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Ramdev to take on online healthcare startups

New Delhi: After taking on FMCG biggies in the country, Baba Ramdev is turning his attention to digital health startups such as Lybrate and Practo. Patanjali, Ramdev’s Haridwar-based company, is lining up an online platform (chikitsalaya) for ayurvedic consultation and treatment, said people familiar with the development.baba-Ramdev-online-shop

While a Patanjali spokesperson was not available for comment, industry experts said the move will help the company ramp up its outreach fast. During an interaction last month, Ramdev said Patanjali was getting around five crore internet searches every month.

“A company that manufactures its own drugs and sets up a digital consultation platform subsequently will have a multi-fold impact on its business,” said Saurabh Arora, founder & CEO of Tiger Global-backed Lybrate, one of the country’s largest online doctor consultation platforms.

Patanjali, which has raked in revenues of around Rs 5,000 crore in 2015-16, sells FMCG products such as ghee, soaps and honey, while its sister concern Divya Pharmacy manufactures and sells Ayurvedic medicines. Ramdev also runs an ayurveda hospital and a medical college in his campus Patanjali Yogpeeth, near Haridwar, which hosts thousands of visitors every month.

“Absence of doctors and pharmacies is the main problem faced by traditional medicine practices such as ayurveda in the country. If Ramdev manages to launch an online consultation platform, he will be one of the forerunners in the business,” said Punit Kapoor, director of online pharmacy BigChemist.

BigChemist, which gets around 10 lakh page views per month, is getting an increasing number of enquiries for natural products, said Kapoor. “Even large FMCG companies have started working on separate websites for their natural products. Online consultation means patients will not have to physically walk into a doctor’s chamber. It means, reaching out to a global audience.”

Globally, digital health funding has hit around $6 billion this year, according to venture capital database CBinsights. Closer home, Practo raised $90 million in Series C funding round last year — led by Tencent, Sofina and Sequoia Capital, while Lybrate raised around $10 million from investors such as Tiger Global, Ratan Tata and Nexus Venture Partners.

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