ParentCare can put your mind at ease
In the second episode in our mini-series with Nova, a Liverpool-based tech cofoundery that partners with entrepreneurs to turn ideas into successful, scalable tech startups, in sectors including healthtech, fintech and edtech, Startups Magazine caught up with Bharat Vasandani, Founder of ParentCare.
Tell me about your startup and what they do?
For those living abroad with an ageing parent left behind, trying to take care of them from a distance is hard. Especially, if they become ill. This experience can be emotionally distressing as researching services and medical professionals from afar can be difficult and time consuming.
The Indian diaspora - estimated more than 17 million worldwide - has always been dependent on their family and friends when arranging medical help for their parents in India. While trying their best to be long-distance caregivers for their loved ones, Indian expats find it extremely difficult to coordinate services from outside the country.
ParentCare aims to fill these gaps via technology and on-the-ground support. Working with Nova, we are developing a digital health platform designed to help expats procure trusted medical and care services for their relatives back in their country of origin.
Where did the idea come from?
ParentCare was founded by Bharat, an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) living in London. In 2017, Bharat’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Bharat was about to become a father himself, so he couldn’t travel to Mumbai regularly to support his mum.
The following months were filled with doctor appointments, endless diagnostic tests, conventional and holistic treatment. Bharat felt like he was never fully aware of what was happening and could not contribute as much as he wanted to.
He reached out to hundreds of other members of the Indian diaspora living in other parts of the world and realised that they all face similar problems. That was the starting point for ParentCare.
How long have you been going?
ParentCare started putting together an user panel in 2019. We secured funding and mentorship from Nova and Deepbridge just a few months ago. Over the past couple of months we have been busy building an MVP and validating our business model. In a few week’s time,
What have some of the biggest challenges been?
During the COVID pandemic, it was not easy to approach healthcare professionals back in India because of their increased workload. We had to postpone some agreements for a few months, however, medical service providers seem to be getting back in touch with us now.
On the demand side, ParentCare wants to change the thought of caring for parents only when they are going through a medical treatment. While that is a given, we would want the Indian expats to move from reactive caregiving to proactive caregiving. For example: create digital healthcare records for their parents so that there is 24*7 access to healthcare information, especially during medical emergencies; ensure health check-ups are done regularly and look at holistic approach to healthcare instead of piece-meal approaches.
We understand that this is a bigger challenge and will take time for people to understand, accept and implement.
How have you managed through the COVID-crisis and lockdown?
We were busy launching our website, building our digital platform MVP for remote booking of services, and growing both, our user panel and our service partners.
Despite still developing our technical solution, The ParentCare team did not let the absence of its platform stop itself from serving its customers. Throughout lockdown, we’ve been supporting families in the UK and the USA procure a range of medical & healthcare services for elderly grandparents in India. Managing the entire process from purchasing the medicines to getting them safely delivered to their doorsteps.
Have you had to make any big changes and how have you pivoted and adapted?
The Covid-19 situation has further accelerated the need to have a reliable platform for long-distance caregiving. Indian expats have not been able to travel back to India and are worried about their elderly parents' mental health during lockdown - particularly if they are in isolation.
To help counter this, ParentCare launched an online games & fun programme helping expats connect to their parents in India on a deeper level. We host customised Indian traditional games online creating an hour of family bonding which positively affects mental health.
How has COVID affected your business?
The pandemic has created more awareness about elderly care and pushed the Indian healthcare industry to go digital so we’ve been able to expand into multiple Indian regions a lot sooner than expected.
It’s also given us the opportunity to work with service partners to provide diagnostic tests and elderly care to more than 25 cities. We’re working to provide our customers with online access to 200+ specialised doctors across India.
However, the business has been affected in some ways. We had to restrict some of our personalised services and the speed of which medical and healthcare supplies were delivered was affected
What does the future have in store for you?
We aim to go beyond a doctor-patient platform and develop a sustainable caregiving ecosystem with customised solutions.
Eventually, we want ParentCare to be used not only to arrange medical services but also for booking taxi rides, requesting a team member to accompany parents at doctor appointments, buying travel insurance, storing the latest medical reports digitally or even connecting to nearby charity volunteers for non-medical help.
Do you have any advice for other startups out there?
If Covid-19 is the new normal, then businesses will need to adapt, and quickly. All situations that come with the pandemic are new - no one has ever experienced them before so there are no benchmarks for reference! Don't Shy away from giving something a go or trying something new.