April 6, 2021 11:13:38 am
Almost two years before COVID-19 hit India, entrepreneurs Kunaal Dudeja, Nalin Saluja and Archit Jayaswal spotted a huge hole in the country’s healthcare system for paramedics. “The paramedics or medical technician sector makes up 70 per cent of the healthcare market and employs more than 10 million people. Yet, less than 7 percent of them were properly trained and certified. There was no major training institute for them with standardised courses,” says Dudeja. In 2018, the trio set up a startup, called Virohan, to train school and college graduates as medical technicians. Since then, the company has trained over 5,500 students, with 90 per cent placement rates. “There has been less than seven per cent dropouts, and over 90% pass percentages,” says Dudeja.
Now, Virohan, which is headquartered in Delhi, is reaching out to the youth of Pune by opening a centre at KK Market. Talks are on for another centre in Pimpri-Chinchwad. These follow Virohan facilities in Raipur, Nagpur, Faridabad and Meerut, among others. “We saw a huge opportunity in Pune for the product we are building, which was demand-driven training. Being an educational hub, the city has multiple job opportunities and attracts people from all over the country. Pune is a big market,” says Dudeja.
The startup uses a plug-and-play technology — every user, from students to agents, have an app. The students, who attend the year-long or two-year courses are provided with short pre-recorded videos with lessons on which they are quizzed in real time. Using AI/VR technology, students are given practical lessons in skills such as drawing blood. The modules cater to the three categories of paramedics—diagnostics, comprising workers such as lab technicians; curative, which include operating theatre technicians; and rehabilitative, into which segment come physiotherapy assistants. The Virohan team partners with education institutes, such as colleges and coaching centres, and uses their existing infrastructure and capabilities to train students, which generates additional income for them.
“There is encouraging career progression in this field. A person, who starts with a salary of around Rs 15,000 can, in five years, earn between around Rs 25,000 and, in a decade, around Rs 50,000. If the person can make it to a high portion at an A-grade hospital, they can earn more than Rs 1 lakh,” says Dudeja. While sectors such as hospitality and aviation are struggling in the post-COVID-19 world, healthcare is one of the few industries that is booming. “Healthcare is the third largest employment generator in India at present. In 2015, it was the fifth largest and, by 2025, it is predicted to be the second largest sector,” he adds.
Education and healthcare startups are seeing increasing interest from funding agencies, and Virohan benefits from being positioned at the intersection of both. Last year, when it began its Series A funding, the startup raised $2.8 million from prominent investors. “We have got funds even from Yunus Social Business, run by Prof Mohd Yunus, the Nobel Laureate from Bangladesh, who started the Grameen Bank. In Series B funding, to begin mid-April, we are looking at $ 7-10 million,” says Dudeja.
The company is also looking at opening 100 centres by the end of this year — a plan that was delayed due to the lockdown. “The opening of centres tends to get delayed in case of lockdown because, operationally, you are not able to aggregate. If there are 80,000 colleges, even 5 percent of these would come to 4,000. It is not difficult to reach out to 100 colleges and offer them to incorporate the Virohan plug and play solution. But, operationally, we have a challenge in terms of lockdown as we cannot meet partners and have those talks,” he says, adding, “We lost six to nine months during the lockdown. This year, we want to start aggregating very quickly.”
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