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“More start-ups needed in healthcare sector”

  • Published at 08:04 am December 22nd, 2016
  • Last updated at 01:47 pm December 22nd, 2016
“More start-ups needed in healthcare sector”
In a matter of just 5 months, Tonic a service offered by Telenor health has acquired 1 million users. Recently, in an interview with SD ASIA, Sajid Rahman, CEO of Telenor health, shared the story behind amassing 1 million users in a very short time. He also discussed opportunities for start-ups that are willing to change the face of the healthcare sector in Bangladesh. Telenor, global mobile operator is now bringing services like Telenor health to the people of Bangladesh. With the introduction of Telenor Health, the healthcare sector in Bangladesh will be immensely revolutionised. Sajid said, “Providing quality healthcare service to more than 16 crore people in Bangladesh is quite challenging. Telenor Health and Tonic started its journey to transform that challenge into a reality.” The number of mobile phone users in Bangladesh is expected pass 132 million by the end of this year. Telenor is targeting these users to transform healthcare in Bangladesh. “A large portion of the youth in this country use mobile phones. The mobile phone has also reached the people in the villages of Bangladesh. Our target was to provide healthcare easily to these mobile users” [caption id="attachment_41403" align="alignright" width="300"]Courtesy Courtesy[/caption]

The aim is to provide prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs):

NCDs – primarily heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes – are the world’s largest killers. Reducing the major risk factors for NCDs is the key focus of Tonic,as mentioned by Sajid. “Tonic is helping people to keep away from non-communicable diseases. It is trying to improve the lifestyle of Bangladeshi people in a healthy and cost effective way’.

Digital content for healthy living:

“Our research shows, one can reduce the chances of falling sick if they take healthy food and maintain a fit lifestyle. So, to ensure a healthy lifestyle for the people of Bangladesh we chose digital content. By reading contents about healthy lifestyle, many are saving themselves from serious health risks.” To create further awareness, “My Tonic’’ is supplementing our effort of promoting a healthy lifestyle by providing content of seasoned doctors from Universities like Johns Hopkins in Bangla. The service also allows its users to avail the service of expert doctors 24/7 at only 5 takas per minute. Customers of Tonic can also enjoy discounts at more than 50 hospitals countrywide using the partner code 789. Users have option to use discount options worth 500 takas in case they remain admitted to affiliated hospitals for 3 days continuously. So it seems the service offer an array of benefits to keep the customers become repeat users.

The reasons behind Reaching one million over a span of just 5 months:

To target the vast majority of mobile phone users, Tonic is using cellphones as a channel for an effective marketing plan. Tonic earlier used Grameenphone’s mass messaging service and targeted people of lower income group, mainly garments workers. These campaigns helped tonic to acquire a significant customer base. Moreover, Tonic’s digital content, workshops, and several other marketing campaigns helped them in obtaining new loyal user base. Tonic designed several primary awareness campaigns focusing on World Diabetes Day and World Heath Day. At present, Telenor Health has a 25-member team in GP house working tirelessly. In addition to that, the team also has 30 specialised doctors providing expert advice to their users over mobile phone calls. Sajid has plans afoot to augment his team’s capabilities by expanding it. Tonic intends to work on other big ideas to provide enhanced services to Bangladeshis in the future.

Challenges health startups face in Bangladesh:

To ensure health service, several startups have started their operations recently in Bangladesh. Sajid said, “Bangladesh has very few startups in the health sector. But there are many scopes to work and ensure the health of our common people. Thus, a lot of startups should come up with new ideas to work in this sector. While talking about the biggest challenge of working in the health sector, Sajid said, “To work with people’s health it is absolutely crucial to be alert all the time. Since a small mistake can cause a great loss for the health.” Moreover, he advised startups to work in compliance with government regulations and maintain the standard of service so that users are not negatively affected in any ways. He advised prioritizing a lot on budget management and on building an experienced team. Since health startups in Bangladesh can’t always provide highest services because of lack of funding, Sajid suggested spending the marketing budget effectively so that user acquisition model is in line with plan.

Future plan of Telenor Health:

Telenor Health is working to expand their service base. Sajid mentioned if anyone wants to know more about the thematic topic or needs health-related suggestions, an option is going to be added soon so that users can get advice through comments. Along with telephone consultancy with experienced doctors, they are also adding the video conference consultancy options. They plan to offer consultancy service through SMS and Whatsapp very soon. Sajid went on to say that they have plans to add Artificial Intelligence (AI) on their platform. He hinted that new features are coming for health insurance. Lastly, Telenor health plans to go beyond Bangladesh and expand their service in nearby countries with similar market demands.
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