This Startup's 'Back-to-roots' Approach Is Healing The Ayurvedic Way
NirogStreet's tech platform empowers Ayurvedic doctors by creating a close-knit community to discuss cases in real-time and consult patients across the globe
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year gave rise to renewed interest in traditional ways of boosting immunity and respiratory health, with even the ministry of Ayush recommending products such as herbal teas, turmeric milk, and chyawanprash. Not only did this put the spotlight on India's age-old traditions of Ayurveda, which emphasizes preventive rather than curative health care, but also gave companies in the sector an impetus.
While the push provided by the ministry of Ayush has encouraged several startups to enter the Ayurveda segment, the pandemic has provided a further boost to the demand for their products. Moreover, though these companies are based in the metros, they are finding an expanding consumer base in tier II and III cities. This is because of factors such as reverse migration, by which people who lived and worked in the metros have moved back to their hometowns, taking with them their big-city awareness of brands and e-commerce, and also because of increased Internet penetration and usage among smaller cities.
Therefore for companies such as NirogStreet, a digital-first platform, has reaped benefits.
NirogStreet founder Ram N. Kumar in a conversation with Entrepreneur India said, "I started NirogStreet to promote the benefits of Ayurveda globally by helping digitize the market. Ayurveda is important to me because it helped save my life. I was diagnosed with hepatitis C in my youth and my health deteriorated to a point where I was on drips to survive. My doctor had tried all he could using western medicine but nothing really worked for me so he recommended that I change course and shift to Ayurveda. After three years on Ayurveda, I was fully cured and healthy again. While being bedridden and going through treatment, I understood the issues the sector faces. People trust Ayurveda but they don't trust the doctors and the medicines. It was during my journey that I realized probably the biggest problem facing the industry, that is, trust."
India is a country of more than a billion people. At times it is very intimidating to break barriers and fuel a herculean change. What encouraged the NirogStreet team was the fact that they were trying to solve a problem that the majority of populations across the globe are facing on a daily basis: lack of satisfactory healthcare facilities.
Ayurveda is a recognized medicine system that, with the support of technology- and evidence-based treatment will transform the future of healthcare across the globe. During the fight against COVID-19, people from across the world looked towards India for guidance and Ayurvedic intervention for prevention, cure support, and recovery procedures.
According to Kumar the initial stage of starting NirogStreet was challenging, the company began as a bootstrap one with self-financing. In 2018, Japanese VC firm Spiral Ventures led the funding and the platform raised INR 3 crore in the Seed round. Others who took part in the Seed round were Subho Ray, president of the Internet and Mobile Association of India; and Samir Kumar, who was then derivatives director at Deutsche Bank in Singapore. In October 2020, the company managed to secure $2 million in pre-Series A funding led by the American VC fund Wavemaker Partners and Amand Ventures. Existing investor Spiral Ventures, too, participated in the round. The startup also raised Series A this year.
Kumar believes that working in the Ayurveda healthcare ecosystem comes with its unique challenges. Ayurveda is a pioneering science but was experiencing loss of trust and lack of knowledge sharing.
India has over 600,000 licensed Ayurveda doctors, over 200,000 clinics, and over 3,600 hospitals. Each of these has its own set of problems.
"Unlike the modern healthcare system, the Ayurveda-practising community in India remains largely unconnected. Doctors mainly work in silos, and there is practically no knowledge-sharing platform that connects these practitioners. Legit doctors are lost among the thousands of fake ones and dubious clinics. This made us realize that it was crucial to build the Ayurveda practitioner and medicine community in order to serve patients effectively. Ayurveda doctors apart from doing consultations dispense medicine to their patients. We worked on building a network of qualified and authentic Ayurveda doctors, built a knowledge-sharing platform, and encouraged evidence-based treatment and the use of modern diagnostics. So we started primarily serving the doctors who are small entrepreneurs. However the end consumer for all the offerings are the patients and this truly makes us B2B2C," he explained.
NirogStreet claims to have created the largest community of Ayurvedic doctors and is empowering them with better access to knowledge and quality medicines. NirogStreet Vaidya Tool serves as a rich knowledge pool for Ayurvedic doctors.
This technology-driven SaaS tool and platform provides access to authentic Ayurveda doctors on a global scale with a focus to implement best practices and deliver quality Ayurveda healthcare.
NirogStreet is closely working with the Ayurvedic doctor community, institutions, and policymakers to advance Ayurvedic research and collaboration with modern medical technologies, to make Ayurveda more result-oriented and trusted. We have around 50,000 doctors on our platform and over 200 co-branded NirogStreet ayurvedic clinics in place.
Ayurveda has long been an unorganized market and vulnerable to disruptions in the supply chain and adulterated products. Ayurveda doctors have long experienced poor service because of this. Another challenge is the lack of many forums for doctors to collaborate and share learnings/case studies as most of the Ayurveda doctors' practice in silos. These are eventually hindering the adoption of Ayurveda despite being the oldest and safest medicinal practice known, Kumar noted.
NirogStreet addresses these challenges by providing a single technology platform for Ayurveda practitioners. The platform already has over 50,000 onboarded. The platform has been built primarily to cater to the needs of Ayurveda doctors. It has a social platform that is easy to use, offers 24/7 peer-to-peer collaboration, and a learning channel. Doctors share their case studies, ask questions, have a rich digital library of Ayurveda artifacts/videos, etc.
The startup aims to bring in the best of digital practices and tools to accelerate the adoption of Ayurveda and also help spread Ayurveda beyond geographies.
COVID has been the biggest leveler for the various healthcare systems. The world is going towards proactive healthcare, rather than reactive care.
"Everyone is talking about sustainability and dependability of healthcare systems in terms of the overall impact in our daily lives. Healthcare is becoming more hybrid and people are going to allopathy for emergency care and to Ayurveda and other traditional medicine for even chronic/non-communicable problems which contribute to 70 per cent of deaths. Ayurveda has a lot of unrealized potential, with the right use of various technology and professional approach it can be the frontrunner in future healthcare scenarios," he stated.
NirogStreet's tech platform empowers Ayurvedic doctors by creating a close-knit community to discuss cases in real-time and consult patients across the globe for the first time via Tele-Ayurveda. It has also enabled the doctors to dispatch medicines on time to their patients using NirogStreet's e-commerce worldwide.
"We have reached a stage in our operations where we have earned good ground be it in building a network of qualified Ayurvedic doctors, building technology solutions for doctors to help them in delivering better healthcare and medicines. Our next aim is to bring 5 lakh doctors to the mainstream with NirogStreet services and help them in delivering better healthcare," Kumar further shared.