At the age of 23 Gitanjali Banerjee got married to the man in Olive Green and from here her journey to unknown and unexplored began. As every other married girl Gitanjali next phase after marriage was the phase of being mother. But for her it turns into pain of 10 long and gruelling years of fighting infertility. Post 5 miscarriages, 3 molar pregnancies, 1 failed IVF, a brush with ovarian cancer; she finally succeeded on second IVF attempt.
I had a long and roller coaster journey towards motherhood. The pain and the social disdain that a woman undergoes during infertility journey is unimaginable and humiliating. Society, on the other hand has no idea about the pain of infertility and people end up hurting by passing shallow comments. It is startling that there is no neutral platform and especially no woman who comes up and says, “Yes, I have gone through it, I know it is not easy but got to keep going”. 1 in every 4 couple in India is fighting some or the other form of infertility. There was a need to come out of the infertility closet,” shares Gitanjali.
For Gitanjali her personal fear was the biggest challenge. But once, she overcame it and shared her story with people, it simply warmed up her which landed her into the land of entrepreneurship. She founded inFertility Dost to reach out to women who suffer in silence, bring real stories, make the society aware and acknowledge the pain, and most importantly to help patients find the right doctor.
“No, entrepreneurship was not in my mind but it became the need, a tool to reach out to millions of people who were sailing in the same boat like me. It became a tool for help others and thus social entrepreneurship project, inFertility Dost came happened to me,” says Gitanjali.
Bridging The Gap
It is believed that nearly 15% of the Indian population suffers from some form of infertility. Research in fact indicates that India has witnessed a 20-30% surge in infertility cases in the past 5 years. The volume of people affected by it sums up to be more than 150 million. Every year 10 million new cases are adding up in India. Gitanjali with her startup aims to cater this growing market. The target group for them including preventive healthcare of infertility stands at 460 million.
InfertilityDost, is an online platform that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. They hold hand, facilitate right guidance so that couples can take good decisions and stay away from misleading advertisements and fraud clinics, answer their queries by connecting them to experts, keep them motivated throughout this tough phase of life, reinforcing their strength and hope and enable them to fight with society’s stereotypes and prejudices.
“InfertilityDost fills the need to handhold a patient through the journey and bring everything under one portal to save time, cost and harassment. The social impact that we can create is huge leading empowerment of women. Also, the IVF market currently is unregulated, unorganized and not transparent. We aim to digitize atleast 10% of this market,” says Gitanjali.
InfertilityDost aims to build a complete ecosystem for infertility patients making support and knowledge accessible so that they can stay informed. There are many pain points in the journey of an infertility patients and InfertilityDost wishes to handhold at each stage, guide and provide services that can alleviate the ignorance and discomfort faced.
Currently, for Gitanjali the challenge is to find the right fit team where she is struggling.
Providing Emotional Connect
Startup is a patient-provider platform exclusively for the infertility and IVF patients. inFertilityDost provides handholding for patients with care, support, information and ancillary preparatory services.
“Our patient base is approx 5000. We conduct around 5 awareness campaigns and talks per month. We are focussed on building a community right now. We plan to leverage this power soon,” says Gitanjali.
Competing with startup like Practo, Gitajali says, “Though they are just listing and there is no emotional connect with patients. Our differentiation point is our community building, content and accessibility of all information in one portal.”
Gitanjali believes that by using artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool can to do predictive analysis and serve the patients better in customized environment. Currently been incubated at IIT Delhi under their WEE program ( Women empowerment entrepreneurship), Gitanjali is looking to raise Rs 50 lakhs. Being India as their core focus, inFertilityDost get a lot of traffic from metros especially Bengaluru, Gurgaon and Delhi. Startup plans to expand its geographical reach to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities where treatment information is hardly available.
“Egg and sperm donation market is marred with irregularities that often lead to violation of government rules. Often, samples are passed without proper medical testing leading to occurrence of genetic and other problems in IVF children at a later stage. We aim to bring pre-tested and verified samples to the market. We will take this awareness among corporate to help them balance their biological clock and career better with options of freezing,” concludes Gitanjali.
Rise in the number of couples suffering from infertility, owing to urbanisation, pollution, stress, and lifestyle patterns has led to rapid growth of Indian market for IVF services. If we look at the figures stated by a report of Allied Market Research (AMR), IVF services market in India is projected to reach US$ 775.9 million by 2022, registering a CAGR of 16.6 percent from 2016 to 2022.
Further, owing to low service cost and availability of skilled workforce, India is becoming one of the preferred destination for medical tourism. Cost of IVF treatment for infertility in India is one-fourth as compared to the developed countries, as per the government of India’s Medical Tourism Department.
Not only this, clinics operating in the UK, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Israel, and France find it difficult to provide their patients with donor egg IVF services. Therefore, these patients approach India, where donor egg IVF is more convenient. There are several hospital chains like Apollo; Sun Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd; Cadila Healthcare Ltd; Trivector Origio Scientific; Lab IVF Asia Pte Ltd; LG Life Sciences;, Bourn Hall Clinic; Morpheus IVF Fertility Center; Cloudnine, a multi-city hospital chain for women and children specialising in obstetrics, gynaecology, fertility, and neonatology have come up to capitalise this untouched market.
Despite of all these encouraging factor, IVF market struggle to grow due to ethical and legal issues related to surrogacy. Apart from this, lack of established regulations and reimbursement policies leading to manipulative practices (such as sex identification and sex selection), also restrains the IVF market growth.
But mushrooming of startups like inFertilityDost has come as ray of hope of the IVF market. Now time will tell, how best these startups can capture Indian and market and provide people with sigh of relief.