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Booster dose: Using tech power for better health

Ishaan Gera
Booster dose, tech power, diagnostics equipment, WHO, Biosense, Villgro, HbA1c machine

Convincing hospitals, especially government-run ones, to ditch their time-tested diagnostics equipment for a barely three-year-old firm's novel device isn't easy. But Janitri Innovations, a Bengaluru-based med-tech startup has been able to do it-its fetal heartbeat and uterine contraction monitoring tool today finds pride of place in over 100 hospitals in Karnataka and Haryana, most of these government facilities.

"Our system is so simple, you do not need any specialised training to operate it, plus it comes at one-third the cost of a cardiotocography machine," says Arun Agarwal, founder, Janitri Innovations.

What Janitri's device has at its core is both affordability and innovation, something that the healthcare sector in India direly needs. In most hospitals in India, uterine contractions and fetal heartbeat are monitored using a bulky cardiotocography machine. Janitri has simplified the process using a patch and a mobile app. Where nurses have to manually record data in a WHO-mandated partograph to assess women in labour. Janitri's app does this automatically, guiding which parameters are important and which aren't. The device has been since used to monitor over 27,000 pregnancies.

If maternal and fetal healthcare is Janitri's priority, another young med-tech firm Biosense Technologies is working on developing innovative diagnostic solutions for management of chronic diseases.

"We only have 30% of our clients from the government, the rest come from Tier II and III private clinics," says Abhishek Sen, founder, Biosense. Most of Biosense's products are made in India, except for the HbA1c machine which is imported from China. Biosense was recently acquired by Tulip Diagnostics.

While Biosense's products are expensive, much like Janitri it is relying on market innovation and mobile monitoring. The startup has developed an anaemia screening device, which can connect with a mobile phone to display results.
"Our products are very easy to use. A person with a basic level of education such as an Aganwadi worker can operate it. More important, our focus is on quality, not on price. And, medical professionals understand that it is not about price, but reliability," says Sen.

Both firms have a common engine of success. Both were incubated by Villgro and were later funded by its VC arm Menterra. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Chennai, Villgro is also making an impact in social investing and has several agri-tech enterprises in its portfolio. In association with CEEW it has recently launched a $2.5-million initiative to support clean energy-based livelihood solutions.

Even in medical technology, Villgro's portfolio is not only concentrated in product firms. 5C Network, another Bengaluru-based startup incubated by Villgro, has been working in the field of teleradiology. So, if a district hospital does not have a radiologist readily available, 5C can send that data to its panel of radiologists, who are also assisted by Artificial Intelligence to analyse the results.

"With 5C network, we have expanded the reach of radiology to districts. Hospitals that had the equipment but did not have the doctors are now able to use our services and provide teleradiology solutions in their districts. Where they were seeing 4-5 patients a day, the count has gone up to 100," says Kalyan Sivasailam, co-founder, 5C Network.
While certain med-tech startups are getting support from the government, they are yet to ink state-level deals. Most are operating on a district basis, trying to expand their base step by step. But they are certainly making their way ahead, changing India's healthcare system, hospital by hospital.