Finding a specialist doctor in Pakistan is a task more daunting than it is supposed to be: talking to relatives, digging up contacts, calling to ask their fees and what-not just to get an opinion on a health issue. But Oladoc.com seeks to change exactly that.
Founded as Mydoctor.pk in 2016 by the Zuberi brothers, the Lahore-based start-up aims to offer a one-stop shop for all your healthcare needs. “My brother, Arif, was visiting Pakistan from Finland and his son’s allergy made him realise the difficulty of finding a decent practitioner. He felt there was definitely a great scope so after some research into the industry, he left his job to build the company from scratch and even wrote the code our website currently runs on,” says the junior brother Abid Zuberi, who later left his own job to help grow the company.
Boasting of considerable international and multinational experience, the Zuberi brothers felt that they could bypass going through an incubator – a conventional route many start-ups generally take. Beginning with their personal savings, an early $100,000 investment from a local angel investor further helped kickstart the idea and get things rolling.
Currently offering a database of over 14,000 verified specialists across Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, Oladoc lets you filter according to fee, experience, or rating and book a confirmed appointment with a doctor of your choice. And for consumers, it’s free of cost, and provides an opportunity to rate the doctor after the visit. The company makes its revenues through doctors by providing them a range of solutions, from marketing to basically automating their clinic by integrating it with the MyPractice platform – a comprehensive practice management system that digitises medical records and patient history.
Having collaborated with giants like Aman Foundation and Chughtai Lab, they also offer doorstep delivery of medicines as well as home-based laboratory services ranging from sample collection to online reports.
“There is a wave of digitisation sweeping Pakistan as we speak and it’s safe to say that the dynamics are in our favour. Plus we know this model has already been tested in India and if it worked there, it’s going to work here as well,” Abid said, optimistically.
With a fresh $1.1 million that they have recently secured from the UAE-based Glowfish Capital, Oladoc is seeking to expand not only geographically but also in terms of the services offered. They are set to launch in Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, and Quetta by the third quarter of this year and are in talks for international expansion to a couple of African and Southeast Asian countries. They also have in store a video consultation service that is currently under construction.
“We felt the time was right to invest in an international domain and switched to Oladoc.com which fits well with our expansion plans,” the junior Zuberi told Dawn.
Recollecting their fair share of challenges early on, Abid noted that it was difficult to raise money as Pakistani investors, unlike those in Silicon Valley, are less willing to bet on an idea and have an outdated modus operandi. “It’s just impracticable: they ask for unreasonable ownership stakes in exchange for funding,” he continued.
“The response from doctors was positive from the very beginning, however hospitals were reluctant given they were resourced enough to have specialised departments, making them question the utility of our solutions,” Abid recalls. “But things have definitely changed for the better as we have made a name for ourselves and now hospitals are lining up as well,” he adds.
As far as hiring the right people is concerned, he echoes similar concerns as most other Pakistani recruiters. “We are producing plenty of MBAs and BBAs but do they have the core skills? Unfortunately that isn’t the case most of the time so you always have to look a bit harder to acquire the right talent,” Abid believes.
In terms of competition, he feels comfortable with their current market position and doesn’t think Oladoc is under any immediate threat locally, given their first-mover advantage.
Going forward, he has his eyes set on partnering with a large chunk of Pakistan’s approximately 160,000 doctors and would like to eventually enter the general physician market where he sees extraordinary potential for their services. “Many of these small doctors with their own clinics don’t have a platform to market themselves, limiting them to only a particular area. But with our services, they would be able to grow their trade,” Abid says, while sharing future plans.
With approximately 400,000 website visits per month, growing at almost 70 per cent month-on-month, Oladoc is perhaps just beginning to set the landscape of Pakistan’s digital healthcare industry.
The writer is member of staff:
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2018