KARACHI: While many businesses in the country are facing crises amid the ongoing lockdowns, startups within the health space have seen a different response altogether.

“Demand has literally shot up over the previous month,” says Abid Zuberi, CEO of Oladoc, an online doctor booking platform. “We launched a Facebook group with the coronavirus advisory and tips just six days ago and it got some 40,000 members [which have since jumped to over 52,000 at the time of writing],” he adds.

Data Source: Dawai.pk
Data Source: Dawai.pk

The increased traction doesn’t necessarily mean more converted customers though. “We didn’t initially have the infrastructure in place for online video consultations but have now built it and recently went live,” claiming that they are now doing as many as 700 appointments a day within a few weeks of launch.

Data source: Dawai.pk
Data source: Dawai.pk

Hyder Mumtaz of Augmentcare, an app-based video consultation platform, reports a similar trend. “Without any marketing efforts, we have noticed a rise in both the number of online appointments done and the average call per consumer. However, only 25-30 per cent of these are related to coronavirus and the rest are about the general issues as many people are switching to telehealth to avoid going out.”

Both these startups operate in the business-to-business space as well, offering clinic management software to doctors and hospitals, but the lockdown has had an adverse impact on the segment. “That end of the business is slow as out-patient department clinics were generally closed. But it has prompted many of those clients to switch to our telehealth services thanks to a much greater use case now,” Mumtaz notes.

Meanwhile, Dawaai.pk, one of the oldest online pharmacies in Pakistan, has reported a spike in demand. Based on the data shared with Dawn, products like face masks saw around 6,000pc month-on-month surge in February, though it could because of the low absolute values previously.

The estimated monthly website traffic for four major startups from October-March. Data source: SimilarWeb
The estimated monthly website traffic for four major startups from October-March. Data source: SimilarWeb

In March, AB alcohol swab and Hydrox­ychloroquine or HCQ – the now famous medicine used to treat COVID-19 symptoms – topped the growth charts, recording more than 2,000pc and 1,500pc monthly increases, respectively.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2020

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