Get ready for a captivating journey into the realm of ShopDoc, led by the visionary Founder and CEO, Shihab Makaniyil. As the mastermind behind this groundbreaking digital healthcare platform, Shihab has orchestrated ShopDoc’s ascent to a prominent position in Kerala’s healthcare landscape. Known for its innovative approaches in mental health, women’s empowerment, and community-based care, ShopDoc, under Shihab’s leadership, has become a transformative force in healthcare delivery.
In this article, we delve into the narrative of ShopDoc, unraveling the initiatives that make it a game-changer and exploring the secrets behind its phenomenal success. Shihab Makaniyil, as the driving force, unveils the challenges faced, the guiding lights that paved the way, and the ambitious vision steering this impactful healthcare venture. Join us as Shihab shares insights into how ShopDoc is changing lives, one click at a time, promising a future where healthcare is not just accessible but revolutionized.
Tell us about the path that paved the way for your journey and what sparked your passion for digital healthcare before a shop doc.?
ShopDoc was founded not in India; the idea was conceived, and the initial product was developed and tested in Australia. At that time, I was working for Exotica, the largest manufacturer of prescription lenses in the world, based in Italy. I was working for the company in Sydney, Australia. I observed that many elderly people had to travel to suburban towns and cities for their eye tests twice a year. This realization led to the idea of creating a mobile clinic, providing eye and dental care services at the doorstep of these elderly individuals.
In collaboration with an Australian partner, we formed a company called Mobile Care, focusing on mobile eye and dental care. After the initial success in Australia, I had to return to Kerala for various reasons. Wanting to replicate the same concept, we incorporated the company again as OB Care in Kerala, building a digital platform for mobile eye and dental care services.
A few months after the onset of COVID-19, with telemedicine gaining prominence globally, we expanded our services beyond eye and dental care. Instead of sticking to those two specialties, we decided to bring multiple specialties together and serve patients remotely. This marked the birth of ShopDoc, a platform under the parent company Mobile Care.
Prior to this venture, I had a background predominantly in eye and mission care for about 15 years across the Gulf, Europe, and a few years in Australia. Despite not being a medical practitioner, my expertise was in the fashion elements of eye care. I had a consulting firm, M Global Strategies, focused on supporting luxury companies with marketing and management services worldwide.
Before my involvement in healthcare, I also worked in healthcare nonprofit in my native region, specifically in eye and dental care. The experiences in eye care, the impact of COVID-19, and the broader understanding of healthcare challenges led to the founding of ShopDoc. I have been dedicated to this venture for almost 5 years now, overseeing its transformation and growth.
So you had a Vision by then?
When we founded ShopDoc, it was during the time of the pandemic, and to be honest, we didn’t have a clear vision initially. The vision evolved over time as we learned and adapted. We faced the challenges of the pandemic, and our understanding of the healthcare landscape deepened.
Our purpose gradually crystallized towards helping people with their physical, mental, and emotional health. I was driven by the idea that delivering quality healthcare services at scale could have a significant societal impact. This belief led us to develop a digital platform, enabling us to reach as many people as possible in a shorter period.
I envisioned that by starting a small clinic serving my village, we could only help those within a 10-kilometer radius, around 20,000 people at most. Instead, we opted for a broader platform, onboarding nearly 200 hospitals and clinics and 3,000 doctors. This approach allowed us to serve patients not just in India and Kerala but also attracted users from different parts of the world, particularly the diaspora. The platform became a means to provide healthcare services on a global scale.
What was the core idea behind transforming healthcare and care? How do you envision this transformation lovingly empowering communities and making a lasting impact?
For the past four or five years, I haven’t just been building a brand, business, platform, or product; I’ve been immersed in learning about how the health of a family affects their peace and progress. This extends beyond individual families to impact the wider society. Despite having sophisticated infrastructure and well-educated people in Kerala, there has been an alarming increase in lifestyle diseases and chronic illnesses. As a company, ShopDoc is now refocusing its mission to address this massive issue, emphasizing lifestyle disease prevention and even reversal.
Our resources are now dedicated to making an impact at the grassroots level, particularly in addressing non-communicable diseases. We aim to help every family in Kerala, looking beyond curative medicine to prioritize preventive measures. The focus is on minimizing medication, intervening in lifestyles, and assisting individuals in making transformative changes.
Our strategy involves engaging with communities at a hyper-local level, reaching out to nearly 948 villages and around 68 to 60 municipal towns across Kerala. While we have a presence in the Gulf, our primary focus remains on Kerala, aiming to create awareness about the formation of lifestyle diseases and providing training tools to empower individuals.
We acknowledge that it’s not merely a lack of awareness contributing to the prevalence of lifestyle diseases. Despite increased information through social media, there is a need to enforce and create an environment that encourages the right lifestyle choices. ShopDoc is actively working on creating communities that foster awareness, education, and implementation, with a focus on coaching individuals towards a healthier life.
As a company that values community-building over advertising, one of the most impactful communities we’ve created is centered around mental health. During the second wave of COVID-19, we initiated mental health support services and conducted various webinars and physical events, such as the “Are You Okay?” campaign. This community, now known as “Coming to You,” has provided mental health support to over 10,000 individuals, highlighting the significance of mental health in parallel with physical health.
The feedback from this mental health community has been transformative, with stories of improved family dynamics, educational achievements, reconciled couples, enhanced workplace productivity, and overall personal growth. Mental health impacts, though intangible, are profound and have touched the lives of thousands, reinforcing our commitment to holistic well-being.
Over the past four or five years, my focus hasn’t solely been on building a brand, business, platform, or product. I’ve delved into understanding the impact of family health on peace and progress, not only within individual families but across the broader society. Despite Kerala’s advanced infrastructure and educated populace, the prevalence of lifestyle diseases and chronic illnesses is rising alarmingly. Consequently, as ShopDoc, we’ve shifted our focus towards addressing this significant issue, emphasizing the prevention and even reversal of lifestyle diseases.
Our commitment involves investing resources in grassroots-level engagement, particularly targeting non-communicable diseases. We aim to impact every family in Kerala, shifting our focus from curative medicine to preventive measures. The strategy includes minimizing medication, intervening in lifestyles, and guiding individuals toward transformative changes.
Our efforts extend to hyper-local community engagement, planning to reach approximately 948 villages and 68-60 municipal towns across Kerala. While we have a presence in the Gulf, our primary focus remains on Kerala, creating awareness about lifestyle diseases and offering training tools for empowerment.
We recognize that the challenge isn’t just about awareness. Despite increased information through social media, there’s a lack of enforcement and a conducive environment for the right lifestyle choices. ShopDoc aims to create communities that foster awareness, education, and implementation, emphasizing coaching individuals toward a healthier life.
Notably, one of our most impactful communities centers around mental health. Initiated during the second wave of COVID-19, this community, named “Coming to You,” has provided mental health support to over 10,000 individuals, underscoring the importance of mental health alongside physical health.
Feedback from this mental health community has been transformative, showcasing improved family dynamics, educational achievements, reconciled couples, enhanced workplace productivity, and overall personal growth. The focus on mental health aligns with our commitment to holistic well-being and emphasizes the transformative power of mental health support.
In summary, ShopDoc is dedicated to creating a positive impact on individual and community health, with a focus on preventive measures and transformative support for mental health. Our commitment extends to hyper-local engagement, community-building, and addressing the rising challenges of lifestyle diseases.
From classrooms to rural villages, how does Shop Doc play a role in healthcare education and awareness, particularly in vulnerable communities?
Back in 2021 or early 2022, we initiated a program with the aim of reaching every school in the state. The purpose was to create awareness and deliver lessons on preventive health and mental health. We wanted to establish virtual clinics in every school, enlisting doctors from different specialties for students, teachers, and parents to seek support and consultation.
What benefits do AI and ML bring to Shop Doc services, and how are these cutting-edge technologies applied?
While we haven’t deployed any AI tools yet, we are currently working on building an AI chatbot called Mac Hedge. AI is becoming an integral part of every business, including ours. We are collaborating with developers to create an AI chatbot to address questions and process transactions more efficiently. AI can enable Shop Doc’s services to be more frictionless, predicting diseases based on the data we collect and offering more efficient solutions.
Share your vision for the world’s first school clinic in this virtual realm and the challenges faced.”
Answer 3: In 2021, we announced the concept of the world’s first metaverse clinic for schools. However, challenges such as infrastructure requirements, digital connectivity issues, and the evolving nature of technology made it impractical at the time. While we invested time and money into the metaverse concept, we have shifted our focus to existing initiatives. Building a future in the metaverse requires substantial investment and time for people to adapt.
“Can you explain what the metaverse is and its potential impact on healthcare?
Answer 4: In simple terms, the metaverse is a three-dimensional website or app where users can interact with avatars and communities. In healthcare, it could provide a virtual environment for consultations, simulating a hospital visit without leaving home. Challenges include integrating IoT devices for capturing health data and creating a unified system to facilitate various transactions. While the metaverse has potential, widespread adoption will take time due to necessary investments and infrastructure improvements.