Lahore-headquartered healthtech Marham has raised $1 million in a seed round led by Pakistan-focused Indus Valley Capital, it told MENAbytes today. The round also includes the participation of Weihan Liew, an angel investor from Southeast Asia.
Founded in 2015, Marham started as a doctor booking platform, enabling patients to book appointments with doctors at different hospitals across Pakistan. It has since evolved into a healthcare platfrom that also allows users to book online consultations (with doctors) and lab tests, and order medicines, through its website or mobile apps.
In the last six years, the startup has expanded its network to have 20,000 doctors from 67 cities of Pakistan. It claims to have served 10 million patients since its launch who visited its website to read doctor reviews, book appointments with them, took online consultations, or asked questions in their free-to-use Q&A forum.
What’s interesting is that they’ve achieved all these milestones while bootstrapping the company. Marham has been profitable almost from the beginning which has allowed them to grow without raising any money. This investment round is the first external investment raised by the healthcare startup. But why raise money when you’re growing by investing company’s profits back into the busines?
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure faster care and better experience for patients. We know our solution is a long-term play for the industry. Considering its impact on human lives, the sensitive nature of the healthtech industry makes scaling much more difficult than in other tech sectors. We have put a lot of care into our team, product, and processes to deliver a higher level of service. As evidenced by our numbers and organic growth, the foundation we have established to make this a thriving business is strong. Now it’s time to accelerate our growth and bring more of our vision to life,” explained Marham’s co-founder and CEO Ehsan Imam, in a conversation with MENAbytes.
Aatif Awan, the founder and Managing Partner of Indus Valley Capital, said, “We are excited to partner with Marham on their journey to provide affordable, quality healthcare to everyone in Pakistan. The founders’ passion is inspiring, and the progress they’ve already made while bootstrapping is impressive. We look forward to working with them to accelerate Marham’s growth.”
About half of Marham’s business today comes from tele-consultations. The startup expects its share to continue growing as more Pakistanis start using online services. With the latest funds, Marham plans to add more offerings to its ‘healthcare superapp’ and expand its services to smaller cities and rural areas of Pakistan, “Our vision is to build a healthcare ecosystem, for patients, doctors and hospitals to ensure faster care and better experience via technology, processes, and telemedicine-enabled micro-clinics across Pakistan,” noted Ehsan in a statement.
Asma Omer, co-founder and COO of Marham thinks that that Marham’ will be a fortune-changer for a developing country like Pakistan by making healthcare more accessible and affordable for the masses, “[It] will save millions of lives, for years to come, with patients getting quality healthcare from qualified doctors without having to leave their home.”
Marham was the first platform in Pakistan to enable patients to find doctors online and book appointments with them but in the last five years, at least five other notable players have entered the space and raised VC to grow their companies. Speaking about the increasing competition, Ehsan said, “It’s refreshing to see more startups venturing into this space. It tells us something about how ready this market is for change. Marham has the first mover advantage. 20,000 doctors have signed up on our platform from 67 cities in Pakistan and due to our high traction and experience, we’ve optimized our processes to deliver the services with the best quality processes with risk mitigation. In an industry like ours, there are many competitors who can offer the same service; what matters the most is who delivers the best quality of service.”
The startup currently has a team of over 80 employees, with plans to hire new members in different functions over the next few months.