India-based Practo, a startup that helps consumers locate doctors and healthcare information, has closed a $55 million Series D funding round that will fuel an expansion into more emerging markets worldwide.
The investment is led by Tencent, the Chinese internet giant that led Practo’s $90 million Series C in 2015, with participation from three new backers: Russia’s Ru-Net, RSI Fund (from Japan-based Recruit) and New York’s Thrive Capital. Existing investors Sequoia, Matrix, Capital G (formerly Google Capital), Altimeter Capital and Sofina also put in. The round takes Practo’s total sum raised from investors to around $180 million.
I’ve always been quite taken with Practo, because it tackles an issue that impacts everyone — healthcare — in a way that is designed for emerging markets, where the problem is most acute. Primarily it is a platform for finding a doctor which is not straightforward in India or other emerging markets, but it also includes information provided by doctors and a Q&A feature for soliciting advice or basic answers.
That’s important because access to medical professionals is low in emerging markets. According to data from World Bank, India has just 0.7 physicians per 1,000 people — and even that is a push in rural areas. The UK and U.S. are far higher at 2.8 and 2.5, respectively.
Beyond addressing that issue, Practo has a smart double-sided model that includes selling practice management software to healthcare centers using a Saas model. That helps hook in healthcare professionals from the get-do, digitizing their business and processes, before providing them with reach and scale via the consumer-focused side of the company.
Practo said today that its is closing in on 45 million appointments per year, with 200,000 “healthcare practitioners,” 10,000 hospitals and 5,000 diagnostic centers on its books. Today, the service is active in India and four countries overseas — the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Brazil. Its software business, meanwhile, is spread wider with customers in 15 counties worldwide.
With this new money, Practo is aiming to broaden that international footprint and expand in/move into more emerging markets, namely Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
“We will further invest in the countries we are in,” Practo CEO Shashank N.D. told TechCrunch in an interview.
“Last year, we acquired multiple companies [in India] to build out our enterprise business, and we’ve been increasing our services for consumers in India. We will go deeper in existing markets and are evaluating new markets in the Middle East and other regions. Our vision is to help people live healthier and longer,” he added.
Practo isn’t saying too much about how its international business is going right now, but perhaps that’s understandable since it is early days with most expansions happening last year.
“We’ve been able to establish solid revenue, with the Saas and marketplace businesses,” Shashank said. “International revenue is now nearly 20-25 percent of overall revenue, so it’s growing at a good pace but we see more growth in India and internationally.”
One area where Practo is looking to move into is health insurance, and it is working quite closely with Tencent here. Tencent is, among many things, responsible for WeChat, China’s top messaging app and an incredibly sticking mobile platform in its own right. WeChat counts 768 million daily users, half of whom use it for at least 90 minutes each day.
That ability to build a platform is where Practo is hoping to emulate its famous investor, not to mention, Shashank added, that it has worked with Tencent’s healthcare partners in China to understand more about how technology is impacting healthcare in the country.
“Over the last year, we’ve been working to turn Practo into a platform,” Shashank said. “An integrated healthcare platform for consumers, a single play to manage their health needs.”
Tencent endorsed that progress by putting its money where it’s mouth is. Practo was its first major investment, and it is leading the next round, too.
“Practo has made impressive progress, expanding its platform to cover more and more healthcare needs of consumers and providers. A full stack model in healthcare is very difficult to pull off, but Practo has built and rapidly scaled a full-stack solution that is rare to see globally,” gushed Tencent’s executive director of investment and M&A, Hongwei Chen, in a statement.
Practo has come a long way from raising seed funding in 2011, but despite that progression and a promising business developing overseas, its CEO isn’t focusing on exit options quite yet.
“This [round] gives us enough run way to last a while, there’s no current timeline for an IPO,” Shashank told TechCrunch. “We still see this industry as just opened up, technology as a utility in healthcare is just starting out, so we have a lot of potential to grow.”