World Bank’s data shows that India’s GDP has grown at an average of 6.34% between 1991 and 2016. A new Harvard study proclaimed that the economic pole of global growth has moved over the past few years from China to neighbouring India and predicted that India’s economy will grow at 7.72% until the year 2025. Indeed, when we look around we see a country that resembles a giant construction site with heavy cranes erecting skyscrapers and bulldozers leveling the ground for new expressways.
While this growth has lifted millions of people out of poverty, it has also exposed Indians to lifestyle diseases like never before. Rising incomes and sedentary lifestyles are the main causes of obesity. Obesity in turn is the leading cause of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart ailments. According to the Office of Census Commissioner of India, lifestyle diseases are the biggest cause of deaths in India. According to one expert there are at least 2 million heart attacks reported in India annually and every 33 seconds an Indian dies of a heart attack. Women are more disproportionately effected by the changing lifestyles. As per Lancet, a British medical journal, there are 20 million obese women in India more than double that of men. On the other hand, India along with China has the most underweight citizens in the world. India truly is a country of contrasts!
When you think about these startling statistics, it compels you to ask yourself: Am I physically fit? Am I mentally fit? What is fitness anyway? Can India grow richer without getting sicker? How do we make a billion people fit and healthy?
To be sure India, like all great civilizations of the world, had a glorious history in medical innovations. Sushruta, widely regarded as the Father of Surgery and believed to be from 600 BCE, meticulously compiled details of surgery in his work “Sushruta Samhita”.
But, as we say in business past performance is not a guarantor of future results. Today, India’s healthcare is in a crisis. India ranks a dismal 154 out of 198 countries on the healthcare index. Health Access and Quality index of India at 44.8 is behind countries such as Sri Lanka and Bhutan. In fact, some Indian states such as Bihar and UP are worse off than some sub-Saharan African nations on many health indices.
The crisis in India’s healthcare system is accentuated by low public healthcare spending. India’s public healthcare spending at 1.2% of GDP compares unfavorably to United States’ 8.3%. At a whopping 62.4%, the share of Out of Pocket Expenses (OOPE) in India’s overall healthcare spending is amongst the highest in the world. Compare this figure with the world average of just 18%. Poor infrastructure and shortage of skilled workers continue to dog the quality of the healthcare in our country.
There is no denial that India of 2017 is a much better place to be born in than India of 1960. India’s infant mortality rate (IMR) has dropped from 165 per 1000 in 1960 to 38 per 1000 in 2015. Infectious diseases such as Smallpox, and Rubella have been eradicated and recently India has been declared polio free by WHO. These successes show that we as a society can tackle tough problems if we have the will and perseverance. But, we still have a long way to go before we catch-up to developed nations such as USA. And that something needs to change is not news!
But crisis can be turned into an opportunity. India’s entrepreneurs are seizing on this opportunity and trying to solve the problems of availability, accessibility, and affordability by leveraging technology. A number of healthtech companies have been founded in the past few years with the number peaking at 706 in 2015 as per Tracxn research. Healthcare Services, E-Commerce in Healthcare, and Clinical Diagnostics received the most funding.
But, it is also easy to get carried away and ignore the key piece in India’s healthcare puzzle, which is preventive care. Consider the bubonic plague, which wiped off as much as 1/3rd of humanity in the middle ages. Today we know it could have been prevented entirely and in the process saved millions of lives, if only people lived in hygienic conditions.
Research has shown that preventive care can considerably reduce health risks such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. But, preventive care has been grossly ignored and as a sub-sector has been under-invested. For example, of the $100 billion spent on cancer research only 5% went to research on preventing cancer from occurring in the first place. According to National Health Accounts, India’s spending on preventive healthcare is an abysmal 9% of the overall healthcare spend. And there has been even less emphasis on awareness programs. A mere 1% of the total healthcare spend is allocated for Information, Education, and Counselling Programs. Early disease detection programs saw a paltry Rs. 377 Crore spending which is just 0.1% of the total healthcare spend.
Fitness & wellness form the backbone of preventive care. This sector is poised to play a catalytic role in resolving India’s healthcare crisis. Both entrepreneurs and venture investors alike are spotting this opportunity and taking this seriously. Physical as well as Mental health segments have begun to receive venture funding. Globally, fitness & wellness sector received a total of $3 billion in the past 5 years.
Slowly but surely, India is taking its place in identifying and funding visionary founders and startups in this critical sector. Unique ideas such as CureFit (a Kalaari funded company) are actively solving for the goal of #BillionFit.
The old adage Health is Wealth is as relevant now as it is in the past. Maybe even more so now. And quite literally too. Today India’s healthcare market is an estimated $160 billion. By 2020 it is expected to be a $280 billion market. Its imperative that we solve India’s healthcare crisis as incredible India takes its place in the spotlight.
To debate the state of Indian healthcare and discuss how technology and innovation can help solve India’s healthcare crisis, CureFit & Kalaari invited leading entrepreneurs, investors, and healthcare professionals to BillionFit: Technology Redesigning Healthcare summit. Dr. Ajay Bakshi, MD & CEO, Manipal Hospitals, and Nitin Gaur, Director, IBM Blockchain addressed some hot-button topics such as Cybersecurity in Healthcare, Hospitals of Tomorrow. Dr. Sameer Mehta, Director & CEO, Mehta Hospitals, Sateesh Andra, MD, Endiya Partners, Hari Thalapalli, CEO, Call Health, Dileep Mangsuli, Wipro-GE Healthcare and Vrinda Mathur, Granth Thornton India shared their views on Technology in Healthcare: From Innovation to Implementation. CureFit’s Mukesh Bansal brought out a startup’s point of view on Spotting Opportunity in Fitness & Wellness in India. You can also hear my own views on India’s Healthcare Opportunity. During this summit a number of healthtech startups such as CareNX, Ray IoT, Ekincare, Pandorum Technologies and 5C Network showcased their innovations and displayed their passion for solving India’s healthcare problems. The sheer scale of innovation that is occurring in this space gives hope that digital startups could help revolutionize our healthcare sector. And by focusing on preventive healthcare the aspiration of #BillionFit seems more in reach.
Note — Kalaari is an investor in Curefit. Kalaari or Kstart is not an investor in any other startups that may have been mentioned above.
Disclaimer : It is strictly an independent opinion of the writer, not representative of Kstart or Kalaari.