After staying away from public glare for some time, Phaneesh Murthy, former chief executive of Nasdaq-listed information technology services company iGate, has again staged a comeback, this time as an entrepreneur to tap into the large opportunities in India’s health care segment.
With two former senior colleagues at iGate and two other professionals in the sector, Murthy is launching a new venture which he claims will be ‘India’s first health exchange’.
In the first phase, PM Health & Life Care, the company, would launch a regulated marketplace connecting drugs sellers and chemists with consumers. In the second phase, the company aims to transform itself to offer a range of other services, including offering patients a platform to digitally store their health records and enable doctors to prescribe medicines by using the platform.
“Despite its importance for consumers and society, health care remains a very fragmented market, beset with inefficiencies at multiple levels due to lack of scale and slack in technology adoption. The proposed health exchange is an innovative model, bringing technology as the great enabler for facilitating well-informed health care access,” said Murthy, who will be executive chairman.
In May 2013, Murthy, an alumnus of IIT-Madras and IIM-Ahmedabad, had to unceremoniously leave iGate after the company found he hadn't disclosed a personal relationship with a female subordinate. Some years before that, he'd left Infosys in a sexual harrassment controversy.
“I have moved on to create something exciting for the future,” he says. “It should not sound like arrogance but I do believe that if you are a good leader, you can use your skills to transform a different space altogether and that is what I am doing now.”
For PM Health & Life Care, he's got a former iGate colleague, Hemant Kumar Bhardwaj, as co-founder and chief executive. Bhardwaj has about 20 years experience in sales, marketing and advertising. He'd headed global marketing at iGate, where he was a senior vice-president (VP).
The other co-founder, Anil Bajpai, who would be chief technology officer, has also joined from iGate, where he was a senior VP, responsible for its basic integrated technology and operations business, and for business process outsourcing delivery.
“We will be fully operational in a year, with the first solution connecting chemists and druggists to consumers across India. The marketplace intends to initially tap the universe of e-commerce savvy households, with a distinct value proposition of ensuring availability of a wide range of genuine drugs and health products, delivered in the quickest possible time,” said Bhardwaj.
PM Health & Life Care is planning to launch the online marketplace for pharmacy under a different brand name. The company is in the process of developing the core platform, to be supplemented by mobile applications.
The company has raised the initial seed funding of $3.2 million primarily from Murthy and some of his friends and kin. It is in the process of raising another $5-7 mn, either through a strategic investor or from venture capital firms. “We don’t want to dilute much stake in the initial phase, as the second phase of the journey will be quite important,” said Murthy.
He said the drug sellers and chemists to be allowed to sell on the platform would be selected after a rigorous process. The company also plans 'fulfillment centres' in most parts of the country, responsible for the final delivery of the medicines.
Murthy currently offers consulting services to Fortune 500 companies, independently and also through his consulting and advisory company, Primentor. He is also on the board of directors at several companies, including eTouch (a digital consulting company in the US' Silicon Valley), GlobalEdge (a Bengaluru-based small embedded software company) and Opus (a payment solutions provider).
“I have actually come to the conclusion that I am too much of an operator. I did not enjoy myself when I was advising one or two large companies, whereas I am really enjoying myself when advising small companies. Small companies are really hungry for advice and equally agile at execution,” added Murthy.