Mentor Views: What Challenges Do the Entrepreneurs Face in the MedTech Space?

Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, said, “Only the paranoid survive.” That’s true for the MedTech space in India too. The challenges that the entrepreneurs face today have made them paranoid — leading to endless hard work and finally, after years of toil — some success. 

What are the challenges you should prep for as an entrepreneur? How should you deal with those? Let the mentors talk.

For this article, we interviewed three mentors who are each unique in their line of thought and have achieved phenomenal success in the lives. We spoke to Mr Y.S. Prabhakara, who has been a Director and CEO in several MNCs. He has a vast knowledge of the MedTech arena in India. We also spoke to Mr Kannan Neelakanta, who’s technical expertise and decades worth of experience in working closely with the end-users of the MedTech space is commendable. And we spoke to Ms Shalu Mitruka, who has spearheaded start-ups in the HealthTech space, helping them scale through successful business strategies.

Let’s read on to find out what invaluable insights they have to offer for new entrepreneurs.

Mentor Talk: What are the Trends in the MedTech Space?

“The spotlight is back on the communicable and infectious diseases in the COVID-19 aftermath. Only about 37% of deaths in India were due to non-communicable diseases until last year. Last six months the attention on communicable diseases has come back to the top thanks to the pandemic,” says Mr Prabhakara while talking about the latest trends in MedTech space. He adds, “The second trend is about digitisation in every sphere of life and health, and the third is the heightened awareness about diagnostics.”

Mr Neelakanta has an interesting view of the trends too. He said, “Diagnostics devices, especially for the heart and brain, hold a lot of opportunities in the MedTech space in India. Same is true for wearable monitoring devices that are becoming a standard part of everyone’s routine life now.”

On asking about the trends in the MedTech space, Ms Mitruka said, “I can see big non-medical companies like Google, partnering with hospitals and other institutions to create medical devices. I also see a lot of buzz for smartphone-based diagnosis, chatbots, home-based devices, and remote-treatment. Data-sharing by large organisations is also leading to personalised treatment.”

What Challenges Lie Ahead For the Entrepreneurs in the MedTech Space in India?

“Money, material, motivated people, marketing and management. These are the challenges a MedTech entrepreneur faces”, beautifully expresses Mr. Prabhakara.

1. Ideation to Execution

“The fabulous idea in your head means nothing. How to translate it to reality? How to execute it, monetise it for sustained revenue streams, build a team and brand…?”, asks Mr Prabhakara. While ideas are plenty, leading them to execution and gathering the necessary resources to do so is the biggest challenge.

2. Building Devices That Work Better

“The devices in the MedTech space have to be efficient to address the problem than the existing available solutions,” says Mr Neelakanta. The devices should be able to inspire trust like a health professional and make people want to invest in them

3. Access to Funds

“MedTech generally takes a longer time to get revenue as customer acquisition metrics are not the same like other industries,” says Ms Mitruka. Access to seed funding or any kind of capital is a tough challenge, mainly because the MedTech start-ups require massive investment most of the times. 

4. Dealing With Regulatory Constraints

Meeting all patient safety norms and other internationally accepted criterion is a vital part. Supporting this, Mr Neelakanta adds, “An entrepreneur doesn’t give enough importance to these norms at the start, and this leads to multiple design changes, causing an imbalance in the resource utilisation.”

5. Access to a MedTech Supporting Ecosystem & Primary Research

“In India, we lack an ecosystem where everyone, including health professionals, entrepreneurs and industry experts conduct an idea exchange”, shares Ms Mitruka. She also truly says that despite having a good product, most entrepreneurs are unable to conduct primary research which is essential to improve a product.

6. Balancing Value + Price

“Payment for a product happens only when a customer seems value out of a product, even though the product is well-received at the start. How many of them will convert and buy?” shares Mr Neelakanta. Often a product offering high value also has a high price — how does an entrepreneur deal with that?

7. Finding the Right People

Ms. Mitruka points out smartly, “You need the right people for sales, marketing, technical processes, messaging, partnerships, etc.” This challenge has been plaguing the Indian MedTech space since long. Having the right people at the right time is very important.

Quick Tips For Entrepreneurs to Deal With the Challenges

How Can Mentors Help?

And more.

Despite being a mentor, I would say that the scenario when the mentor started out as an entrepreneur was decades ago. So it is necessary that the right mentor understands the change in the scenario and competencies, keeping in mind that the fundamental requirements in this space remain the same,” advises Mr Neelakanta.

Having a mentor by your side can help you mitigate the challenges in the MedTech space and get an elevator to success.

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