Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eliminating Health Risk to Profits.

Two Entrepreneurs Help Firms Implement Preventive Healthcare.

When billing is per hour, as it is the norm in the software services industry, every second counts. Good health among employees generally makes sound business sense, but more so in a people driven enterprise. Well, nothing much of a revelation here, but that was enough for Vipin Prasad and G Krishnamurthy to smell a new business opportunity. Employed in Toyota and Brand-Comm respectively, the duo considered leaving their jobs for a venture that would help companies, especially in the outsourcing sector, minimize health risk among their staff: “Why not ratchet up a preventive healthcare platform and sell it to corporates?”

That was in late 2004. Today, their start up, People Health, caters to fifteen companies counting among the world’s most popular IT, internet and BPO companies. “The most important asset for an IT company is its people. Employees are billable and no company can afford having them not showing up for work,” says Mr Prasad.

Most individuals react after falling ill and ignore preventive healthcare. When people start suffering from illness, it is often too late for a company to get them back on track and eliminate the loss of productivity. So, PeopleHeath seeks to create a company wide database of staff health that can be used to formulate a policy of prevention rather than reaction.

Says Mr Prasad about one of their endeavours: “We started a risk assessment programme in an IT company in Bangalore and found that out of the company’s thousand employees, seven hundred suffer from back problem. To address this problem, we implemented a series of sessions conducted by orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists. “While this may sound common, the potential loss in productivity is significant.

“Our programme has enabled one of our customers to actually save Rs 10 lakh. “ wellness and preventive health care programs can lower medical insurance premiums and improve employees productivity.

PeopleHealth started at Mr Prasad’s house in Koramangla in Bangalore in November 2004. For a while, Mr Prasad and Mr Krishnamurthy, who had met years before at Brand-Comm, where they had worked together, had been wanting to do something on their own.

They saw a great opportunity in healthcare. While it is well set to become India’s next trillion industry, there are still significant gaps in terms of delivering healthcare policy in the West.

Sitting at home, Mr Prasad and Mr Krishnamurthy developed a tool, ‘health track’ to assess the health risks associated to a company’s employees. The tool takes into account an array of information related to employees’ health, habits and lifestyle, gathered through medical tests and questionnaires.

To start with they established each and every employees’ individual health score card. Then a corporate health score card for the entire company. PeopleHealth designs a corporate health care policy. Based on the results, they gather a health calendar for the company that may include assistance programs, induction sessions, stress management courses and health plan utilizations.

Mr Prasad had successful stints in the media, automobile and healthcare sectors managing portfolios like business development, strategic planning, marketing communications and brand management. Prior to co-founding PeopleHealth, he worked with Japanese automobile giant Toyota, where he was he was responsible for planning and executing communication campaigns for all Toyota Brands in India. Mr Krishnamurthy joined Mudra Communications from campus in 1996, before shifting to Brand-Comm as Account Manager in 2000.

Finally, in March 2005, the company bagged its first customer, one of the world’s most popular consumer services and internet security brand. The company is also developing a program to encourage employees to take care of their health. They created a benefit card that makes one earn points for consulting any of the centres associated PeopleHealth. It helps one to track their medical expenditure and are awarded cash back irrespective of how they choose to make payment. The card also allows you to load a PeopleHealth program anytime, anywhere.

Krishnamurthy (L) with Prasad

Article Resource:
Noemie Bisserbe is the Chief Editor in the The Economic Times, Mumbai and the article appeared in one of their successful columns on Entrepreneurship/Start-ups called "Starship Enterprise".

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