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Medical emergencies can surprise a family at any time. Often people are not prepared mentally or financially for such dire situations and tragedies can occur. To help such people who are looking for a quick loan to tide over a critical medical situation, Pune-based medtech startup Healthfin has come up with a lending platform that offers fast loans at 0% interest. The Tech Panda spoke to co-founder and COO Dr. Sonia Basu of Healthfin to find out how it works.

In their noble quest for helping people in their direst situation, Healthfin covers the entire segment of population, and they don’t have any procedure restrictions.

“Only 10% of Indians have an insurance policy and even those who do have it sometimes don’t know that there’s an exclusion period for diseases. When their claim is denied they get a rude shock because they have no savings. Nowadays people are also over-leveraged like we see with so many of our customers. They might earn INR 1.5 lakh per month, but they already have a home loan running or multiple EMIs to pay. So the actual liquidity of today’s generation is very low. A fifteen-day stay at a hospital can cough up a bill of INR 9-10 lakhs. A service like Healthfin helps people because it’s available at the doorstep. You can log in with us and apply for a loan, which can be sanctioned within an hour,” she explains.

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How it started

A medical doctor by profession, Basu also did an MBA in Healthcare to explore the management side of healthcare. During her career path, Basu observed that there was no medical finance available easily. “Every other day you keep getting calls for credit cards and car loans, but you don’t find medical finance or medical loans as easily,” she says.

Her co-founder and CEO of Healthfin, Pervaiz Hussain, who was Basu’s school mate, was an MBA in Finance and was already working for various banks in the lending portfolio. When one of their friend’s father expired at a critical stage of the treatment, while they were hunting for funds till it was too late, the idea of Healthfin started germinating. “We thought why not get into this uncharted niche area, which will be a great help to people. So that’s how we came about founding Healthfin,” Basu says.

“When people come and tell you that you were the one who helped them in real need, somebody walked out of the hospital because you helped them on time, that satisfaction has a different dimension to itself,”– Dr Sonia Basu of Healthfin

Challenges faced

Initially, it wasn’t easy to convince either lenders or borrowers to try their idea. “It was a new concept, so the acceptability, in terms of the customer’s point of view and from getting lenders to become your partners, was difficult,” Basu says.

The challenge started from finding out the right person in the banks, to explaining the concept to them, and then finally, to get them to agree. It was a risky product and lenders would often ask how could they fund a person whose death seemed imminent. However, Basu’s medical background and Pervaiz’s finance background helped.

“We sat with them and explained, let us divide the diseases into critical and non-critical. So if somebody comes with a non-critical disease, like cosmetic or dental surgery, the patient can be the applicant. However, if it is critical, like if the person has cancer or is in the ICU, then we make the first-degree relative the applicant,” she explains.

After they launched the product, the second challenge came from customers, who couldn’t believe there was a loan available at the doorstep of the hospital at 0% interest. “They were skeptical, saying, how is it possible? How are you lending at 0%? Are there any hidden charges? Is there something fishy about it? However, as more and more people applied, and because of word-of-mouth and media coverage we got to be known by people,” she says.

The third challenge, Basu says, was to get the right people, because they were looking for empathy in each individual. “The finance part is not rocket science. It can be easily explained to somebody, but we were looking for empathetic people with the right attitude.”

The process

Healthfin partners with several banks, NBFCs, as well as hospitals. Any person who wants to avail treatment in these hospitals can apply online on their portal. After gathering customer information, such as address and PAN card details, Healthfin logs in the case. The built-in algorithm in their system captures this information and decides which bank or NBFC would best cater to the customer’s profile, because each NBFC caters to a different risk figment of the population.

After also checking which lender would do the job in the fastest possible time, they login the case to that lender. The customer builds all the related information or documents required by Healthfin, which are then sent to the lending partner. If the profile is clean and the documents are in order, the process can be as fast as 15 to 20 minutes or a maximum of 24 hours. Once the loan is sanctioned, the Healthfin team informs the hospital, and the money directly goes to the hospital.

Healthfin becomes the guarantor of the customer’s loan amount and the treatment can proceed. As soon as the treatment is done the hospital sends Healthfin the patient’s bill and they disburse the money to the hospital on behalf of the patient.

Future plans

The startup has recently received about USD 500,000 worth of funding from two VCs, Bangalore-based accelerator Axilor Ventures and Sprout Capital. For the future Basu says Healthfin is planning to make their tech even stronger through more efficient algorithms. They want to bring soft approval cases down to 10 minutes, which currently takes about 20-30 minutes. Having started from Pune, Healthfin now has a presence in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The plan is to partner with almost 30-40 hospitals in every city.

“Going forward, we plan to grow in a way where the tech is strong and we have the best of talent, because I personally believe that people are your strength. And of course helping as many people as we can. We plan to disburse around INR 18-20 crores a month by the year end,” she says.

Competition in the market

Although new NBFCs are entering the sector, Basu says, she doesn’t see them as competition because according to her the whole difference lies in execution. “Healthcare is a huge market. So people may be wanting to try it, but the key difference lies in execution. I would consider somebody as competition only if they’re great in execution or if they have better USPs. In any case, since only 10% of people in India are insured, if ten more players come into the market it will actually be better, because they will help build up the whole market and make the product known.”

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Healthfin disburses anywhere between 120 to 130 loans a month with an average transaction size of about INR 1.5 lakhs, rendering a growth of around 20-30% every month. However, Basu considers herself successful only in terms of helping people and spreading smiles.

“When people come and tell you that you were the one who helped them in real need, somebody walked out of the hospital because you helped them on time, that satisfaction has a different dimension to itself, and I consider that a matter of success,” she says.


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