Cancer Clinics funding

Hyderabad-based healthtech startup Cancer Clinics closed pre-Series A funding of $1.5 million led by Axilor Ventures. With this, M-Venture Partners (MVP), a Singapore-based early-stage fund, also marked its debut in India.

Other investors like NATCO Pharma Limited, Hyderabad-based pharma and infrastructure entrepreneurs, leaders of Bharti group, senior partners from McKinsey, and ISB alumni also participated in the round.

Established in April 2019 by Sonali Srungaram and Sasi Sunkara, Cancer Clinics is a unit of CIPHER Oncology Private Limited. It runs a distributed network of day-care cancer treatment centers.

Cancer care in emerging economies is ready for disruption. There is a rising demand for patient-centric solutions personalized for individual needs. According to a recent study, with a population of 1.35 billion, India witnessed 1.16 million new cancer cases and 784,800 cancer deaths in 2018. This shows that not only is there a dire need for skilled medical practitioners, but also a demand for platforms that can help make this fight a little convenient for the patients and their families.

Before commencing their entrepreneurial careers, Sonali was an associate partner at Accenture and Sasi was a partner at McKinsey & Company.

Presently, even the meager infrastructure for cancer treatment is mostly urban and inadequate. The duo has started Cancer Clinics on the back of experimentation Sonali did to reveal and tackle gaps in the healthcare systems addressing the non-communicable disease burden.

The company’s mission is to significantly enhance the access to and affordability of holistic cancer care to reduce India’s growing number of cancer cases. It combines digital access, distributed delivery, and partnerships with asset owners to create a comprehensive cancer care provider.

As explained by Sonali, the platform offers all the services a patient needs — from diagnosing cancer to the completion of treatment. It collects fees for the services provided like every other healthcare provider.

“Our model is different because we don’t build our own infrastructure and rather use existing hospitals and their surplus capacity to provide our services. We are, therefore, asset-light,” added Sasi.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the founders in the early stage was to get oncologists to join the platform. “It was difficult to make them believe that cancer care can be delivered through a digital platform and will be acceptable to patients,” said Sasi.

However, the founders won the confidence of the oncologists and are now set for expanding quickly. The team launched its first two centers in Hyderabad on World Cancer Day (February 4) 2020. Their gross patient billings in Q3 FY21 were 72 percent higher than Q2 FY21; the gross patient billings for February 2021 were 4.8x of July 20, while more than 600 patients have registered with them since July 2020 (when the unlock started).

With the recent funding round, the team is now looking to add four more centers in the next few months and expand outside Hyderabad. The focus is also on significantly scaling cancer care provision capacity by helping small (50-200 bed) hospitals to deliver oncology services by developing a daycare treatment center within them.

“Through this, we expect to serve smaller, under-served cities/micro-markets that traditional cancer institutes will find unviable to address. The challenge now will be to maintain high quality and ensure safe medical practice as we ramp up,” said Sonali.