Healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment. Although the country’s healthcare industry is projected to continue its rapid expansion, with an estimated market value of US $280 billion by 2020, increased population growth in India’s low-income communities has resulted in a lack of affordable and easily accessible quality healthcare for millions of people.
As a comparison China has 30 hospital beds every 10,000 people, whereas India has only 12. The figures are even more alarming for nurses. In the United States there are 98 nurses per 10,000 people and in India there are only 13.
Despite government efforts to improve widespread access to quality healthcare, India’s existing infrastructure continues to be insufficient resulting in limited treatment options, especially for low-income families.
Recognizing the need for innovation within healthcare, in 2012, Ennovent , a business accelerator, partnered with the University Impact Fund, one of the world’s first student driven impact-investing firms, to research the opportunities available for entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and experts to add value to the Indian healthcare industry.
It was uncovered that in rural villages and towns, where the majority of Indians reside, a staggering demand exists for affordable remedial healthcare options such as the manufacturing, distribution or provision of various healthcare products and services. Highlighted below are some of the areas within healthcare that are well positioned for innovative business models.
India’s eye care sector is ripe for innovation
In the context of India’s eye care sector – a subsector that is currently in strong need of practical solutions - the business models used by organizations such as Vision Spring  and Drishti Eye Care  are excellent examples of addressing the issues of affordability and accessibility through innovation.
Vision Spring uses the micro-franchise approach to create vision entrepreneurs that aid in the distribution of affordable reading glasses to BoP customers. Whereas Drishti Eye Care uses a three tier hub and spoke model which offers primary eye care through telemedicine supported vision centers, and screening camps and surgical care at district hospitals. Both models are leveraging technology and unique distribution approaches to improve service quality overall.
Improved Neonatal Care will curb maternal mortality
Research indicates that 20.9% of babies in India are born prematurely due to pre-term complications such as hemorrhaging and hypertension. Since incubators are commonly unavailable outside hospitals, premature infants are susceptible to lung disease and hypothermia.
Significant opportunity exists in the manufacture and distribution of products such as incubators, resuscitators and birthing delivery kits that offer pre-mature babies born outside of a hospital and mothers a greater rate of survival. Innovations such as Embrace , affordable infant warmers regulate a baby’s temperature without electricity, are well placed to scale widely within India.
Emphasis on primary care will save lives
Current healthcare programs focus disproportionately on specialist care rather than primary care. By 2020 chronic diseases such as diabetes, which can be typically remedied through primary care providers in the early stages ,will be responsible for seven out of every ten deaths in emerging markets such as India.
Vaatsalya, India’s first hospital network operating in remote towns and villages is an example of an innovative enterprise working to reduce the primary care gap. By hiring doctors that live in the local area and focusing less on specialist care, Vaatsalya is able to provide quality primary and tertiary care in remote areas cost-effectively.
Paving the way for social enterprises to fill service gaps
As India’s healthcare industry continues to evolve, significant innovations in products and services will ensure that low-income people have access to affordable healthcare products and services.
Development agencies, enterprise incubators, innovation accelerators, private investment funds as well as foundations are all important vehicles to support these healthcare innovations. At the same time, public private partnerships continue to be important.
Ennovent is an integrated model that discovers startups, refines their business models through on-the-ground mentoring, provides finance and access to specialized expertise to grow operations and scales impact. These kinds of service enable enterprises to create sustainable impact on the lives of low-income people in India.
Overall, significant opportunities exist for entrepreneurs, investors and experts to have a positive impact on people living in low-income areas with limited access to affordable healthcare.
Connect with sector experts on the Ennovent Network  and learn more about opportunities to improve India’s healthcare sector now.