#Asia Practo Founder’s 10 lessons on building a kickass startup


Shashank ND lists out 10 of the many reasons why his medtech startup has been able to expand to 10 countries in Asia and build a crowd-winning product in a handful of years


Access to good healthcare is critical, yet millions in Indonesia and billions around the world struggle for this every day.

Even those with access have a frustratingly poor experience. In a world where one can book seats for a movie or order a cab literally at the speed of thought, finding doctors is still unbelievably tough. Healthcare records management are a pain too — you either don’t get them or if you do, you have to maintain fat files and often doctors won’t have the time to go through all your reports, severely compromising the quality of healthcare you receive.

Six years ago, I went through this pain while trying to seek something as simple as a second opinion for my father’s knee surgery and thought, “There had to be a better way to do this!” This is how Practo began — with the mission to help people live better and longer.

In 2008, while still in college, I met with several doctors to try and understand this problem better. I realised many didn’t even use any kind of software, and most that did were pretty unhappy with it because it was poorly designed and often led to increased IT-related headaches.

This insight led us to build Practo Ray as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering, thus negating IT management by doctors and ensuring that their data is always safe in the cloud even if the computer goes down. In today’s post-PC era, this strategy has paid off as it ensures a doctor’s data is always available to him across all his devices, and has garnered us over 90 per cent market share among private practitioners using online practice management software.

Practo Ray was a great starting point, but we still had not made it easy for consumers to find the best doctors. Thus, in 2013, Practo.com was born with a mission to help people find the best doctors and book instant appointments.

Also Read: Practo paves way for Hong Kong’s healthcare tech startups

While building Practo.com, data accuracy was paramount and we couldn’t really adopt the crowdsourcing models used by other industries. We built a team of experts that crawl every street in every city and get doctors listed on the platform. This ensures that we have rich, accurate data that patients can rely on. We’ve recently added a feedback feature, so patients can provide inputs about their experiences with the doctor and the clinic to help them improve and to enable consumers to make more informed decisions.

Today, with one million-plus patients booking 100,000-plus appointments a month, Practo.com is the largest doctor search engine in Asia and number six in the world (and we’re climbing fast!).

As we expand to 10 countries, these are a few lessons that we still keep close to our heart.

These 10 lessons are:

1. Always optimise for the vision: Articulate the vision continuously and ensure each step you take is towards it. Vision helps align the entire team behind a common purpose.

2. Usage is king: Focus more on the usage of the product than how much users are paying for it. Usage is the single most important metric to determine product value. Pay close attention to what your customers tell you. Product insights will come through interpretation of customer feedback.

3. Solve hard problems: At the start, try picking the tough problems to solve. These are usually the ones no one else would have tried solving. Ask yourself ‘why hasn’t anyone done this before?’ Logically, due to tech advancements, problems that were harder to solve so far will become easier now.

4. Hire A-list players only: That should be one of your top priorities. Only get the best of the best. They can give you exponential growth. Ensure that they buy into the vision of the company and focus equally hard on retaining them. One of the keys to retention is to build a great culture from day one. It will remain throughout the life of the company.

Also Read: Don’t start a company just to start a company: Practo’s Shashank ND

5. Think global: One of the best things we did was launch in Singapore. The market there really stress-tested our product and helped us improve by leaps and bounds, which was instrumental in us getting such a high market share so quickly.

6. Hire advisers and consultants: There are many industry experts out there. Take advantage of their expertise, it’s faster. Don’t try to do everything on your own.

7. Grow: Growth is the only oxygen for a startup. Continuously focus on the growth rate. Take risks and do everything possible to grow fast.

8. Build great products: Never ever ship a sub-par product. Customers have an innate radar to detect carelessness. They will penalise you by moving away.

9. Choose the right investors: Don’t optimise for valuations, optimise for building a great product or service that people love. Investors will see value in that. Optimise more for who is investing in you than how much. Investors can be great partners in helping you grow so they must share your medium- and long-term vision and their goals should be aligned to that.

10. Focus: You have limited resources and time. Don’t spend too much time attending conferences, networking events etc. Focus all your energy on ensuring progress. In our earlier days, we used the mantra of “Code & Sell”. Everything else is useless.

Also Read: India’s doctor booking platform Practo enters Malaysia

And finally, have fun. You will spend long hours doing this so make sure you love doing it and are excited by it. There is no room for half-heartedness.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at writers[at]e27[dot]co

Image Credit: Denis Simonov/Shutterstock

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