Insurance Vital for Homeopathy to succeed in India
Homeopathy in India is approximately a Rs 5,000-crore industry, of which Dr Batra's owns a 5% market share. The 18-month-old ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has created some positive sentiments, but a lot more needs to be done to realise its potential as about 90% of the industry is scattered and out of formal regulation, Akshay Batra, vice-chairman & managing director of Dr Batra's Group of Companies tells TOI. Edited excerpts:
How has the ministry of AYUSH helped in changing your business?
In India, the biggest thing is the sentiment. If you create a positive sentiment, people latch on to it easily. AYUSH has just been formed and so it is too early to say. Good thing is awareness has increased because of their several campaigns. Ideally, they should include homeopathy in insurance. They should have a clinical establishment act which controls the practice so that there is some standard. They will be doing a lot more considering India is the largest base for homeopathy users. There are 10 crore people who use homeopathy and there are 5 lakh homeopathic doctors in India. However, in terms of rupee value, France is the largest market and India ranks third.
Is there a resistance to include homeopathy into insurance?
Yes, there is resistance. In Dubai, we are registered with 10 insurance providers already. In India, the number is zero. Some of the reasons for this could be the way the insurance sector is working in India today. It is not preventive, but curative. When you fall ill, have hospitalisation you can claim insurance. Homeopathy is more preventive. If included in insurance, a large number of patients can opt for homeopathy. Also, homeopathy is a very dissipated industry in India.
Last year, you had announced that you will make investments worth Rs 100 crore over 3 years. What is the status?
Last year, we invested about Rs 20 crore into the business. This year, we will invest another Rs 25 crore. Next year, we plan to invest Rs 30-40 crore as we hope that growth will be exponential. Within India, we are looking to open another 30 clinics this year. We have also set up an international head office in Dubai. Now, we have a special CEO whose only mandate is to grow homeopathy for us internationally.
Since France is the largest market for Homeopathy, why not venture there?
We had done very badly in the UK and we wanted it to be our gateway to Europe. In the UK, the education for homeopathy is not the same as in India. In France, it is even tougher because you have to be an MBBS doctor first. In the UK, you have to do a three-year "correspondence course" to become a homeopathic practioner and it is not a medical programme. Then also you are not a doctor, but like a reiki practioner. Over the last two years, we have started to do well there and now we are looking at two more clinics there. Once we tap the UK market, we will surely look at Europe.
Are you looking at new sources of funding?
We are a family owned entity and self-sustained. We intend to stay the course for a year more. However, for higher growth, we will need external funding. We will look at PE funding in a year's time and not an IPO at least for the next 3-4 years.