The start-up has an AI-driven demand forecasting capability and inventory management system that helps it plan and predict. It has helped to deliver over 55,00,000 Covid-19 critical items to hospitals.
Saravanan said that the pandemic has accelerated the company’s growth by expanding its client base while also allowing the company to move into new geographies.
“The second wave has almost doubled the number of patients which these hospitals had to treat. So in our case, previously we were working with around 40 odd hospitals. Now we are working with over 80 hospitals. More importantly, the capacity of these 40 hospitals in terms of Covid treatment has almost doubled,” he said.
For instance, he said that a hospital which had 20 Covid treatment beds has doubled its capacity to 40 beds. Hence, he said, the volume of surplus which the company had to procure for almost grew by 100% for the first set of hospitals, in addition to the new member hospitals.
He added that an interesting factor that was noticed this time around was that a number of hospitals in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in Tamil Nadu were reaching out for support.
“These hospitals have to depend on supplies from Chennai because the supply ecosystem is not very well organised or evolved in these towns to handle these kinds of epidemics so we had to support a lot of these hospitals,” he explained. “In terms of item categories, it is typically PPE kits, gloves and masks while when it comes to treatment medicines, there is a demand for medicines for pneumonia which is one of the major side effects of Covid. Steroids and Remdesivir too needed to be procured in addition to other supplementary medicines.”
He said that hospitals who are their clients have benefitted 20-23% in terms of price savings apart from continuity of business, availability of items and almost 30% of their working capital being saved. Going forward, Saravanan said the company is focusing on geographical expansion, category expansion and also private labelling going forward.
Saravanan said private labelling was a natural choice considering the amount of market information on procurement needs of hospitals that the company had at its disposal. Thus, he said IdeaRX is working on private labelling or contract manufacturing its own brand that can be serviced to hospitals – something that will benefit hospitals and also the company’s bottomline.
Murali Vivekanandan, the Founder & Chairman of Ideas2IT and Head of the EiR Program, said that a large part of procurement is planning – wherein hospitals anticipate items that will be required, the volume that is needed and who it is being bought for. He said that when Covid struck, smaller hospitals, which neither had the planning nor the connections to procure any critical care items properly, were left in the lurch.
“People are taking them for a ride by price dodging them,” he said. “We anticipated the second wave of Covid and helped member hospitals to plan for critical items like PPE kits, masks, steroids and so on. We were able to procure much earlier than a normal small hospital would and never price dodged or increased the profit margins. We were able to provide to our member hospitals at the same price and profit margins as before. As a result, they are continually able to provide Covid care without any disruptions and without any need to overcharge the patients.”
When asked about whether hospitals were procuring for a third wave, Murali said that the company constantly tracked ‘leading indicators’ using the large amount of data available.
“The second wave is tapering down so we are planning procurement accordingly. We are going to see a little peak in tier 2 and 3 cities and then it will subside. We don’t have clinical data yet to suggest a third wave. We are waiting and watching. We have not yet started procuring for the third wave but we are working with the assumption that there will be a third wave which will be much milder – around 25% of the second wave,” he said.