With rising concerns over the problems faced by an overburdened public health care system and the imminent emphasis on the role of entrepreneurship in achieving a self-sustaining and developed economy, it is health entrepreneurship which guarantees the best of both worlds.
It should, therefore, not come as a surprise that this profession has gained tremendous popularity in India today. A large number of people have forayed into health entrepreneurship with twin intentions of both earning profits as well as giving back to the society. However, while we do need to encourage the growth of this developing sector, it is imperative that potential health entrepreneurs do not simply jump into the bandwagon without proper homework in order to make a mark in this field.
Like any other entrepreneur, a health entrepreneur faces many problems in establishing the brand — be it financial and investment hurdles, rampant bureaucracy, abiding by corporate and government regulations, competition in the form of giant multinational corporations, and other challenges.
There are certain factors to be kept in mind in order to maintain a successful foothold in health entrepreneurship.
Assessment of Needs through Market Research
Before venturing out, health entrepreneurs need to assess the needs of the market in order to tap on to them. Extensive market research and an in-depth study of different specializations in healthcare are essential starting points.
By analyzing the local demand for a variety of health products and services, entrepreneurs can choose the right field(s) in the vast scope of healthcare. They can carve a niche in an untapped market or even maintain standards in a competitive market through continuous research.
Successful health entrepreneurs are those who understand the market needs and can connect better with the customers by filling in a necessary gap in available health services.
For example, establishing yet another general health facility in a city that already has a number of well reputed hospitals might not be too good an idea. A better way would be to look for regions that lack quality health care and offer them quality healthcare solutions. This will not make the venture just financially successful but would also make it more socially relevant.
Research reveals that there is a paucity of specialised healthcare facilities in Bihar. The aim of healthcare providers should be to build hospitals and provide health expertise based on three tenets – affordability, accessibility and quality.
There is a need for dedicated quality mother and child care centres in smaller north Indian towns, which should be addressed.
Choosing the Right Investors
No one can undermine the role of an investor in any entrepreneur’s journey. Just like it is a tough challenge to find the right investor in case of any entrepreneurial firm, a health start-up faces similar challenges.
It is essential to find someone who shares your vision, both for profitability and advancement in health science. A friction with the investor, in terms of goals and values, might lead to major challenges in the long run. To discover someone who possesses first-hand knowledge of your health field is an added bonus. But even if health proficiency is not guaranteed, someone with an insight of the current health economy is required in order to guarantee long-term growth and survival of business.
Adequate networking, association with health and academic organizations and being well-equipped with market research and knowledge about the industry norms and opportunities help in attracting the right investors in your given field. A big name can even help in giving you clinical validation and promote your brand.
Balancing Between Social Responsibility and Profitability
One of the major moral dilemmas faced by a health entrepreneur is the need to establish a profitable business while maintaining their social responsibility to the general public health.
A major issue in healthcare today is the dearth of affordable health treatment and services, especially for the poor and the widened rural-urban gap in availability of health professionals.
While entrepreneurs may not be able to break even if they take on the burden of free clinics for the same, an association with NGOs and regular voluntary work by employees in rural camps helps in fulfilling their social responsibility.
For those looking to provide relatively affordable service in the private sector, cost effectiveness is integral to ensure profitability. Investment on health research to assist the government with preventive and curative measures in significant health issues is also an important move to establish one’s social entrepreneurship.
Constant Technological Innovation
Innovation is key to any successful entrepreneurial venture. Health entrepreneurs need to keep up with the changing technological environment in healthcare and stay ahead with trends. From electrical health records, telemedicine, digital marketing campaigns to advancement in health technology, enhancing patient treatments, medical equipment and surgical procedure, the technological prowess is everywhere.
One can uncover dormant or unmet needs by asking simple questions on how to improve their services and gain competitive advantage through creative innovation.
Know your Limitations
It may be tempting to take up a profitable line of service, but lack of knowledge can be a thorn in your path. Keep in mind the ability of your team of health consultants and know your limitations.
If your team works in primary care, then a move towards a specialization without the right human resources and training will be detrimental to your success.
Constant flow of feedback from the customers can also highlight areas to improve upon.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play to Your Strengths
Ambition is what makes a successful entrepreneur. Every health entrepreneur must set certain goals for themselves and the health industry and help in achieving them by playing to their strengths. These could range from research and development in chronic diseases to enhanced customer service to a digital revolution in medicine.
In the end, remember that a bit of healthy competition is always good for the nation, especially when it results in saving lives.