Indian startup that works via WhatsApp just earned $5M in new funding

Digi-Prex an e-pharmacy startup in India that works using WhatsApp just became $5 million richer in new funding round.

Digi-Prex is a young startup that was founded seven months ago with the hopes of delivering subscription drugs to its clients in India.

Instead of building a separate application from the ground up, Digi-Prex took advantage of WhatsApp’s popularity and ease of use to connect with customers. In India, WhatsApp is the most popular app in the country, with more than 400 million users.

The startup runs an eponymous online subscription pharmacy in Hyderabad and mainly serves patients with chronic diseases who require regular and consistent amounts of drugs within their reach.

Patients share their prescription with Digi-Prex through WhatsApp, and the startup’s workers then deliver the medication to them on a recurring cycle.

Mainly, the startup is directly involved with medicine suppliers to cut the cost of purchase, which enables them to have the ability to provide the medicines at a discounted price to the customers by reducing the rates of over the top counters.

Other than delivery, Digi-Prex also provides patients a way to better track when they need a new supply of medicine, and checks if they see improvements.

Through this innovation, the startup has amassed thousands of customers in Hyderabad, Samarth Sindhi, founder of Digi-Prex, told an outlet in an interview.

Investors also understood how Digi-Prex is changing the way Indians buy and consume medicinal drugs because they are practical, efficient and addresses a need, which resulted to the startup to close its seed round from a range of highly-influential VC firms. It’s also one of the largest seed financing rounds for an Indian startup.

The startup has raised $5.5 million from Khosla Ventures, Vedanta Capital, Y Combinator, Quiet Capital, and SV Angel. The founder of Tinder, Justin Mateen, also participated in the round, said Sindhi.

“Instead of trying to acquire customers online, we work with physicians and pharmacies to serve customers,” said Sindhi, an alum of Brown University who worked with a healthcare firm in the U.S. before returning to India.

The startup shares some margin with physicians and pharmacies, but more importantly, it says this arrangement works for everyone because it can serve customers who are living in distant neighborhoods.

The startup says that it will be expanding its business to 10 cities in India, according to Sindhi. Digi-Prex will also be working to make better physicians accessible to the patients so that they become more aware of the disease and get proper treatment at an early stage.

Meanwhile, when asked why the startup eventually opted to use Whats App as a platform for their business, Sidhi answered: “When I returned to India, I was fascinated by how nobody was texting anymore. Everyone was doing everything on WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp, which is already the most popular app in India, is increasingly finding business applications in the country. Vahan, another Y Combinator-backed startup, is using WhatsApp to help white-collar workers find jobs with logistics companies.

Moreover, WhatsApp itself encourages Indians to build business ventures by utilizing the app.

Another startup called “Squats” was one of the finalists in “Startup India — WhatsApp Grand Challenge,” a program launched by WhatsApp and Invest India in October 2018 that aimed to inspire entrepreneurs to develop solutions “that have a socio-economic impact on the Indian economy at scale.”

“Squats” was a finalist due to its intuitive way of offering tailor-made fitness solutions and started with a unique story by primarily starting as a messaging group in WhatsApp, where Indians can join to gain fitness tips and guides.

The startup was founded by fitness enthusiast Jitendra Chouksey, who was a consultant with an IT company when he started counseling his friends on how to get fit.

“When they saw the results, they told others, starting a chain reaction. Soon I was being chased by hundreds of people to train them,” says Chouksey.

Digi-Prex, who is similar to Squats as they are both paved by WhatsApp, is particularly effective and saw fast growth because of the lack of sufficient health care in the country.

Currently, there is a discrepancy in the quality and coverage of medical treatment in India. Healthcare between states and rural and urban areas can be vastly different. Rural areas often suffer from physician shortages, and disparities between countries mean that residents of the poorest states

In other words, some more impoverished regions in the country often lack access to drugs, a problem that Digi-Prex mainly tries to address.

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