Docsuggest, launched in January 2010 in Hyderabad (central India) is a startup similar to dozens of others I’ve met. Not novel enough to justify a tour of the world, except when you look at the advanced metrics. We are in India.
The idea is simple: when you’re sick, it’s hard to find a doctor, and even harder to get an appointment. The obvious geek response: aggregate the data and make it accessible. A little logic (not really AI) lets users find out which doctors practice what, and who accepts which insurance.
And since we’re in a country known for on-phone customer service, a small team provides a personal touch by helping callers – who can also access the service on the web – find the doctor or hospital they need. Patients give their personal info when they make an appointment, and can rate the appointment when it’s done.
The service is free for patients – it charges doctors and hospitals when appointments are fixed.
After Hyderabad, the service launched in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. In the latter city, I met with the founder and CEO, the 27-year-old Shantanu Jha (@shantanujha).
“We realized that the phone was the best way when it comes to health, since the human element is essential. We formed a special team to help people find the offices. This, plus the database and the fact that you can make an appointment in real time is a sort of evolution,” Jah says. It’s part of what makes the site unique.
The company already has a staff of 35, and lists more than 5,000 doctors in its database – with a lot of room to grow, as the four cities combined have more than 80,000 doctors. According to Jah, there are 650,000 in India. But like I said, there’s room to grow.
I ask if he plans on targeting foreign markets. India’s not the only place that needs a service like this. There’s ZocDoc in the U.S. and Doctoralia in Spain, for example. This should prove that there’s a market.
But, Jha says, “I’m not really thinking internationally.”
This is where things get interesting.
“I have no reason to go anywhere else,” he adds. “On the other hand, I plan on getting better penetration in the Indian market, which is really complex. It has many languages, and the difference between big and small cities is huge. I’m going to work with NGOs in rural zones, to help them reduce the distance patients need to travel to find a doctor.”
“The market here is huge,” he says. “There are 1.2 billion people in India, who go to the doctor 3 times a year, on average. If I cover 10% of the country – which I can do just by having a presence in the 10 biggest urban areas – that’ll give me 360 million visits. 1 million a day. I’ll have work for a long time.”
Shantanu Jah might change his mind – notably to satisfy his investors – but his story helped me understand India’s unique position as a market both giant and complex. Advantage or limitation – what do you think?