Business Today

Wealth is health

twitter-logo Anand Adhikari        Print Edition: June 26, 2011

Why don't most Indian dentists flourish the way their American counterparts do? The question intrigued MBA student Visham Sikand, now 33, so much he took six months off to find out, and wrote a research paper on it. The reason, he discovered, lay in insurance: unlike Americans, very few Indians had dental insurance and thus hesitated to visit a dentist, fearing the costs involved.

Indian Health Organisation
Founded in: 2008
Founders: Visham Sikand, Sunando Sen, Shailesh Ahluwalia
What makes it cool: Has taken affordable health services to the masses. Rakes in profits through its unique business model
Rating: 5.5
Mirchandani's take: It seems to be going the extra mile that insurance companies do not. It has the potential to become a powerful tool for consumers. Attractive market opportunity, but execution will be difficult.
Despite his obvious interest in health care, Sikand initially opted for a conventional career after completing his MBA in 2002. He worked with auto major Maruti Suzuki, Standard Chartered and ABN AMRO banks, and started Plat5 Consultancy, which cross-sold banking products. It was only in 2008 that, having roped in two friends, Sunando Sen and Shailesh Ahluwalia, he set up the Indian Health Organisation, or IHO, to offer affordable health services to the masses.

IHO offers health services packages at premiums much lower than the mainstream insurance firms - and still manages to make a healthy profit. Its 'family plan', for instance, covers an entire family for as little as Rs 4,500 a year and includes, apart from hospitalisation expenses, free health check ups and discounted rates at select pathology labs and pharmacies. "Under IHO, you get a 25 per cent discount at all Religare Labs, among others," says Sikand, who is pursuing an executive programme at Harvard Business School.

Today, IHO has a network of more than 4,500 doctors in 20 cities. Among its partners are ICICI Prudential, HSBC and SpiceJet, while its agents include Birla Money Mart and Destimoney Securities.

In barely three years, IHO has achieved a $4 million (Rs 18 crore) turnover. Sikand, who holds a majority stake in IHO, wants to cover every aspect of health in the next two years. "We could offer customers better rates even for gym membership and plastic surgery," he says.

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