Retina India helps people with retinal disorders and brings them on a common platform with physicians, researchers, counselors and other specialists
India hosts the largest blind population in the world—24 million blind people and 52 million more who suffer from other forms of visual impairment. By 2020, it is estimated that the blind population will be 31.60 million. With most government schemes and NGOs dedicating themselves to treatment of preventable corneal diseases like cataract, little attention is given to the incurable diseases that pertain to the retina.
That’s why Retina India was founded in 2009 by a group of doctors and patients suffering from retinal disorders. A founding-member, Arvind Bhartiya, a Mumbai-based chartered accountant, belongs to the latter group. “We were an informal group, trying to help other people who were suffering from retinal defects and diseases. In 2009, ophthalmologist Dr Rajat N Agrawal took the initiative to form this organisation to reach out to many more,” says
Retina India is an umbrella organisation of people with retinal disorders, their families and friends, which brings them on a common platform with experts such as physicians, researchers, counsellors, low-vision & mobility experts, and other specialists. Retina India sponsors research and maintains a database of people suffering from retinal disorders. “Unfortunately, medical science hasn’t discovered a cure for most retinal disorders but global research is on for management of retinal disorders by stem cells, gene therapy and implanting artificial retina. Our mission is to increase awareness of retinal diseases, champion the cause of patients, and increase research efforts for treatment,” says Mr Bhartiya.
“A disease doesn’t limit itself to any class—we don’t limit our services to a particular group. Anyone suffering from a retinal ailment can avail our services,” he says. Retina India also provides advice and counselling to patients and families, through meetings and by a helpline. It coordinates with other NGOs and institutions that help blind people in developing their skills.
Volunteers/members of the organisation regularly visit hospitals, medical institutions and other forums to publicise their organisation. It is not only doctors who refer patients to Retina India, but even friends and relatives of the patients, after reading their pamphlets. Dealing with retinal disorder can be hard. “These disorders are degenerative and incurable; we come across many who lose hope and go into depression when they realise their fate,” Mr Bhartiya says. He recalls the case of a girl whose parents had stopped sending her to school when it was diagnosed that she would eventually lose her sight. “The parents didn’t think that educating her was necessary, because she would not be able to see anyway. After much counselling, we could convince them to let her learn—lack of education would be more crippling than blindness. The girl is in computer training, and doing very well now,” he says.
Retina India organises regular health workshops and conventions, where patients come in contact with doctors from all over the country. “We are planning for a convention called ‘retinAware’ in September 2011 at New Delhi. This national convention will have leading national and international doctors and other experts speaking with patients and their families in an easy-to-understand language,” says Mr Bhartiya. The organisation plans to expand and reach out to more people over the next few years. However, shortage of funds has proved to be a hurdle. “Treatment of retinal disorders, professional counselling and research is expensive. Till now, we have been talking to individual donors or corporates. We plan to organise a large-scale fund-raising drive soon to tackle the problem,” says Mr Bhartiya.
Any patient, his friends or relatives, doctors, counsellors and volunteers can be a part of Retina India, or can be a part of their e-group. One can also donate to the organisation by cheque, money order or cash. All donations are eligible for exemption under Sec 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act.
Ridhi Sidhi Bhawan,
2/12, Babu Genu Road,
Mumbai 400 002
Tel: 022 2205 2308
What is the past record after eight days of a continuous rally? The odds favour a rise
The Nifty index closed today 47 points higher at 5,647, marking a consecutive rise for eight trading sessions in a row. The last time this feat was achieved was from 21st March to 31st March 2011, which came after a gap of nearly three and a half years. On that occasion, the Nifty dropped on the 9th day. But what does past data tell us?
This is the 44th time that the Nifty has risen eight days in a row since July 1990, and on 56% of these occasions the index has continued the positive trend. Going by historical trends, the chances are that the Nifty may continue its positive trend tomorrow.
Moneylife did a study on the past performance of the Nifty and found some interesting patterns in the data. In the last 21 years, there have been just 43 instances of an eight-day rising trend. The current rise is the 44th. In 19 out of the 43 instances the Nifty was unable to sustain the trend. On the 43rd occasion (in March 2011) the index dropped by 7.7 points on the ninth day (1st April 2011) then again gained 82.4 points in the next trading session.
Though the circumstances on the previous occasions were different, could the Nifty close in the positive tomorrow? The data indicates that this is possible, but much will depend on global cues.
The last time the Nifty recorded a nine-day rise was in September 2007. On that ocassion, the rally continued for 10 days before it closed 2.15 points lower on 4 October 2007. On the last 19 occasions when the trend was broken, the Nifty fell by an average 16.25 points.
History appears to be in favour of the index continuing in positive territory tomorrow.
Dr Debraj Shome, who set up MediAngels along with his friend Dr Arbinder Singal, believes that super-speciality healthcare should be more widely available
Dr Debraj Shome set up MediAngels as a super-speciality consultancy that will make top doctors accessible to more people over the internet or even the phone. This stems from his belief that the lack of access is one of the biggest flaws in healthcare today.
After two years of working on this project, he is now looking to even network with the government to arrange for quality medical professionals from around the world to provide their services for those who may not be able to afford. In an interview to Moneylife, Dr Shome explained the goals of MediAngels and how it operates. Edited excerpts from an interview.
Moneylife (ML): How did this unique idea of an online portal come about?
Debraj Shome (DS): It is a healthcare delivery business made available through technology. It is not a website alone; the website is just 1% of the business, the remaining is driven through phone-you will have top doctors available on phone. You can call a top doctor who becomes a teleconsultant. You can have a video consultation using web consulting software, and you can have the facility to store your electronic medical records online. This is possible with the use of technology.
ML: How much did you spend on planning the working of MediAngels?
DS: We started thinking of MediAngels in 2009 and by the time it was operational it was 2011. MediAngels is a continuous process; it is not something as if you start thinking of today and it reaches an end point. It will keep developing.
ML: How did you select 300 doctors from 22 countries to come on board?
DS: There is a health assurance committee consisting of five physicians, doctors from five different continents. These physician leaders are among the best in the world in what they do. They include the chief of Stanford University and the chief of the National University of Singapore. They accredit and choose doctors after an extremely rigorous process. It takes us 6-8 weeks to verify the doctor's credentials. You don't become a MediAngel because you want to be at MediAngel. We select you because we want you at MediAngel. The advantage of an e-hospital is that we can hire from wherever the doctor is based. The question is if the doctor is talented, a champion in his particular disease, he is world renowned in a particular speciality, we want him.
ML: How did you get the capital to get the company floating?
DS: The problem in India is seed funds don't really exist. Venture capitalists don't really fund seed businesses. When we went to venture capitalists, they kept telling us that we needed to show the product before raising funds. But the problem was how to show the product without having the money. We put in our own money and raised some from friends and family. We bootstrapped our way to a situation where HDFC's private equity unit, decided to come in. The fact that you are able to deliver service that changes lives hasn't been conceived or even dreamt of in healthcare. Like Google and facebook are innovations, HDFC has noticed us because of the innovative approach.
ML: How did the deal with HDFC PE come about?
DS: We happened to meet them and it wasn't difficult to convince them. They did a due diligence over four months, which for a start-up company which has zero revenue at that stage is a lot of money. Was it difficult to convince them? I don't think so. HDFC has some huge names, some of the biggest and respected names in the finance world. Think of what happened to IFCL after they were funded by HDFC. I don't think it's difficult to convince someone if you have the right ideas.
ML: Since the patient won't have a one-to-one conversation with the doctor, how do you plan to establish trust of the patients?
DS: You can choose a doctor and look through his entire certificates and his entire details which are difficult in the real world. Some of these names are absolute stalwarts like Ashok Seth from Fortis, Delhi. If you needed an appointment with him in the physical world it would take at least three months, but here he will answer back with a turnaround time of three working days.
It is consumer centric because you can see what you are getting. But if you don't know whom to choose, we choose for you. Upload your reports, history, and give your details. It's like talking through the web, you go ahead and type it. This doesn't directly go to the doctor, it will go to admin doctors who are general practitioners. They look through your profile to check if you have provided all the details and ask you to provide complete details. Once your file is complete it gets shot to the super specialist.
When the doctor is answering, admin doctors will make sure that whatever the doctor is saying is understood by you in a language in which you can comprehend. On a 100kbs line you look in the webcam, the doctor will look in the webcam, book his details. He might be in Australia, so what, he's the best for you so go ahead and get an opinion from him. In due course of time, you will have call centres where you can go ahead and talk to whomever you want through mobile application, like you get the cricket score.
ML: What is the workforce at the moment?
DS: We started with a staff of 5-7 people in 2008. Today, as we talk post operations, we have 35 people. We are getting in a position where we will have 150 people by the end of this year. We are scaling and expanding pretty quickly. In an e-business you don't need so many heads. When you walk into a physical hospital you need many people. Here you don't need as much as staff as a physical hospital, but yet the numbers are happening quickly, so we need to scale up.
ML: How do you plan to utilise the private equity?
DS: The money provided by them was used to scale up operations, but we will need more money because this is an extremely complex technology. Imagine, something that connects you with the doctor in some other part of the world keeps everything secure so that your electronic medical records remain secure and yet is so easy to use. It is not easy to develop something like this, so, from that perspective the next rounds of funding will have to account for expansion in the international market, technology upgrades, moving into mobile health. It's going to be a huge game, because 11% of India uses the internet. But 63% of Indians uses mobile phones. There are 500+ million mobile phones in India, as compared to 40 million internet users, so the scale of technology, operations, marketing, branding will require funding.
ML: Since it's a website, you will have people from all financial backgrounds. Was it a deliberate attempt to reach a maximum population possible?
DS: Registration is free. From a business standpoint we make money when a person transacts. We provide a lot of freebies to people. In due course of time we aim to become the super-speciality medicine consultancy online. At present WebMD, the popular health portal tries to provide this service. But the problem with WebMD is the content is written by doctors, which common people don't understand. We have three interfaces. Once a doctor writes, three people go through it to make sure it is translated into a form in which people can understand. There is lot of information freely available. But MediAngels makes money when you transact.
ML: What flaws do you find in the current healthcare industry?
DS: Access is the biggest flaw with the healthcare industry. Nearly 90% of doctors are located in 10% of the geographical area. It is a question of accessibility to super speciality. The doctor who comes from Surat or Nanded practises in Mumbai. We are trying to work closely with the government by telling them that they have the hospitals, primary, secondary, tertiary healthcare centres, but the problem is the service. You go to a hospital for the doctor, but you don't have access. The main problem is access, non-affordability, no credibility.
ML: Tell me something about your CSR initiative?
DS: Our corporate social responsibility initiative includes an orations programme. We fly in top doctors to India and get them to speak to people and general practitioners on various issues, thus helping to increase the level of awareness. We are getting into a public-private partnership with the government, to set up MediAngels in all major hospitals, where some of our doctors from the US who want to do philanthropic work can join in. We will provide the infrastructure, the doctor will provide free medical advice and the government will provide us the space. It's very important to give back to society. There's so much inequality in healthcare.
ML: How will people get to know about MediAngels? What is your marketing strategy?
DS: People have got to know through press coverage. We don't have a PR consultant and we have not spent on marketing. I believe in the credo my mother gave us: If you are a rose, don't speak about your beauty; if people can smell you they will come to you. People have found us, we haven't done anything.
Marketing can sell a bad product for some time, but in due course people will know it is a bad product if only marketing is selling it. So improve your service delivery, it might take time, but in due course of time good service is the biggest marketing tool. Someone who comes in and finds good service, and it saves a life, he is going to tell five people about it which marketing cannot do.