In 2017, an IIT-cum-MBA graduate and a career oncologist with a management degree joined hands to start Onco.com, a first-of-its-kind platform dedicated to assist cancer patients. It’s a B2C virtual network that offers cancer patients personalised and scientific treatment advice from global and domestic experts, besides managing their care end-to-end by connecting them with the right doctors, hospitals and diagnostic centers.
Rashie Jain, a biotech engineer from IIT Kanpur and an MBA from the Wharton School, picked up the nuances of the healthcare business working with health-tech companies. “I wanted to do something in oncology due to a personal experience. My father-in-law had cancer and, as a family, our struggle was unreal just to get all the information on what we could expect from the treatment, where could we avail additional tests, etc. There was a state of darkness,” she explained.
During the process, she ran into Dr Amit Jotwani, a seasoned oncologist and an ISB alumni, who also saw patients going through a maze to get information. The two eventually co-founded Onco.com to solve this information asymmetry and empower patients ahead of their treatment.
Currently, the platform serves patients from 18 countries spread across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, through a network of over 1,500 oncologists from India and the US, over 500 treatment centers including specialty hospitals, infusion centers, and a pan-India network of diagnostic labs with cutting edge technology at affordable prices. While already diagnosed patients can seek advise about treatment, patients undergoing therapy or those who are on the verge of signing up for a procedure can evaluate their options.
On the consultation side, Onco offers two services – a preliminary opinion, which is abbreviated and free of cost, and a Tumor Board opinion, which is a detailed report by a multi-disciplinary panel of oncologists, at a cost. On the services side, it connects patients with hospitals and diagnostic labs for procedures and tests. Its care management service is currently free, but the company has plans to turn it into a subscription service.
Creating awareness about the service was a major challenge initially, which the firm overcame with robust staff and insights from oncologists who shared content digitally. Meanwhile, hiring good talent, setting up the right processes and offering quality service with scale are challenges any start-up faces as it evolves.
“We are solving a critical problem, the information gap, which every cancer patient and their family experiences. There are 3 million cancer patients getting treated in India alone and about 7 million cancer patients across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. A significant number of patients struggle to get the right treatment advice or find the right doctors. We are focused on building the cancer care ecosystem for patients,” Jain said. As it evolves, Onco.com aspires to grow its network of oncologists and diagnostic labs, launch its app and use technology to improve the healthcare system. Currently, the start-up serves 10,000 new cancer patients every month.
As for funding, the company said it had raised capital in 2017 through a pre-series round with participation from Accel and IDG Ventures (now Chiratae Ventures). These funds were used in building the team, products and acquiring new customers through marketing initiatives. Recently, Onco has closed a Series A round, raising $7 million from Accel, Chiratae and Dream Incubator.