Each year, millions of students in India rush to get an admission in universities abroad. Often they don’t know which program they should focus on, or the college that is right for their skillset and ambition.
Scores of legacy and newfound firms are attempting to offer counselling to these students. But despite India contributing more international students than any other country, most firms aiming to address this challenge are not focused on India, and struggle to understand some unique problems students in the world’s second-most populous country face.
An Indian startup that is bridging this gap on Thursday said it has raised $ 6.5 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its platform in the world’s second-largest internet market.
Leverage Edu said Tomorrow Capital led the Delhi-headquartered startup’s Series A financing round. Existing investors Blume Ventures and DSG Consumer Partners also participated in the round.
Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and chief executive of Leverage Edu, told TechCrunch in an interview that he believes that eventually the firm that is going to serve the students best and emerge most successful will be the one that is physically closer to them, and not to the universities.
Chaturvedi, 30, began exploring this idea for this startup in 2015 and spent a little more than a year experimenting with different models. One of the earliest iterations of Leverage Edu offered mentorship to students and rewarded counselors with points.
Today, the startup offers a broad range of services in addition to offering personalized mentorship. Through its workshops, it helps students find the right college, guides them with complex applications and grade conversions, as well as assists with education loans, visas and accommodations. “It’s one digital dashboard. You get everything from flight tickets to local phone numbers, to education loan in one place,” he said.
“We believe it is inevitable that the next stellar brand in the global cross-border education space will be a home-grown one. We have a great belief in Akshay as a founder — he has a fantastic roadmap for scaling the business and the passion to build a truly global Indian edtech brand — and are excited about working with the Leverage Edu team on this journey,” said Rohini Prakash, chief executive of Tomorrow Capital, in a statement.
Leverage Edu helps students land admission in the most prestigious colleges, but also works with those that didn’t score the best marks.
“Students going to the top colleges is just 10% of the potential audience,” explained Chaturvedi, who spent his teen years attending talks from startup founders and also made money by bringing more people to those talks. “There are many universities that don’t have the best branding. To connect them with students, we have our SaaS offering Univalley.com,” he said.
The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to help students find colleges in more geographies, including the U.K. and Australia, he said.
“We want to focus on a few things and do them really, really well. There is also this myth around foreign education being expensive that we’ve been busting for the last four years. Eighteen months from now, we want to be among the top study-abroad companies in India, both by number of students and a roof-hitting NPS — because a happy student is why we are all really motivated everyday to do this!”, he added.
Phable, a three-year-old health tech startup that is serving patients with chronic illnesses in India, has raised $ 12 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale in the world’s second most populated nation.
Manipal Hospitals, one of the largest healthcare providers in India, led the Series A round in Phable. Existing investor New Jersey-headquartered SOSV also participated in the round.
Hundreds of millions of people in India suffer from chronic diseases. One of the biggest challenges they face is the volume of transactions they have to manage each day. There are appointments with doctors and labs for tests, purchasing of medicines, medical devices and insurance, and keeping a log of their test results.
The Bangalore-based startup has built a full-stack solution to process all these transactions. It has also developed what it claims to be the world’s largest integration with medical IoT devices.
The purpose of this is to automatically collect patients’ data so that doctors can keep better track of their progress. The app also enables patients to share what medicine they are taking, and the frequency of the intake.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Phable co-founder Sumit Sinha explained that patients often become less disciplined about taking the full dose of their medication once they start to see improvements in their conditions.
Phable has created a more transparent and real-time communication channel that allows a doctor to nudge their patients to take their medicine on time, and make any necessary changes to the lifestyle or medication cycle, or request a follow-up appointment. The app itself can be used for tele-consultation, the demand for which has skyrocketed in recent quarters as coronavirus forced people to stay indoors.
“This creates a feedback loop between the patient and the doctor even when the patient is not at the clinic or hospital and enables active interventions to get the best outcome,” he said.
The startup also sells a range of medical IoT devices through its platform that patients can buy for tracking their body performance such as blood pressure and glucose levels. Sinha said that even if a patient has bought a machine from some other place, Phable’s app is compatible with most devices. (Even if it is not — as is sometimes the case with low-cost, non-branded devices — patients can manually enter their result, or take a picture of the result and through computer vision, Phable is able to understand and make a record of it.)
“The growing burden of chronic diseases in India is exacerbated by issues around compliance of patients with the treatment regime – including medication, lifestyle changes and periodic follow-ups. Phable would help to fill that gap and would enhance the quality of life for many patients. Manipal Hospitals is pleased to have this opportunity to work with the team at Phable to enhance and grow their offerings,” said Dr. Ranjan Pai, chairman of Manipal Education and Medical Group, in a statement.
Phable, which employs 72 people, also maintains partnership with 1mg and Medlife to make it easier for patients to place orders for their medicines and get them delivered at their doorstep.
In recent quarters, millions of Indians have consulted with their doctors through their phone or computer and bought medication online for the first time. According to Frost & Sullivan, the e-pharmacy market in India was estimated to be around $ 512 million in 2018. In a recent note to clients, analysts at Bank of America estimated this market to be worth $ 2.4 billion by 2022. (The preventive healthcare market, which caters to physical and mental well-being, is expected to grow to $ 102 billion by 2022.)
Phable today serves patients with cardiovascular and endocrinology-related chronic diseases. It has already served more than 220,000 patients and plans to deploy the fresh capital to scale the startup to reach 5 million patients and 35,000 doctors by the end of the year. It also plans to broaden its offering, including allowing patients to purchase insurance from within the app or website.
Currently Phable is used by over 5,000 doctors. These doctors are using the platform to stay better connected with their existing patients and are not being paid by Phable. The startup, however, also enables patients to discover more doctors. All in all, Sinha said doctors have seen their revenue grow by 20% by using Phable’s platform.
“Phable started with an uncompromising vision of connected healthcare, reimagined through leading-edge technology, and has been unrelenting in their efforts since day one. It’s been our privilege to work with the team through our accelerator MOX and to further support Phable as they go on to better millions of lives in India,” said William Bao Bean, general partner at SOSV, in a statement.