Why Healthtech is Thriving In Asia
Experts decode the plus factor of the healthtech sector in the region
With more people opting new technologies to improve treatments, the healthtech industry in Asia is on a steady growth path. From period tracker apps to blood pressure watches, the healthtech startups are offering an exciting range of options. Given its focus on preventive healthcare, the region is ripe for the entry of foreign players. According to a new report by advisory firm Galen Growth Asia, Asia HealthTech closed the year at a record-breaking US$6.3 Billion, confirming it as the second largest digital health ecosystem in the world. This is 1.5x of the investment quantum in 2017 and 2x in 2016. There are several other factors which propel this market in Asia. Take a look.
DIGITAL COMES OF AGE
Lim Waimun, founder and chief executive officer of Singapore based on-demand video consultation platform Doctor Anywhere, emphasizes that the geographical location, vast network of skilled professionals and partners and government support make Asia an ideal healthcare hub for tech companies. "Companies are utilising more online channels to connect with and educate their audience, thus fuelling growth in the industry," says Waimun. Doctor Anywhere provides healthcare providers with more options for care delivery, improving their access and reach to patients. India, not to be left behind, has also taken some significant steps in the Asian healthtech sector. The Government's Ayushman Bharat Insurance Scheme promises health benefits to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
Vishal Gondal, chief executive officer and founder, GOQii, believes the technology adoption has greatly increased resulting in a slew of healthcare innovations using local resources for India's masses. So, compared to other economies in Asia, India will definitely be the most exciting to watch in terms of healthtech. "With the advent of 5G, digital infrastructure will improve manifold, giving our grassroots population access to healthcare. Asia with its overgrowing population and inadequate infrastructure, will tap in to digital health technologies to bridge the existing gaps in the healthcare infrastructure and delivery," adds Gondal. US-based GOQii is dedicated to enabling a permanent shift to a healthier lifestyle with the combination of advanced wearable technology, and the world's leading experts, coaches, doctors and karma.
Dr Siaw Tung Yeng, CEO and founder of telehealth and mobile medicine startup MaNaDr, has very similar thoughts on what's driving the sector in Asia. "With the proliferation of technology in Asia, the populace in Asian countries are ready for the disruptions brought about by healthtech. Sensing this, governments in Asia are actively promoting healthtech as the next engine of growth," he says. Yeng identifies Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam as key emerging markets to watch in terms of healthtech. Singapore-based MaNaDr, a comprehensive healthcare app, enables patients to connect with their trusted doctors anytime, anywhere across the world through telemedicine, a practice which helps in remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology.
ASIA – THE NEW HOTBED FOR INVESTMENT
Asian startups have been raising big investments in the last few years. Investors are also expressing optimism by steadily pumping capital in the sector. The Galen Growth Asia report shows the growth stage companies have got the lion's share of investment and late stage investors have invested almost over 60 percent of the total capital invested in 2018. Seemant Jauhari, managing partner at Singapore-based venture capital firm HealthXCapital, feels this indicates a great opportunity for early stage health-tech investors lining up a highly curated and de-risked set of deals for late stage investors. Jauhari also shared the reasons for the sudden revival in investors' interest in the sector. "Successful exits have built the momentum for startups and investors alike. Secondly, emerging good quality of startups are encouraged by supportive policy, abundant capital, strong demand for healthcare, strategic partners (corporates). Lastly, demonstrated evidence of impact in the west and early data points of success in Asia indicate it's the start of a larger wave which investors want to ride on," he says.
Agrees DocDoc co-founder and CEO, Cole Sirucek: "The booming investments are an indicator of the investment community's recognition of the opportunities in healthcare technology in the region. Healthcare is one of the largest segments of the global economy and yet, it is one of the last segments to be impacted by information technology. The fact that there are no patient intelligence companies in healthcare is a perfect example of this," he adds. His company operates in eight countries with more than 23,000 doctors and over 700 hospitals and clinics—the largest in Asia. The company combines deep expertise in clinical informatics, artificial intelligence, and healthcare quality assessment to deliver simple yet powerful patient solutions.
Ashim Roy, Co-founder and chief executive officer, Bengalaru-based Cardiotrack, which provides predictive diagnosis for cardiovascular diseases through Innovative medical technology, says: "Consumer-centric healthcare is in its infancy and that means, companies that are able to introduce unique solutions for consumer-centric healthcare have a very significant opportunity to capture large share of this new market opportunity the same way General Electric and Fuji Electr have captured a very large share of MRI market. No wonder, VCs are falling over each other to identify the brightest of the consumer-centric healthcare stars of next decade."
(This article was first published in the April-May 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)