Lockdown Economy Nepal in a Health Tech Company with Aabhushan Jyoti Kansakar
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Anna Lucia
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Aabhushan Jyoti Kansakar, the founder of Jeevee, which is a health tech company in Nepal. It is a one-stop solution for health services. Users can book an appointment with a doctor through the app or get on a video consultation which can serve as a personal health record. It also delivers medicines, runs vaccination camps and is a smart diabetes management solution. We talked about how Jeevee coped with the challenges of the lockdown. They had only been in operation for 3 to 4 months before the lockdown. We talked about how their business model and creating a new service during the pandemic helped stimulate their business. Their efforts did result in an increase in the number of users and Mr. Kansakar thanked his team tremendously for the spirit they showed. Now that the lockdown has been eased, Mr. Kansakar says they are getting a lot of repeat customers. They also plan to increase their video consultation service in the coming months
Before we get into the questions, please tell our audience about Jeevee health and services.
Aabhushan: Jeevee Health is a health tech company and is a one-stop solution for health services in Nepal. We provide various services ranging from booking a doctor’s appointment from our app at a clinic or hospital, or you can book a video consultation appointment online with a doctor, where the doctor can prescribe medicine, or advise you on our platform. This then gets forwarded as a personal report on your mobile phone. We also deliver medicines to client’s homes.
We operate in 23 cities around the country. We also have smart diabetic management solutions for diabetes, where you can have a smart glucose meter connected to a mobile device where all of your data is stored, and you can analyse your blood sugar based on your latest data or historical data and manage your lifestyle accordingly. We also do other services like vaccination camps, through the app itself.
That’s wonderful, because during the lockdown, of course, a lot of things stopped. But one of the major things that can’t stop is health services. People still need access to prescriptions. They still need doctors. And your app allows them to do a lot of this digitally. And as you operate in 23 cities, it’s a very widespread service as well.
What was business like for you before lockdown?
Aabhushan: We started operations on November 13, 2019, so when the lockdown happened March, we were only 3 or 4 months old. We were just learning the ropes, still looking at how to scale up, focusing on the users, focusing on how to grow these users. It was just normal business at the time.
As a 4-month-old company, there was a certain set of expectations for us and it was moving fine. We wouldn’t say we were disappointed or not happy with it, but it was moving fine. Just until the lockdown, when things started moving very differently.
The pandemic was formed by the lockdown, and with you at being in the health sector, you can connect people require services and people who provide health services. As you just said, you were only operating for 3 or 4 months before the lockdown. But you were providing services, you were connected to a lot of venders and doctors.
How did you maintain your relationship with your partners? What was your strategy during the lockdown to stimulate your business?
Aabhushan: I think that’s a very important question. Just before the lockdown, we had two services fully running.
One of them was delivering medicines to people’s homes in the Kathmandu Valley, which is about 3 cities. That’s where our services were located initially, in the first 4 months. Apart from that, we did online appointments with doctors at their clinics and hospitals.
When the pandemic happened one of the services was down, so our users didn’t have that service.
We realised during the lockdown that one of our really important partners in this business is the doctors themselves. We realised is that doctors were going to lose their income. In Nepal, they are self-employed. Their income comes in from various services and all services closed down.
When we understood that, we developed the Namaste Doctor, which is an online doctor consultation feature.
We launched it on April 3rd. The lockdown happened on March 22. The plan was to get up in 7 days. My team worked day and night got it up in 11 days.
That provided a substitute income to the doctors. But I for the first 2 months, the doctors provided the services for free to the patients, because they thought that it was the need of the hour.
We had about 30 new doctors in the first 2 or 3 days. New doctors wanted to provide online consultations. That’s how we started off during the lockdown.
It wasn’t necessarily a very easy time. We’re not a marketplace and we don’t have pharmacies that we pick up from. We have vendors, but they were closed. So had to figure out how to deliver the medicines.
We have an inventory-based model. We took a certain set of risks to stock items, which help us to get going in the first 15 days. During that time, we were the only ones who are delivering medicines in the first 15 days or one month, across Nepal.
Physical pharmacies were closed. Everyone was very scared and nobody wanted to open them up. Most of our competition were much older than us, but really couldn’t operate in the first 30 days because they were a marketplace, but we were able to do that.
We had to find ways to get the medicines in our inventory. We had to get vendors. We had to go pick them up. Our work doubled. The orders jumped 5 times. But we had to go and buy these medicines ourselves. So, the work doubled and we couldn’t expand the team because during the pandemic there was no way that we could hire new team members. So there was a difficulty when it came to that.
That is an incredible story. In a situation like this, it is very easy to overlook the stories from the start and how they are innovating during these times. Sometimes these innovations can be really creative just said. Another thing you mentioned was during the pandemic, your work doubled. I’d imagine that in this situation, more people were inclined to use your services because everything is digital. Did you see a spike in the number of users as well?
Aabhushan: We did see a spike in the number of users. It was the kind of spike that any start-up or any business would like to see. It was good to say that we got the orders, but it was actually really difficult to fulfil the orders.
The orders jumped by 5 times. First 15 days we really couldn’t catch up. Because we could not ramp up our team members. For almost a month and a half, my team worked from 9 AM to 9 PM to deliver the medicines because nobody else was doing it. At that time. We understood that it was necessary. But we also had to optimise our service operations very well. We had to work out how to get from 1 to 5, by just increasing by 3 or 4 hours per day. It was still not possible.
We had to optimise our operations and understand how we going to pack the goods, how to do the invoices. We had to go through all of that.
Kudos to my team, they worked really hard. Whether it’s my engineering team which developed an app and a completely new messaging and video feature in 11 days, whether it’s the team who are delivering X amount of packages.
It was a challenge. It was interesting. As a start-up, I think that’s what we live for. This is the kind of excitement we live for. It was very difficult, but it was very exciting.
You mentioned that your team showed incredible spirit during the pandemic, and even when the work doubled, they really backed the company. Working in a situation like this can be very stressful, there was a pandemic going on.
How did you keep the morale of your teammates?
Aabhushan: I think I am very lucky with the team. I have a very energised and motivated team.
But also they understand that they are working for Nepalese business. It’s completely funded by the Nepalese. There are no FDI’s and we don’t plan to bring any FDI into this business we want to believe this is a homegrown company. They know they are working for a homegrown company and how we can grow. They really believe in what we’re doing and that is what kept them going.
I have an amazing set of team members and managers who keep the team motivated. But motivation is just not enough, they have to believe in what we’re doing.
They believed that we were serving the community and if we did not bring these medicines to people’s homes, they could suffer even more. They understood that.
So they were delivering until 9 PM at night. We had a lot of rain during the April season this time and they were getting soaked while delivering.
Every 15 days ago to them and say ‘Guys, you’re doing a really amazing job. Thank you very much’. I thank them tremendously almost every 15 days because I don’t think I would be able to do what they do, sometimes.
This is really inspiring. I think you’re operating with a very good value in your company. With these strategies in place, now that the lockdown has been used. How is your business performing?
Aabhushan: After the first lockdown, our orders fell a bit, because people had started hoarding the medicines, as it was uncertain how long this is going to go for.
But after the 2nd lockdown, which lasted about 3 weeks, the number of orders increased daily. We had a lot of repeat customers and they love our service. They thank us whenever they can.
Our app ratings also show us how well they liked our service. We’ve expanded to expand to 23 cities, which makes us the widest delivery network for any e-commerce in Nepal.
And this is against other e-commerce business which are very well funded by foreign companies, as well as companies which have been established for 12 years more in the country.
And in the next month, we plan to get to about 50 cities. If you look at the geography of Nepal, a lot of the medicines that we deliver in Kathmandu are not easily available in many of these places and it is essential. That’s what drove our strategy to do this and that’s we’re working on this year.
So over the next month, you’re planning to expand to 50 cities. What is the outlook for Jeevee for the next 3 to 4 months?
Aabhushan: We’ll be expanding to about 50 cities. We also have the online doctor consultations, which are doing tremendously well.
We have already done 24,000+ consultations. We want to get to something close to 500 to 600 consultations per day by next month and 1000 consultations by the end of December. Once we are able to do that, we will be moving along.
We did a calculation and realised that as a company, we’ll have saved 448,000 km of trips for people, which saves something close to 448 KG of carbon emissions in the country.
And somewhere close to 900,000 patient contacts, the contacts they would have had various clinics and hospitals with various people.
So that’s the amount of impact we had in this short period of time.
And if the pandemic is going to be around for 2 or 3 months, I think Jeevee, most of my team are very dedicated to go out there and make a big impact when it comes to saving lives or making people’s lives healthier and making healthcare available.
One thing I failed to mention is that it’s 50 cities for deliveries. But we’re available country-wide for video consultations. And we have done video consultations in at least more than a hundred cities and towns.
It’s an incredible story. I think viewers who are watching us right now who are aspiring entrepreneurs can gain a lot of insights from what you have done during the pandemic.
You’d only been operating for 3 or 4 months before the pandemic and whatever strategy you had, developed in a short amount of time. I think that will be inspiring for a lot of viewers are watching us.
So, this is my final question. If you point out 3 areas in the business that you need help with, what would they be?
Aabhushan: I think scaling up where the business is always going to be difficult. So any kind of help about scaling up.
We trying to learn and we’re learning as we go. We’ll make a lot of mistakes and we lose a lot of valuable time when we do that. But in a way, that’s what this fun for a start-up. If you don’t learn, if you don’t fall then you won’t really enjoy it.
I think as entrepreneurs, you always enjoy the failures because it teaches you a lot. That’s one area that in terms of the scalability if we can move faster because of that.
And a few other things. Investments are always going to be a bottleneck for companies here, but we want to make sure that this is a homegrown company in Nepal.
There are lots of limitations with FDI’s in this country. But it should not come and hamper such things.
Obviously, there’s a big question mark in terms of the regulatory policies and the government. Especially with the health sector, which brings in a lot of difficulties. For example, helping to bring the right set of policies so they can help digital health move further so that healthcare services are available even in the most remote parts of Nepal.
Today, building large infrastructure or spending billions of dollars building roads to connect only 2 or 3 cities, where you could do a lot more by building companies like this, which does not require billions of dollars and you can make health care accessible to a lot of people even in the most remote parts of the country today.
You just mentioned a very important point which is actually a life lesson for entrepreneurs and for anybody really. A lot of people look at a failure as a dead end but it doesn’t have to be like that. It’s a learning curve and you can learn from it; You can put your learning into practice and get better.
So I think it’s a very good point just mentioned. And regarding the other areas you mentioned, I’m sure there are viewers who want to collaborate with you and want to come up with creative solutions.
Thank you Aabhushan, this was a wonderful time. I would like to thank you for coming on the view series and showings your insights with us.
Aabhushan: Thank you so much I had a wonderful time. I was very excited to do this interview particularly. The last time I spoke to you I thought I’m going to have a great time talking about this. I hope I didn’t talk about myself too much. And thank you for this wonderful opportunity.
Thank you Aabhushan. And thank you to viewers who joined us.
About the Guest
Mr. Aabhushan Jyoti Kansakar is a serial entrepreneur, technologist and dreamer. He has established multiple businesses since 2015. Jeevee is one of Nepal’s largest health tech companies. It is also a video doctor consultation platform and a smart diabetes management solution. Jeevee is a Health tech company in Nepal. It was established in August 2019 and started its operations in November 2019. They have expanded their operations in 23 cities with services available in 6743 wards in Nepal. It delivers medicines and runs vaccination camps as well. It is also a video doctor consultation platform and a smart diabetes management solution.