As every parent knows, small children never fall ill during the day. When a child wakes up with a raging fever (or in a pool of vomit) at 2 am, the parent usually has one overriding concern: is it something serious that merits a visit to the ER? If only a doctor were available in the middle of the night to help answer that question.

Our newest investment, mFine, addresses precisely this concern. They operate a mobile platform that allows patients to consult doctors from top hospitals any time of the day or night. For patients who need long-term care, such as diabetics, pregnant women or post-operative patients, they provide continuous medical care through the app.

All this is enabled through a smart assistant that uses Artificial Intelligence to improve the quality of diagnosis and optimize the doctor’s time.

This is the story of our investment in mFine, and why we think this tiny app can change the world of healthcare. 

mFine is founded by two former executives from Myntra, India’s largest fashion retailer. Ashutosh Lawania co-founded Myntra in 2007 and shepherded it to more than $1B in revenue before leaving this year to start mFine. Prasad Kompalli was an SVP at software major SAP before joining Myntra as Chief Business Officer in 2012.

The team is rounded out with the addition of former colleagues Ajit Narayanan (previously CTO at Myntra) and Arjun Chaudhary (previously head of Digital Marketing). Dr. Jagadish Prasad, interventional neuro-radiologist and founder of Femiint Hospitals brings strong clinical expertise to mFine.

Ashutosh Lawania and Prasad Kompalli (From left to right)

In the recent past, we have come across some excellent companies founded by senior executives from established startups. We have already invested in two such companies – Wydr and Noticeboard – and mFine is our third such investment.

There are several reasons we believe successful startup executives will make great founders. They have delivered rapid growth amidst extreme chaos. They have run a never-ending series of business experiments, but also quickly doubled down on the ones that worked. They have gone through repeated failure and yet have been able to recognize success when they saw it.

This is not to say they won’t make mistakes – we just hope those are new mistakes.

“mFine has a massive headroom to create a $100M+ business over the next 7-8 years.”

The market opportunity for mFine is a no-brainer. There is a $40 Billion market for just primary healthcare in the country. Of the roughly 1 million doctors in India, approximately 80% are general physicians or primary care specialists. In addition, some portion of the $60 Billion secondary and tertiary care market is also available for online penetration.

The current level of online penetration is minuscule. By our estimates, no more than $50-60 Million of healthcare expenditure (not including pharma sales) is currently online. This gives mFine massive headroom to create a $100M+ business over the next 7-8 years.

During the course of our diligence, we spoke to more than 50 patients about their health needs and the opportunity for online consultations. We are convinced the need is real and widespread, and there is a strong value proposition for online consultations.

  • Convenience: Going to the doctor for minor ailments is very inconvenient – involving traffic, commute and wait times. Patients prefer to do a quick online consultation in such cases. This value prop applies to primary specialties, as well as certain secondary specialties like dermatology that can be done remotely.
  • Availability: The only care options available outside of business hours are hospital emergency rooms. Patients value the ability to take a doctor’s opinion before rushing to the ER.
  • Privacy: For certain healthcare issues like sexual health, infertility, depression and other psychiatric issues, patients prefer to consult the doctor anonymously or privately.
  • Second opinion: A significant portion of patients want to go online to validate the diagnosis or treatment plan they have received from their doctors.
  • Medicines and lab tests: Patients value the ability to get an online prescription, and the ability to order medicines and lab tests online

What we particularly like about mFine’s technology is how they have created an AI application to benefit both doctors and patients. The most scarce resource in healthcare is the doctor’s time. Yet the average doctor spends a bulk of their time in activities that do not involve applying clinical judgment. mFine’s product attempts to accomplish at least some of those tasks by machine, so the doctor’s time is freed up to focus on clinical diagnosis and treatment. The machine also reduces the probability of human error in the mechanical tasks of symptom reporting and probing, which is likely to improve the quality of diagnosis for the patient.

In addition to significant technology prowess, building a self-learning decision support system of this kind requires massive amounts of data. The mFine team has cleverly utilized public-domain clinical data sets to train the initial machine learning model, which will obviously improve as more and more consultations happen on the platform.

“They will need to prove the benefits of their AI engine to both patients and doctors”

Of course, an early stage investment like mFine, especially one with a large technology element, is not without risk. They are not the first company in this space, and at least a few competitors are well-funded. We expect them to differentiate themselves both on their technology and stronger value proposition. They will need to prove the benefits of their AI engine to both patients and doctors, and also convince the patient to pay a premium for the convenient and high-quality clinical service.

Our team at Stellaris is convinced that mFine is one of the boldest innovations in Indian healthcare, and we are excited to partner with them in their journey, in sickness and in health.