India@75: A nation in the making

Elwinder Singh: Doc on call

Singh's Connect and Heal ties up with large companies to manage their on-site primary care for employees and their families. Currently, there are six million people under their care

Varsha Meghani
Published: Feb 17, 2022 03:54:13 PM IST
Updated: Feb 17, 2022 04:23:20 PM IST

Elwinder Singh: Doc on callElwinder Singh, co-founder, Connect and Heal, wants to build a patient-centric health care system in India
Image: Mexy Xavier

Elwinder Singh, 29
Co-founder, Connect and Heal

When his father, a diabetic and cardiovascular patient, was going through health troubles, Elwinder Singh realised just how difficult it is to navigate patient care. He visited one specialist after another, but failed to obtain the right advice for his ailing father. It dawned on him that others might be similarly distressed—and lost—when it came to caring for their loved ones. That’s when Singh, 29, decided to launch Connect and Heal (CNH) with his sister Galveender Kaur and former banker Sanjay Vinayak.

A third-generation Malaysian citizen, Singh knew that the real opportunity lay in India where health care infrastructure was weak and quality delivery sparse. He left his job at consultancy Roland Berger and took a flight to Mumbai—“at that point I didn’t know a single soul in India”, he says—to set up CNH in early 2016.

Instead of focusing on retail clients which would require a massive marketing outlay, Singh chose to go the B2B route. He tied up with large companies to manage their on-site primary care for employees. This was not just in the companies’ head offices but also in far-flung sites like Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. “Because, at the end of the day, we didn’t just want to solve for a head office employee, but also wanted to ensure health care was being delivered to a branch-level employee in terms of last-mile delivery,” says Singh.

CNH was growing steadily when Covid-19 struck and offices shut down overnight on announcement of the lockdown in March 2020.

Luckily, just prior to that, the team had been piloting a telemedicine set up for a large French insurer in Malaysia. With those learnings and building blocks in place, CNH was quickly able to roll out telemedicine services for its clients in India in a matter of days. “We were in the right place at the right time,” says Singh.

Elwinder Singh: Doc on call

Today, the startup serves 1.5 million employees from over 300 corporations, including Fortune 500 multinationals and Nifty 100 companies. Services include 24x7 telemedicine consults, video consults, ambulance booking, home visits by doctors, Covid-19 testing, health screening and updating health records, among others. Besides, unlike some of the other telemedicine players who have sprung up over the last two years, CNH’s experience of running clinics across the country has given it a strong clinical base, says Singh. “There is a big gap in the patient-centric health care system in India,” says Sudhir Rao, managing partner, Celesta Capital. “CNH’s platform provides patients, providers and insurers with data and a care continuum that empowers everyone to make more informed health care decisions.”

Services are offered not just to employees but also their family members, taking the total number of people under CNH’s care to roughly six million. The startup raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Chinese venture capital firm Bace Capital and San Francisco-headquartered Celesta Capital in February 2021. Says Singh, “At the end of the day we want to be a care manager for a family… be their everything when it comes to health care.”

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