21 Aug 2018 19:10 IST

Taking dentistry to all corners of the country

With its portable machines, MobiDent wants to make India the world’s dental healthcare centre

According to the Dental Council of India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there are 310 dental colleges in the country that produce about 30,000 dentists annually. But the dentist to patient ratio is abysmal: 1:8,000 in urban areas and 1:50,000 in rural areas.

Vivek Madappa, Co-Founder of MobiDent, was shocked when he came across these statistics. There is a demand for dentists and, if the data is accurate, there will be more than one lakh dentists in Indian by 2020. But why is dental care in India so poor, he wondered. “It’s ironic that we produce so many dental graduates but most people either don’t have access to good dental care or can’t afford it,” he says. He created MobiDent in 2014 in an attempt to make dental care inexpensive and accessible to everyone by integrating mobile dentistry with digital technology.

Vivek Madappa

Understanding the problem

As Vivek comes from the corporate world — the FMCG sector, to be more accurate — he took some time trying to understand the healthcare ecosystem. He realised the disconnect between demand and supply boils down to four parameters. “The first is that the cost of setting up a clinic is ₹12 lakh, and not everyone has that kind of money, especially graduates. Second, they maybe good doctors but they don’t understand the business of dentistry; they aren’t taught how to set up a clinic. Most of them end up working for a senior or a professor and hope to learn to set up a clinic someday. During this period, they get paid ₹8,000-9,000 per month. How does one survive with that much?”

“The third parameter is the monthly running cost of looking after a clinic. Including rent, the monthly cost is more than ₹70,000. Since dental care isn’t usually an emergency, most patients come in the evening. On an average a dentist can see one patient every half an hour so in three hours they see only six patients. Unless a dentist charges ₹2,000 per sitting, they won’t be able to recover cost. If you look at a clinic as a factory, it is running at 30 per cent capacity. This is the fourth parameter — it will take at least 10 years to break even and get customers,” he explains.

The next step

Vivek decided to tackle each problem through MobiDent. Instead of patients relying only on hospitals and clinics for good healthcare, he decided to home deliver the service in the form of mobile dental clinics. “This removed real estate out of the equation and there is no rental cost,” he says. To tackle the steep cost of setting up a clinic (₹12 lakh) he worked with product designers to build a portable machine at 10 per cent of the cost. “It is called the Caddy Clinic; it can do almost everything a conventional clinic can. It has a compressor, suction unit, recliner chair, and sterilised equipment that come in vacuum pouches, all of which can be carried in an auto or car. The clinic is linked to an app that connects doctors to patients,” he adds.

Unless healthcare becomes an industry you won’t have economic development, says Vivek. “The medical sector is not organised. I had to prove that doctors can be hired on a regular salary as hospitals work on variable charges. If I took care of getting customers, capital expenditure, salary, and put a system to manage the back-end, then it would run like a factory. But first, we had to get all the pieces together — the Caddy, the technology (app and back-end platform), marketing, and training. This is our brand equity. We provide dentists with the entire ecosystem needed to survive and grow. We want MobiDent to make India the dental capital of the world. If we can supply IT specialists and engineers to the world, why not dentists?”

In an attempt to democratise the Caddy and give it to every dentist in India, MobiDent has decided to own the intellectual property while distributing it to everyone. Currently, all the mobile dentists are part of the MobiDent network but soon, they can operate separately. “We plan to have an MRP-driven approach so that there is a fixed price for services.”

There is a MobiDent Academy for Digital Dentistry as well, where students are trained on how to be process-driven and to understand the business of dentistry. If someone wants to join, they have to buy the Caddy, worth ₹80,888, be trained in the institute and get certified.

Funding

Talking about the business model, Vivek says, “There are four verticals, the first of which are corporate camps where we provide free dental check-ups. Then there is the corporate vertical where we partner with different hospitals as they don’t want to invest in the dental sector. The third is the home visits our dentists make and the newest is the Caddy Clinic, where they can be a dentist anywhere as long as they train at our academy and use our app. Once we certify them, they can use our brand equity in villages, towns or cities.”

MobiDent has completed two rounds of funding so far — angel funding of ₹1.25 crore and pre-series A funding from New York-based DanGold Investment Corporation worth $250,000. It is going for the next round soon. The initial investment was made by Vivek along with angel investors. “We’ve been cash-positive since Year One.”

Located in seven cities across India — Bengaluru, Mumbai, Mysore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Pune and Delhi — MobiDent has treated more than 64,000 people in the last four years. “Our goal is to reach 200 million people by 2022,” he says.

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