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Harsimarbir Singh: The Caregiver The co-founder of Pristyn Care tells us how he, along with his co-founders, found a big problem in healthcare that nobody else was solving and went deep into it. He is on Entrepreneur India's Digital Cover for March 2023

By S Shanthi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. That is what aptly defines Harsimarbir Singh, co-founder, Pristyn Care. Even after four of his startups failed one after another, Singh was upbeat and kept at it until he found success with his fourth company, Pristyn.

Founded in 2018, the Gurugram-based startup is today the fastest unicorn in the healthtech space. The startup offers surgery care to patients undergoing elective surgeries, that is, non-emergency surgeries through advanced medical technology and recovery measures. Present in 42 cities, it has so far catered to more than 1.5 million patients so far, has around 200 plus clinics throughout the country and a team of close to 700 plus doctors.

The fourth time's a charm

Entrepreneurship always came naturally to Singh. "Entrepreneurship is as intuitive to me as eating a parantha for a Punjabi or a dosa for someone in the South. I never planned it or made a list of career choices. I just feel like doing it all the time," he said.

Besides the strong instincts he had toward entrepreneurship, certain life experiences further pushed him into it. One such incident was meeting leadership teams at Facebook and Amazon while studying in the US. And, the second was getting an internship as an investment banker in India. While the first taught him that it was not difficult to build a company if one puts his or her heart into it, the latter made him understand that he was not cut for a 9-5 job. So, without any further delay, he quickly embarked on an entrepreneurial journey.

He started Hyden Power in 2010, but it failed. He then started US Brands, it failed too. Then Whoopie Technologies and then DeliverOye. All four ventures failed for different reasons. "After my fourth startup failed and my parents asked me what I would do now, I said to myself I'm done. I would never start another company. I was completely low on confidence," he said.

That is when he went ahead and took up corporate jobs at Urban Company and MobiKwik. Nonetheless, he could not stop thinking of entrepreneurship. This is when his childhood friends, who are doctors and now co-founders, Vaibhav Kapoor and Garima Sawhney, spoke to him about pain points in healthcare. Singh once again felt like giving it a shot, albeit this time, with even more confidence than before. And, they jumped right in.

"Once we started, we realized that there was a big problem that was yet to be solved in surgery care. Right from finding the doctor to understanding the disease, from diagnostic or radiology tests to insurance clearance and recovery, the surgery journey was tedious and confusing for patients and their families. We decided to solve for it" he said.

Betting on tech

The startup has a large engineering team that has built technology integration across patients' journeys, from the time they reach out to them to offering an advanced EMR that has every detail like family history, age, and risk, to digital prescription and insurance clearance.

"To give you an example, we have built an ecosystem, where you upload your insurance document and in 30 seconds, it will tell you what your insurance covers and how much you might have to pay from your pocket," he said.

The startup has tied up with around 400 hospitals for infrastructure, but the surgeries are performed by its in-house doctors. "So it is our doctor, our equipment, our patient, our consumer. We use only the hospital infrastructure. So, our technology decides the right hospital for consumers, a hospital that can handle that particular surgery. Then we check doctors' schedules, then patient risk and decide on pre-emptive and diagnostics checks which are supposed to be done before they get to the hospital. Then the results of those tests. All of this goes into deciding that this patient can get admitted to a hospital on this day to get surgery. Then our technology also helps doctors manage time efficiently," he said.

The company then uses advanced technologies to ensure a seamless patient admission process, including picking them up from their homes by offering integration with cab services till the discharge process with all digital documents and then follow-ups and a patient complaint system.

Hands-on with the hiring

Besides tech, Singh has been very vocal about the kind of people he likes to hire. In one of his social media posts, he talks about why one should hire people based on attitude and not skills. "We are extremely hands-on with the interview process even today. We strongly believe if you let the wrong person inside the door, you have made the biggest mistake and we made those mistakes. Nothing else makes the company except people. Fundamental," he said.

One of the biggest changes that the company has done in the last six months is that it has removed many layers in the organization. "There are only four layers. It brings two things, it creates a hands-on culture. It removes the barriers of designation and seniority and it creates speed of execution," he said.

A proud Indian

Singh is a huge believer in being in India. "I love my country, but it's also very logical. In the next ten years, if there is going to be somebody who's got a mission and a vision and is willing to get down and work hard, he or she is going to progress tremendously. It doesn't matter what field you are in," he said, adding that we have 300 million people who are in the age bracket of 20 to 35 or 15 to 35, which is the entire population of the US.

He believes that the large demography, the access to information and the genuine drive to do better will make India the biggest leader. "You will be surprised how many of my friends are willing to chuck jobs in the US and come back. I was 22 and I had a huge job offer. But there was something that was so motivating to come back and build from the ground up. I truly believe that India is growing faster than the world, but that doesn't mean we don't have challenges," he said. He also thinks that the pandemic has further made all of us leapfrog into the adoption of basic to advanced technologies.

Medical and business ethics

Talking about what a big no for Pristyn is, he said, "We are a Big Four audited company. Every payment is in white, every person is on salary. We are very strict about ethics. If we find one person fudging data, he or she will be fired on the spot."

But, more than business ethics, what keeps Singh awake at night is ensuring medical ethics. "That's where technology comes in. We use it to ensure patient safety is not compromised. We make sure that every patient who's treated needs that treatment and that there is no mistreatment. We also have auditors and an independent board to ensure every patient is doing well," he said.

"So, we are constantly thinking about ways to keep expanding the massive loops we have built, to ensure that there is no patient who's underserved or wrongly served. And that's also our mission. Compassionate surgery care by expert doctors with the most advanced medical equipment giving the most holistic and standardized patient experience," he said.

Growth plans and IPO

The startup has already started taking baby steps toward international expansion. It has so far evaluated a lot of Southeast Asian and a couple of Middle Eastern African nations. "We are evaluating use cases across Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, but we have not finalized the countries yet," he said.

In June last year, the startup announced the acquisition of the online physician consultation platform Lybrate for an undisclosed amount. When asked about further acquisition plans, he said, "We have explored around 50 acquisitions. But for us, while real capability and real product or service value are important, we need to be sure of the founders and team. Their culture and attitude should match ours. We are in no hurry," he said.

Talking about IPO, the founder said, it is still far away. "We have not set out a date. We are a young company, even though we have scaled fast. But IPO is a dream and is on the cards in the next three to four years," he said

The startup is backed by the likes of Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global, Winter Capital, Epiq Capital, Hummingbird Ventures, Trifecta Capital and many angel investors including Kunal Shah, founder and CEO, CRED, Deepinder Goyal, co-founder and CEO, Zomato, Abhiraj Singh Bhal, co-founder and CEO, Urban Company, among others.

"We are in this for the long haul, we will be giving our next twenty years to Prisytn. We are lucky to have a strong set of investors, we have very strong capital in the bank, and we are building a huge economically positive business. I think while we do a lot of hard work, we have been lucky in a lot of things as well. For instance, we have been able to get a great set of co-founders, a great initial team, a great team right now, a lot of support from the government, advancements in technology and healthcare, and so on and so forth," the founder said, as we wrapped up the interview.

You can also catch the entire interview on Entrepreneur India's podcast channel 'Audio Shots'.
Here is the link:

S Shanthi

Former Senior Assistant Editor

Shanthi specializes in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. 



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