Practo to expand into fitness and personal care segments

Practo’s planned expansion into these segments comes eight months after it acquired Delhi-based fitness and health solutions firm FitHo Wellness Services Pvt. Ltd.Practo’s planned expansion into these segments comes eight months after it acquired Delhi-based fitness and health solutions firm FitHo Wellness Services Pvt. Ltd.

Bengaluru: Practo Technologies Pvt. Ltd, one of India’s most funded online healthcare start-ups, has decided to look beyond doctors and diagnostic labs and expand to spas and fitness centres.

The categories have been live on Practo’s website since early December, confirmed a company spokesperson. Practo’s planned expansion into these segments comes eight months after it acquired Delhi-based fitness and health solutions firm FitHo Wellness Services Pvt. Ltd.

Practo started in 2008 as a product company offering practice management software to doctors using a software-as-service model, in which software is licensed on a subscription basis to customers. In 2013, it launched a consumer-facing doctor discovery and appointment booking site and added diagnostics as a category in July this year.

The online service provider will now aggregate spas, salons and fitness centres—categories that many start-ups have tapped but in which no clear winner has emerged as yet.

“We are currently testing out various models. These tests are being run in multiple cities and of course at launch we will have a reasonably large footprint in India,” a Practo spokesperson said in response to an emailed query.

The company now earns its revenue from the practice management software Practo Ray and a sponsored listing service for hospital and clinics called Practo Reach. Listing is free for doctors and consumers are not charged for searches.

The company’s latest move is unlikely to immediately boost its revenue, as listing and discovery is free for institutions and consumers.Even so, the move should give Practo significant traction among users, experts say.

None of Practo’s competitors, including nearest rival Lybrate, has ventured beyond doctor discovery and practice management products yet.None of its rivals have the financial muscle or user base to match Practo’s.

“Practo has a lot of traction on the customer side. It will become a very serious competitor for everybody in the market. There is a good possibility that if the top two or three companies do a great job at aggregation, then they will be able to sail through and anybody beyond the top three will have a tough time raising funds,” said Abhishek Goyal, co-founder of Tracxn, a start-up tracker.

According to a 2014 report by consulting firm KPMG, the so-called beauty and wellness industry in India is expected to touch Rs.80,370 crore in 2017. At least 200 start-ups in the beauty and wellness and fitness categories have together raised $9.6 million from institutional investors, according to Tracxn.

The number pales before Practo, which has so far raised $124 million. Practo claims to facilitate more than 10 million searches every month. More than 200,000 doctors, 5,000 diagnostic centres and 8,000 hospitals are on its platform.

Apart from Fitho, the company has acquired hospital information management solution provider Insta Health Solutions, product outsourcing firm Genii, and Qikwell Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which has expertise in appointment scheduling at hospitals, over the past year.

Practo’s expansion is part of a wider trend in which well-capitalised consumer Internet companies are entering new businesses. A case in point is Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd, which started out as a restaurant discovery platform thriving on advertising revenue, but rolled out food delivery after start-ups such as Swiggy (Bundl Technologies Pvt. Ltd) and TinyOwl Technologies Pvt. Ltd emerged.

Experts say a massive war chest and lack of sizeable competition gives Practo the luxury to test multiple categories, unlike e-commerce where Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Paytm are fighting a pitched battle with very little scope for error.

“I expect Practo to get into doctor at home, telemedicine etc. The segment is not as competitive as e-commerce. Because there is lesser competition, they (Practo) will start getting into a bunch of nearby businesses,” said Tracxn’s Goyal.

[“source-Livemint”]