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Pathao Health and Pathao’s Digital Healthcare Services Aggregation Play

The ride-hailing startup Pathao has launched a new service called Pathao Health in collaboration with a number of healthcare startups in Dhaka including Digital Healthcare Solutions (formerly Telenor Health), Praava Health, and Maya. Pathao Health will allow Pathao users to take healthcare services such as medical advice and information, telemedicine service, COVID-19 online self-check, etc. using Pathao app. 

Pathao has already been doing OTC medicine delivery through Pathao Pharma as part of its Tong operation, with these new partnerships with health tech startups, Pathao extends its coverage of healthcare services  and firmly puts itself into the health-tech space. 

Like every other Pathao service except Pathao Courier, Pathao Health is basically an aggregator of healthcare services. The company has established partnerships with companies that offer various healthcare services such as online doctor consultation through mobile chat and video conferencing and is bringing these services to Pathao users. Pathao Health does not manage or provide any of these services in-house, it merely aggregates a long list of healthcare services provided by partners. Since Pathao has a large user base, it allows the company to attract partners like Praava Health, Maya, and Digital Healthcare Solutions, who want to reach new users. 

The new service allows Pathao to offer one additional service to its large app user base while allowing partners like Praava Health and Maya to reach new customers and users. 

From a strategic point of view, it makes sense for Pathao, at least in theory. An additional service means Pathao users will stick around as well as use Pathao app more frequently increasing the chance of more business per user for Pathao. 

On top of that, COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra urgency to find something new for almost every company that is suffering a downturn in demand and challenges in operation. Healthcare offers a perfect opportunity. There is a growing demand for healthcare services but people are fearful of visiting hospitals. In many instances, hospitals are unable or unwilling to treat patients with COVID-19 like symptoms. 

All these challenges have given way to the rise of telemedicine - a growing number of people are now relying on telemedicine for doctor consultation and so on. It means there are opportunities to explore in the healthcare space. 

Pathao launched the service through a Webinar on Wednesday participated by representatives from all its partners i.e. Maya, Praava Health, and Digital Healthcare Solutions. While the company did not disclose anything regarding how it plans to monetize the service, there are options for Pathao Health to monetize if it takes off. One possible path to revenue is of course commission from the patterns if it can drive significant traffic to the partners, which is similar to Pathao’s other businesses such as food delivery and on-demand delivery services. 

The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected the ride-hailing business across markets. As a result, Pathao’s main business remains suspended in Bangladesh. The company has taken a number of initiatives, both strategic such as getting into new verticals as well as operational such as salary cut amid the coronavirus pandemic to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. 

Previously, Pathao relaunched its Pathao Tong, the on-demand delivery service for essential goods. With Pathao Health, the company is now getting into an entirely new territory which is healthcare. 

Transportation broadly and ride-hailing in particular is going to take a long time to return to its old state post pandemic - a timeline that nobody yet knows. Ride-hailing companies across markets are trying to focus on areas such as food and essential goods delivery to devise a strategy for mid to long term sustainability. For example, Uber has been pushing its UberEats business. The US-based company is now in talks to acquire Grubhub. 

Pathao’s move into healthcare and on-demand delivery is predictive of how Pathao is thinking about its post pandemic strategy for recovery and growth. Similarly, the other ride-hailing company Shohoz has also got into healthcare with the upcoming launch of its telemedicine and online medicine delivery service Shohoz Health. 

While Pathao Health is an aggregator and broadly a partnership driven model, Shohoz Health is more of an independent on-demand and telemedicine focused healthcare services platform. These moves suggest startups across verticals are under duress and are choosing pivot one of the strategies to survive the coronavirus pandemic. 

While the crisis at hand is depressing and we don’t know whether these maneuvers from Pathao and others would work or not, the rush of creativity and tenacity is inspiring. 

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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