A year ago, when Sangeeta Swami moved from Mumbai to Bengaluru, the sudden change of weather did not agree with her daughter, making her fall ill frequently. Finding a good doctor in a new city was a challenge. A friend suggested Ziffi.com, and a few searches later Sangeeta chanced upon Dr Krishnamurthy, who had received five-star ratings from over 20 people. If 20 people felt confident about Dr Krishnamurthy, Sangeeta thought, she could too. She has now been taking her daughter to the same doctor for a year.
Founded by IITians, Shantanu Jha, Keerthi Kiran Chennupati, Anshuman Pandey and Pushkar Soni, Ziffi.com is an online booking portal, which lists the names and addresses of spas, salons, doctors and diagnostic centres.
"It's very difficult to know whether you're going to get the right advice," said Taher Khorakiwala, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of MeemAin Capital and an investor in Ziffi.com, on the difficulty of finding a good healthcare service.
Ziffi.com's aim is to address this difficulty and help people make informed decisions.
Shantanu Jha, CEO and co-founder, Ziffi, had initially named his website DocSuggest.com, as it listed only doctors' names and addresses. "There is no accurate and reliable information about doctors. Most rely on word of mouth. For people new to a city, finding a doctor can be a harrowing experience," he said.
Later, Jha realised besides doctors, consumers were interested in the overall wellness segment as well, which includes pathologists, diagnostic centres and spas. Sensing an information gap, Jha expanded his horizons and thus, DocSuggest became Ziffi.
"Ziffi is derived from 'jiffy'. It best captures what we want to do. Get everything done in a jiffy" Jha said.
The change will be followed by more investment in marketing and promotion.
Ziffi.com was first funded by Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO, GOQii, and Sanjay Parthsarthy, founder and CEO, Indix Internet India.
Taher Khorakiwala, along with Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India, were also angel investors to the company.
In a Series-A investment from the recently formed Orios Venture Partners, founded by Rehan Yar Khan, Ziffi also raised Rs 15 crore.
Appointments on Ziffi are made either via the service provider or Ziffi's staff. If a user faces difficulties while making an appointment, service providers can contact Ziffi.com, which will then get in touch with the user. Typically, service providers, such as a spa or salon, approach Ziffi.com to list themselves on the portal, but Ziffi, too, has its own team who approach service providers for verification and an introduction to the website and business.
Ziffi functions on a pay-per-use model. Consumers avail of services for free, while service providers are required to pay a fee for every appointment they get via the website.
Jha said the success of his business is determined by numbers - of consumers, service providers and appointments.
Engaging with consumers and ensuring they come back to Ziffi is crucial.
"We have 1.3 million users at present and have booked around 2,60,000 appointments," added Jha.
Ziffi broke even in April 2014, before receiving its Series-A funding.
In the next year, Jha and his team want to capture 50 per cent of the market in India. They currently have 22 per cent.
To achieve this, Jha is aggressively hiring professionals from engineers and application developers to sales and operations managers.
Once Jha and his team established their base and were able to understand the market and their customers' needs, they were able to take the business forward. They realised that the market for this type of business is very fragmented, disorganised and largely unethical. They hoped to help consumers navigate and identify the right healthcare service providers.
Initially, Jha wanted to tie-up with hospitals and integrate his technology with the hospitals' existing systems to ensure a seamless flow of information. However, he realised that educated professionals were unwilling to lean on this technology in any way. Furthermore, the hospitals that did agree to team up with the company, did not utilise the service extensively. Jha and his team realised they had to further simplify the technology and shifted to mobile, "Our platform was mainly mobile driven, which made it accessible to doctors, regardless of place and time. The system could also be accessed via missed calls, in case they faced a lack of internet connectivity," adds Jha. By going mobile, Jha was able to achieve scale in his business.
While technology posed its own challenges, guaranteeing the credibility of information was another hurdle Jha and his team had to overcome.
Orios Venture Partners managing partner, Khan, said, "The biggest challenge is collecting the vast amount of data and getting it online. The second big challenge is to make the whole system work."
Angel investor Anandan believes one way of winning over customer trust is having ratings and reviews of services from consumers, thus creating a system of social validation.
Internet penetration has helped make the transition easier for Jha and his team from DocSuggest to Ziffi.com.
Users: 1.3 million
Appointments booked: About 2,60,000
Presence: Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi — 16,600 doctors, 5,500 diagnostic centres, 1,000 salons and spas
Investors: Vishal Gondal, founder and chief executive officer, GOQii; Sanjay Parthsarthy, founder and CEO, Indix Internet India; Taher Khorakiwala, founder and CEO, MeemAin Capital; Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India; Rehan Yar Khan, founder, Orios Venture Partners
Breakeven: April 2014
EXPERT TAKE: Tarun Davda
Ziffi operates in two distinct but large market segments - health and personal care services discovery. Private healthcare service is a $35-billion market of which two to five per cent is spent on technology and marketing, thereby offering a $700 million to $1.5 billion market opportunity. Wellness and personal care service is a $1.5-billion market in India, of which just 20 per cent is organised. Both these verticals are growing at 20-30 per cent annually, hence there is a large potential market opportunity for Ziffi.
Ziffi has a strong founding team with good qualifications (IIT graduates with experience at CA Technologies) and come with prior experience building tech products. It allows consumers to discover doctors, diagnostic centres and personal care providers (spas, salons, etc.) in their vicinity. It earns revenues by providing leads to these service providers. It competes with large multi-category listing services like JustDial and with vertical specific players. With regard to doctors, it competes with players such as Practo, whereas on the personal care discovery front, it competes with players such as Purplle. To scale and create effective entry barriers, it should find ways to integrate deeper into the service providers they work with by providing them technology and marketing solutions. At the same time, it should increase its focus on mobile adoption since consumers are more likely to use their smartphones to discover and book these services at a location close to them.