis. The mobile app which was non-existent in 2014 had over 500k downloads in 2015. 60% of the traffic is derived from mobile (Website+App). Mobile had an added advantage because the average number of searches were exactly double as compared to the web.

Product Evolution With The Help Of Multiple Acquisitions

Every Product or a company starts from a simple idea but along the way the company has to evolve, expand and diversify. Practo technologies did the same by acquiring companies and a fresh injection of funds.

It all started with PractoRay, an end to end product for doctors. This product went under the knife and got several other features added to it. Later the company was renamed from Turbodoc to Practo.com which was a B2C product for appointments i.e, for customers.

 

In the process of product evolution, several companies were acquired. In April 2015, Fitho was acquired to expand its services and set a foot into preventive healthcare space. This step was aligned with Practo’s vision to become the sole health app for consumers.

In July 2015, Practo acquired one more firm called Genii. With this acquisition Practo and the founders of Genii, Varun Vohra & Aditya Anand with the team of 11 members will lead product teams. This boosted Practo’s growth in enterprise space with products focused around hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centers, and others.

In September of the same year, Qikwell was added to Practo as well. Qikwell had a wonderful platform where patients got a fantastic appointment booking experience. This would help Practo implement this technology to improve the booking experience for their customers.

In September 2015, One more company called InstaHealth was acquired by Practo Technologies. for $12 million. InstaHealth provides hospital information management solutions and this acquisition will help Practo technologies to open up an additional revenue stream.

In December 2016, a company named Enlightiks added another feather to the cap of Practo Technologies. This company owns a technology called Querent which uses big data analytics to provide business intelligence to healthcare providers.

A Chain of Funding for Global Expansion.

After 2015, fresh injections of funding kept the expansion plans going for the Healthcare giant. They successfully closed a $30 million Series B funding from Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners. With this funding, they expanded to 35 cities in India and at multiple international locations. The team expanded from 600 to 1,500 by December 2015.

In the same year, Practo got its Series C funding of a whopping $90 million. The series C funding came from a number of investors like Google Capital, Matrix Partners, Sequoia India, Sofina, Altimeter Capital, Yuri Milner and Sequoia Capital Global Equities. Practo became the first Indian Venture to be on Altimeter’s portfolio. With this funding, Practo expanded in various Geographies and hired resources.

Funds just kept coming for Practo. In the year 2016, Practo Technologies received Series D funding of $50 million led by Ru-net, Recruit Strategic Partners, Tencent, and Thrive. This funding helped the company to explore international territories and launch new services.

Summary of Marketing 

Stages of growth Marketing channels
Launched idea
  • Launched TurboDoc in 2008
  • Launched Practo Ray in 2009
  • Rebranded from TurboDoc to Practo.Com in 2010
Idea Demand Validation Cold called doctors using yellow pages:

Customer development clients:

Demand Validation Growth
  • Referrals that led to in-person sales
  • SEM
  • SEO: Blogs
  • Email Marketing
  • Affiliates
  • Partnerships
  • Events
Growth Expansion
  • Launched in Indonesia
  • Launched in The Philippines
  • Launched in Brazil
  • Launched in Europe

 

Funding
  • Got Series A  $4 million funding from Sequoia Capital  in 2012.
  • In 2015, They got series B funding of $30 million series B funding from Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners.
  • In 2015, Practo got its Series C funding of a whopping $90 million from Google Capital, Matrix Partners, Sequoia India, Sofina, Altimeter Capital, Yuri Milner and Sequoia Capital Global Equities.
  • In 2016, Practo Technologies received Series D funding of $50 million led by Ru-net, Recruit Strategic Partners, Tencent, and Thrive.

  

Practo.com Traffic Breakdown

The top traffic source of Practo Technologies is search which means the Content on the website is Search Engine Optimized. The next big source of traffic is Direct,Mail and Social. The source of Social traffic is mainly YouTube, Facebook and Whatsapp web. The country which provides most traffic is India.

 The Takeaways 

From the Launch of the Idea to the present date, Practo technologies had a tremendous growth. The pain point addressed by the founders Shashank MD and Abhinav Lal was unique. In spite of a billion dollar Healthcare Industry, the issue was untouched. When a personal problem struck Shashank, the brilliant idea of an online platform took roots in Shashank’s mind.

Despite the pivot and the lack of experience in entrepreneurial skills, they didn’t give up. They learned it the hard way and have a few lessons to give away:

1) Don’t think short-term, always think long-term

2) Don’t sell junk or crap

3) Never Give Up.

Shashank’s Advice on Fundraising

He says, “Always keep your investors that you are interested in updated on your progress. It is important to receive money when you are being offered rather than going out and ask it from everyone. Have a long-term vision, build a great product and investors will follow.

[Written by Anirudh Narayan of GrowthSpartan]