With a millennia-old history of cutting-edge healthcare, India is poised to welcome a flurry of innovation and disruption in the digital health-tech sector as Covid-19 transforms the landscape.
The Covid-19 crisis has underscored the need for cutting-edge tech tools in public health and wellness.
The pandemic has unlocked opportunities for Indian health-tech startups to find new ways of attending to people's healthcare needs.
The Modi government was proactive in harnessing the power of digital health-tech in India, as part of its larger focus on digitisation of the economy.
India and healing have been synonymous since the forgotten history of the second millennium BC. From the sacred writings in the metrical passages of the Atharvaveda to the concept of Ayurveda and the later treatise of Charaka and Sushruta during the golden age of Indian medicine (800 BC until 1000 AD), and the seminal works of Vagbhata, ancient India produced a remarkable foundation for surgeries, pharmacopoeia and well-being therapies, based on which medicine thrived in the later ages.
It's hardly a wonder therefore that the tradition of innovation in healthcare is intrinsic to India, and the Covid-19 crisis has unlocked yet more opportunities for health-tech startups to find new ways of attending to people's healthcare needs in a world full of fear and phobia. In the early stages, the digital health-tech industry in India was mainly focused on providing diagnostics and medicine delivery, as well as delving into issues such as consumer lifestyle, mental stress, early diagnosis of genetic disorders and easing the painful aftermath of processes such as chemotherapy.
But then came Covid-19, and the ensuing global healthcare emergency has led to a decisive shift in the focus of the health-tech sector from lifestyle enhancement to strengthening medical infrastructure and more effective response to emergency care. The pandemic has underscored the need for cutting-edge tech tools in public health and wellness. With consumers increasingly looking at the wide possibilities of wearable gadgets, mobile health apps, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotic carriers and blockchain, there's now a huge potential for further investments in the overall Indian healthcare ecosystem.
According to analysts from Transparency Market Research, the global digital healthcare market will be worth nearly $536 billion by 2025. And in 2019, PWC estimated that India ranks among the top 10 global growth markets for healthcare and nutrition. Further, with a world obsessed with social distancing and scarred by the virus for at least a generation to come, new opportunities for the application of health-tech have risen quickly in tertiary sectors such as hospitality and retail - where consumers would soon like to resume their habits of holidaying or shopping, but under the safe assurance of a sanitized and germ-free environment.
The Indian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been swift to respond to the emerging challenges and opportunities, whether through the launch of the Arogya Setu app or by rolling out e-Sanjeevani, the largest online telemedicine platform in the country.
Even before the pandemic struck, the Modi government was proactive in harnessing the power of digital health-tech in India, as part of its larger focus on digitisation of the economy. “We are already seeing several consultations without actually going to the clinic or hospital. Again, this is a positive sign. Can we think of business models to help further telemedicine across the world ” Modi said in a recent interaction, exhorting scientists, entrepreneurs and investors to think out of the box for future-faced solutions.
Of course, India is already a mature market for health-tech investments, and there are plenty of recent successes to boast of. Narayana Hrudayalaya recently received a funding of $48 million from UK-based development finance institution CDC, to expand affordable treatment in India. Practo Technologies has raised $55 million in Series D round of funding led by Tencent Holdings Ltd., while the UAE-based Gamma Group is reported to be finalising plans for investing $450 million in the sector. Diagnostics startup SigTuple has secured multi-series funding in recent years, including a $16-million Series C round led by Trusted Insight, while M-fine has managed to raise $23 million from an assortment of venture capitals.
From remote diagnostics and patient-facing mobile apps to distance monitoring solutions, surgical robots and digital healthcare at home - the opportunities for innovation in digital health-tech are endless. While Covid-19 has already disrupted and transformed the future of health-tech, the scope of its applications and ensuing commercial returns on investment in a nation of 1.3 billion people remain humongous.