Varun Gera, Founder & CEO, HealthAssure

“For the Tier 3 and 4 cities, there is a big gap on almost all fronts; most importantly access to health. With technology and connectivity, we see some green shoots for health access to this segment of population.”

May 19, 2016 12:05 IST IIFL Anil Mascarenhas |

Varun Gera, Founder & CEO, HealthAssure
Varun Gera, Founder & CEO, HealthAssure, 20 Years of Experience in Domestic & International Markets. Former CEO of UnitedHealthcare India, Fully owned Subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, USD 100 Billion Healthcare Company. Active Member of several CII Subcommittees for Promotion & Development of Health Insurance in India. Prior experience at Senior Level positions with other large Corporates like GE Money and ICICI Bank, India’s largest Private Bank. Mr. Gera graduated from University of Notre Dame, U.S.A. with a Masters Business Administration.
 
HealthAssure currently has a wide network of 2,000 plus Medical Centers across 800 cities in India and service large Insurers and Corporates for their Wellness & Underwriting needs. HealthAssure differentiates itself by a Strong Network, Robust IT Application & Infrastructure to provide Superior end to end delivery for our Customers.  Our rich expertise helps us in providing Integrated Wellness Activities for Corporates conscious of Health & Wellbeing of their Employees apart from managing their Pre-Employment screening and Annual Health Checks.  Over the next quarter we will be launching Care Management & Other Network Based Products.
 
Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Varun Gera says, “For the Tier 3 and 4 cities, there is a big gap on almost all fronts; most importantly access to health.  With technology and connectivity, we see some green shoots for health access to this segment of population.”
 
Why is there less awareness about primary healthcare? What needs to be done to improve the situation? What are some interesting trends you are seeing here?
As an evolutionary process in any economy, there is an initial focus on secondary and tertiary care including hospitalization and later to preventive care and finally leading to managed care and wellness.  Over the last few years in India we have seen increased activity in preventative care and wellness.  With increasing urbanization, more awareness and onset of lifestyle diseases there is a real consumer need for preventative and wellness services and we are witnessing a lot of activity in this area in both health delivery and health services.  We are seeing building of primary care delivery infrastructure with significant investment happening in this area and new regional and national level brands getting prominence. There is also a spurt in demand for various wellness based services/ companies getting good traction in areas of nutrition, mental health, fitness & yoga, etc. The government too is promoting preventive health with introduction of Mohalla Clinics, promotion of Yoga, coverage of Primary health in segments of population, etc. 
 
What prompted you to choose this segment? Is it more to do with your previous work?
I believe there is a bigger untapped opportunity in preventative health and wellness.  
My prior experience in health services definitely helps in understanding the market needs and its gaps and how one can best capitalize on it by being an entrepreneur.
 
What is your business model? Isn’t aggregating an easily replicable possibility? What is the investment done so far?
HealthAssure aggregates 2,000 Primary care medical centers in 800 cities.  We transfer the discount we get from our partner network to our customers whilst keeping part of the margin as our revenue model. Given the scale of our medical network which we have built over 5 years, it is not easily replicable and most importantly our innovation lab churning out products for the market is the real asset which is our Company’s DNA.
   
We have invested more than USD 3.5 Million into building HealthAssure 
 
Have you achieved break-even? Comment on your financials.
HealthAssure achieved break-even in the second year of operation and now are building our new products which requires further investment.  
 
With technology advancement and better connectivity, do you think there is still a huge gap in providing quality access in healthcare in tier 3 and 4 cities?
In healthcare, there exists different gaps for different segments of all markets including India. For the Tier 3 and 4 cities, there is a big gap on almost all fronts; most importantly access to health.  With technology and connectivity, we see some green shoots for health access to this segment of population.
 
What is the ownership pattern of the company? Any plans to sell stake or do an IPO?
HealthAssure is a professionally managed company with ownership across the senior management and our Investors.
 
We would love to build out as an international company with unique offerings and go in for an IPO.
 
Digital diagnostics, virtual wellness programs and artificial intelligence led fitness coaching are all turning buzzwords these days.
 
To what extent do you see Technology turning into a game changer in the manner in which healthcare services will be delivered in India?
I believe that the current technology can cater to part of the gap in bringing health closer to people. The traditional models of delivery are also very strong and coexist with these new services.  As technology evolves, it would address more and more health needs of an individual.
 
Comment on your network and geographical spread.
HealthAssure aggregates 2,000 Primary care Medical Centers across 800 cities.  Our office are in Mumbai, Gurgaon and Bangalore. 
 
You are part of the CII Health Insurance and Standards Committee.  What triggers for growth do you see for this industry?
There are several triggers for growth in this industry and many of these are intertwined viz. Economic growth, Individual Awareness, Technology advancement, Urbanization, Increasing lifestyle diseases, Increasing life expectancy and Insurance Penetration.  
 
What is the mix between corporate and retail client? Who is your target customer?
Our focus for now is the Corporate Client and our target customers are SMEs and Large Corporates.
 
Any anecdotes you have to share?
What Indian environment demands from each business is very low price points and core innovation. It is very difficult for business to focus on these two elements simultaneously and the ones who can will thrive in times to come.
 
We at HealthAssure have tried to follow this moto and apart from low cost have always been innovators and brought many firsts to the market.   
 
Your message to anyone who wishes to join this industry?
Healthcare is an evergreen industry with always an unfinished agenda and lots of challenges. It’s an industry which is also very satisfying given that one can make a real difference to individuals lives.
 
Your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is a very rewarding choice with unending challenges without rest. Keep learning and moving forward with strong conviction.  

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