It’s proving to be a busy week for big-hitting VC firm Tiger Global in India. It led a $100 million investment in music streaming service Saavn, put up media startup News In Shorts’ $20 million Series B raise, and today it led a $10.2 million round for medical service Lybrate.
Eighteen-month-old Lybrate is based in New Delhi and it aims to increase access to doctors and quality healthcare information for India’s billion-plus population.
It primary connects patients with doctors using a web-based platform and apps for Android and iOS. Users can pose questions to doctors online, and do so anonymously if they choose. It isn’t just about virtual connections, and they can search doctors and surgeries near to them, make and manage appointments, and save their patient records. There’s also a system for sending alerts to family members or loved ones in the event of an emergency.
Patients can solicit multiple doctors for opinions when they are sick, they are only charged when they choose to enter into a one-on-one dialogue with a doctor. In that event, the app handles the communication, allowing them to share photos, videos and chat via text with the physician. Patients are charged a variable fee set by the doctor, and an additional ‘internet handling fee’ — typically a further 5 to 15 percent — which goes to Lybrate.
The idea is to break down the barriers surrounding healthcare in India. Lybrate CEO Saurabh Arora left the U.S. and his job as a data scientist Facebook and returned to India to start the business when, on a visit home, he noticed large numbers of people in rural areas used pharmacists to diagnose their illnesses rather than actual doctors.
After some research, he found that the habit isn’t unique to isolated parts of India — where there are comparatively fewer doctors per person — even in metro areas, people put off going to clinics for a range of reasons, such as lack of time, hassle or traffic jams.
But Lybrate isn’t just about connecting doctors and patients, Arora told TechCrunch that he sees the service as a platform for increasing access to healthcare information itself.
“The fundamental problem isn’t waiting in a doctor’s clinic, we’re a communication platform that multiples a doctor’s presence,” he said. “We ask ourselves, ‘How do we let a person in Northern India get access to quality medical care and information?’ for example.”
Aligned to that, Lybrate’s mobile apps sport Facebook-like feeds which provide daily health tips and advice to users based on their own needs or situations, for example pregnant women or elderly folks.
When it comes to numbers, Lybrate boasts more than 80,000 doctors from disciplines such as cardiology, dentistry, psychiatry and neurology. The company claimed it is visited by over 100,000 users each day, and that its mobile apps have clocked over half a million downloads since their launch in January of this year.
The new funding raise was put together by Tiger Global, Tata Sons’ President Emeritus Ratan Tata — he’s been in the news lately — and existing backer Nexus Ventures. The startup plans to spend the money hiring more staff, developing its technology and scaling the platform to reach more doctors and more patients.
“Lybrate’s concept is ground breaking. We believe it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery in India and script the future of the healthcare industry with its model,” said Lee Fixel, the Tiger Global partner who has overseen the firm’s major investments in India.
The company isn’t alone in tackling the doctor-patient disconnect in India. Practo is another service that connects the two online. Practo claims to be Asia’s top health search portal with 120,000 doctors on its platform and 1.5 million visitors and four million searches per month.
Practo landed $30 million earlier this year and has been on an investment spree building out its business with acquisitions. It is also actively expanding its service overseas, and it has already entered Singapore and the Philippines in Southeast Asia.