Celebrating Docpreneurs on National Doctors' Day

Here are some doctors who have entered the field of entrepreneurship, both within healthcare and outside of it

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Hard work and sacrifice, these two words have always been synonymous with doctors. In the last two years, when most of us were locked in the comfort of our homes escaping from the deadly Coronavirus, doctors and healthcare professionals were out there taking care of thousands of patients day in and day out. In the process, we lost more than 1500 doctors to Covid-19. A special mention here about Dr. K. K. Agarwal, the former president of the Indian Medical Association, who worked till the end. A few days before he succumbed to the deadly virus, he even stated –"The Show must go on ", demonstrating the selflessness of doctors as a community.

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Moving on, there are also many doctors who have entered the field of entrepreneurship to expand their horizons and serve humanity even better. Some popular names here are Dr. Prathap C Reddy, founder of Apollo Hospitals Group, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, the founder of Narayana Health chain and Dr. Sabahat Azim, the founder of Glocal Healthcare Systems.

As we celebrate National Doctors' Day today, to acknowledge the role of doctors in saving numerous lives, observed across India in memory of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy who was a legendary doctor and the Chief Minister of West Bengal, we spoke to four doctors who have taken up entrepreneurship both within healthcare and outside of it.

Dr Arbinder Singal, co-founder and CEO, Fitterfly

Dr Arbinder Singal is a renowned super-specialist doctor and a healthcare entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Fitterfly, a health tech startup working in the field of digital health and digital therapeutics. Fitterfly provides DTx programs in the area of Diabetes, and Obesity, B2C and B2B solutions and SaaS platforms for pharmaceutical companies, nutraceutical companies and other business partners in wellness.

Dr Singal is a gold medalist in MBBS from Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi University and a gold medalist in pediatric surgery from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. Post that, he did a pediatric urology fellowship at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Ohio, USA. He has worked in USA & India offering surgeries to children with complicated urinary birth defects.

Narrating about how his entrepreneurial journey began, he said, "Post my training, we shifted to Mumbai as my wife got a good opportunity at a reputed eye hospital. I joined a medical college and started my private practice. I also learned how to create websites and had been writing content since medical school. My website was getting decent traction and an idea struck. What if we brought superspecialist doctors like me from across the world on one platform and helped people get second opinions online- how would that be and Eureka -MediAngels- was born. We raised two rounds of funding but struggled in scaling up."

Since he had built extensive content and clinical pathways, the startup was acquired by 1mg in 2015. Post that, Dr. Singal worked at 1mg for a year before setting out to set up his current venture, Fitterfly. "I was also a co-founder at two hospitals. One of them is running profitably while the second one, a tertiary care eye hospital, was acquired by Agarwal's eye hospital group in 2019," he said.

Dr. Singal still practices on weekends as that gives him the satisfaction of care and cure. "The kind of pediatric surgeries I do are unique, and I try to teach and pass on the surgical skills to junior surgeons. Fitterfly has a deep healthcare focus, and we work with hospitals, doctors and pharma companies. Being a doctor gives me that insider perspective as we try to strike partnerships in the medical ecosystem. Lastly, I want my practice to be seen as my strength. It's not that I wasn't successful as a doctor that I gave up the practice," he said.

The promise of a larger impact and changing the future of healthcare was immensely exciting to him and that's what wakes him up every day. "Every day is full of new ideas and possibilities. And then see ideas take form and shape to lead to better health outcomes at scale is immensely exciting," he said.

Dr Shikha Sharma, founder, One Health

Dr Shikha Sharma completed her MBBS at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi and then completed a fellowship of Aspen Institute USA and a fellowship of BMW young Leaders.

Dr. Sharma embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship in 1998 with a small preventive health clinic in South Delhi. "As a junior resident in cardiology at G B Panth Hospital New Delhi, I saw too many deaths and as a doctor I knew that the only long-term solution is fixing nutrition and lifestyle," she told us.

She continues to practice medicine for family and friends, but not as a job. "I was not aware that I am getting into entrepreneurship. I just followed my conscience, gut, and instinct and the organization grew around and with me. For me, the focus was on my patients and their happiness and satisfaction, and good results," she said.

In 2020, Dr. Sharma founded a healthtech startup, One Health, that connects customers to vedique coaches and products. The startup has four verticals including Online Training and certification in Vedique Nutrition courses, Nutrition Software for Healthcare professionals (Dieticians, Yoga Trainers, Gym Trainers, Homoeopathic Drs, Physiotherapists, etc), Online advisory for weight loss and metabolic diseases using Vedique Nutrition, Vedique wellness products. The startup has taken two rounds of funding of 24 crores so far.

Dr. Nikhil Sikri, CEO and co-founder, ZOLO

Dr. Nikhil Sikri did his MBBS from AIIMS, New Delhi and then finished his management degree from ISB, Hyderabad. Additionally, he has over 15 years of experience working in a range of industries, including healthcare, startups, and management consulting.

In 2015, Dr. Sikri started his exhilarating entrepreneurial career. "The biggest reason for me to start the entrepreneurial journey was to create a beautiful organization where if you want to fly - no one would clip your wings. We piloted various ideas in healthcare and education but unfortunately couldn't find a product-market fit. Subsequently, the problem of housing/coliving piqued our interest as it echoed what I appreciate deeply - helping people live better and more holistic lives. We were lucky to have found the right scalable product-market fit in coliving - and Zolo today is India's largest Coliving and Student Housing Player," he said.

Dr. Sikri doesn't practice as a doctor today as the hectic entrepreneur timelines don't permit the same. "However, the intention is still there and unabated in my opinion. By taking care of our Zoloites mental health, relocation concerns, professional duties, and the stress related to higher academic concentration, we hope to provide the best co-living/student living spaces that are entirely clean and thereby contribute to their health," he said.

ZOLO Stays was launched in 2015 and currently has 2000 staff members and 45,000+ beds that are occupied, divided across 9 cities. Trifecta Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, and Investcorp are the three largest organizations to have contributed to the startup's funding to date, which is over $101 million.

Dr. Ashvini Jakhar, founder and CEO, Prozo

Dr Ashvini Jakhar did his MBBS from Armed forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune and went on to serve in the Indian Navy for 6.5 years. Post that, he pursued PGP from the Indian School of Business in 2012. From ISB, he joined McKinsey and Company as a strategy consultant. Over the next two years at McKinsey, he had an opportunity to work on various impactful projects across functions and domains. "Also, I got an opportunity to interact with promoters of various large companies or conglomerates. This is when I discovered my passion for entrepreneurship. I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial journey and started Prozo in 2015," he said.

Prozo is an integrated supply chain company, offering end-to-end supply chain solutions- be it warehousing and fulfillment, freight, technology and helping brands list and sell on e-commerce platforms. Besides this, it has a network of dark stores to enable same or next-day delivery and also enable partner brands to do cross-border commerce.

The Series A-funded company has raised a total of INR 100 crore from domestic and global investors like Sixth Sense Ventures and Jafco Asia. Its last fundraise of INR 76 crores was in Feb 2022. The startup's fulfillment network is spread across 12 locations and consists of 5,00,000+ sq ft of warehousing space. It plans to scale this up to 1 mn sq ft in the next 6-12 months.

"Seeing other successful entrepreneurs' ability to create an impact at scale drove me to entrepreneurship. Also, by nature, I am a problem solver and builder, someone who likes building rather than just nurturing," said Dr. Jakhar.