Updated: February 18, 2022 8:18:33 am
Prabhdeep Singh is a man on a mission, a red alert one, heading full throttle towards being the ‘911 of India’. The 33-year-old founder and CEO of India’s largest, fastest growing medical response service company StanPlus, Singh received one of the largest injects of $20 million in Series A funding recently.
Stationed in Hyderabad, through his Red Ambulance platform, Singh is casting a wider net by expanding to 15 more cities building on the ‘first minute last mile infrastructure’ in healthcare and operating an ambulance service that reaches you in eight minutes, time and value being the two guiding forces of his line of work.
His Twitter profile’s description, ‘drive an ambulance for a living’, is a hook, line and a story to sink in. Born to a scientist father and educationist mother who believed in holistic development and always encouraged him to learn and participate, Singh exhibited brilliance from an early age – school headboy, topper, quizmaster and cricketer.
“My name is probably still displayed at my school, Guru Nanak Public School,” he says, nostalgic about Chandigarh. Soon after Class XII, he chose to pursue what he was passionate about – healthcare.
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A five-year B Pharma and MBA integrated course from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, Singh bagged a job in Glenmark Pharmaceuticals and worked for five years in Brazil, Mexico, and USA on strategic projects across healthcare segments. His second MBA from INSEAD, France, earned him a plush offer at the Boston Consulting Group in Brazil.
Growing up, Singh always wanted to lead from the front, be a leader of people. Not the Army or country but a leadership that meant “sticking to your guns, persevering, taking forward what you start”.
It also meant empathising. A business is an idea to make other people’s lives better. Singh knew his idea would prove to be the ultimate help and helpline. “Many children/people settle away from their parents. In their absence, there is seldom anyone to look after them or handle their medical emergencies. My parents too are living by themselves in Mohali and I fear for their health, especially when I was staying overseas,” says Singh, who conceived, planned and executed the idea and co-founded StanPlus in Hyderabad in 2016 with his INSEAD batchmates Antoine Poirson and Jose Leon, who, after kickstarting, have moved on.
Today, Singh is single-handedly running a 650 plus staff strength and a massive fleet of Red Ambulances that is all set to grow by 1,000 with the latest funding.
Ambulances are lifelines and their delays, absence, lack of paramedical infrastructure on board is distressing. “If grocery can reach in ten minutes, why does it take an ambulance 45 minutes? Imagine the helplessness of someone in an emergency,” says Singh, who believes at a certain stage, many Indians suffer by procrastinating in calling for an ambulance, by not asserting their right to a better service.
Unlike western countries, where ambulances have paramedics who stabilise the patient and first focus on treatment on site, in India, ambulances are perceived as a mere mode of transportation.
Another challenge is hospital selection. “It’s a corrupt business in this country. Ambulance operators have paid tie-ups with hospitals, which can prove dangerous for the patient as every second counts.”
Strikes, protests – Singh has faced a raging backlash from ambulance operators. But he knew his service was fast and reliable, his product world-class and not just any omni van with a stretcher in it. A fearless Singh stood his ground and continued to scale hospital partnerships, leverage technology, gain consumer trust and grow. “It takes time to clean up the system and we are at it,” he says.
Being a pharmacist helped – Singh knew the world of doctors and hospitals and its challenges. “It’s difficult for a family physician to attend to an emergency in the middle of night. This is where we come in – to attend, talk, give sound professional medical advice. We have trained, certified paramedics on board. Our ambulance service is ten per cent cheaper and ten times faster and our ambulances are fitted with state-of-the-art medical emergency equipment, and we follow the triage – treat and transport to the nearest hospital.”
By running its own fleet of advanced life support ambulances, aggregating and standardising hospital ambulances, private operators and government-run services via a cohesive tech platform on ground and on air, StanPlus is putting the country’s emergency medical response system in a steady space and pace. The goal is to integrate it into the hospital ecosystem, streamline and evolve into a one stop medical solution.
A Red Horizon
In a country like India, there is a need for affordability, awareness and access to healthcare. “Post-Covid, the government has boosted the health infrastructure. The unique healthcare ID, under the National Healthcare Mission, will revolutionise the system as with one click we will have the entire medical history of a person and attend faster,” says Singh, stressing on making private healthcare affordable with more insurances and encourage more innovative healthcare providers to deliver efficient, inexpensive solutions to help people access healthcare in minutes instead of days.
Hospitals are unbundling and their work is heading towards ecosystem and device integration. “A hospital’s core service is the treatment of patients. Ancillary services like food, laundry, appointments, are being unbundled and taken over by others. For instance, Practo for telemedicine, Chai Point for F&B, Pharmeasy for pharmacy and so on. Hospitals are focusing on specialised care and emergencies are what we are taking over.”
The Hyderabad High
“The first ambulance helpline number 108 started in Hyderabad. Along with Chennai, it’s the epicenter of healthcare in terms of advancement and density of medical services, providing an excellent ecosystem to build healthcare logistics, a mechanism for me to solve my problem,” Singh said.
With its clean air, easy going yet cosmopolitan pace and quality of life, for Singh, it’s a second home. “Chandigarh is a comfort zone. I had to experiment with a larger city with more challenges. Hyderabad it was,” he said.
The Highs and Lows
What saddens him is the delay in calling an ambulance, and its slow response time, putting precious lives in danger. But the biggest high is saving lives daily, transporting critical patients over challenging distances.
“How do you move a 200-250 kg person from the top floor of a building safely, transport pre-term babies, terminally-ill patients without any compromises? We’ve handled complicated patient missions and our reward is their safe, timely treatment and transportation,” says Singh, who answered his call of duty and made sure his ambulances helped thousands during Covid. The funding was a high point for it was a validation of their work and mission.
On the Forbes 30 under 30 (2018), Entrepreneur Magazine’s 35 under 35 (2018), selected by the Yunus Foundation to be part of the Impact Accelerator (2017) – what makes this Singh rise and shine?
“My father, Dr Saranjit Singh always tells me to stay in ‘charhdikala’, a state of optimism and joy. Don’t overthink, don’t depend on luck, do your hard work and leave it to destiny. Anakh naal mehnat – work with pride and dignity,” Singh says. Passionate, decisive, disciplined, he is the first to walk into office and the last to leave. He never misses a day of reading and amplifying his knowledge.
In order to strike a work-life balance, the presence of a supportive partner or a spouse is a must. “They are your sounding board, shock absorbers and a calming influence. My wife is my support system,” says Singh.
The Chandigarh Connect
“You can take me out of Chandigarh, but can’t take Chandigarh out of me. Healthcare here is good but the ambulance system needs me and I am coming soon with it,” an upbeat Singh says.
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