Sanjay Jha hails from a humble background. He was born and brought up in Darbhanga, Bihar and studied mostly in government school and college till class 12th before he joined IIT Kharagpur in 1992 for 5 yrs integrated masters in Exploration Geophysics. He opted for career in software programming after graduating in 1997. He started his career with Ramco Systems and then shifted his base to US where he worked with Liquid Audio (pioneers in music digital distribution with ipod like devices) and then GE Healthcare. It was his tenure at GE Healthcare that he had the opportunity to get exposure to system engineering, manufacturing and R&D. He feels proud to see some of his work done before 2006 on GE Lightspeed VCT CT scanner still available on current generation machines.
Subsequently, he did his MBA at INSEAD (France) and came to J&J Medical India. And spent almost 5 years in J&J India in different sales and marketing senior management roles before getting into start-up life with Colmed (an E-commerce platform for medical devices) being his second start-up.
At Colmed (Collateral Medical) , he along with fellow promoter started with building first medical device focussed E-commerce platform . Unlike most of other players they took the path of working closely with Medical device manufacturers very early. Currently Colmed is partners with majority of large multinationals and significant number of domestic players and make their products available at the right price with focus on tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India. Colmed has supplied medical devices to over 1000 resellers and to over 75,000 unique customers across most of the pin codes in India.
He is driven by the satisfaction he gets by contributing towards bringing down the cost of treatment in his own way. On bigger picture, healthcare costs for patients is climbing up day by day and he does his small bit in driving that cost down by increasing the efficiency of supply chain and aggregating medical device demand. While on day to day, to take an idea, break it in small executional pieces and then enabling his team to execute it makes his day better.
He finds each and every day at the startup a new day filled with new learnings. As it happens with any startup, the founding team faced lots of challenges initially, but somehow they were able to figure out a way to rise above those challenges. Early on, they were advised to take marketplace route, but they always believed in inventory based model. Whereas marketplace route is preferred by many investors, but his market research precipitated the fact that there is hardly any marketplace being even EBITDA positive. Being the old school, they believed in business making money to survive and not-burning cash. Drawing parallels, they observed Cloudtail having positive EBITDA while Amazon burning more than 6000 crore in India in an year. They realized that for 1000cr annual turnover inventory requirement is hardly 100cr. Moreover, they relied on the fact that healthcare is an area where quality needs to be of paramount concern and with marketplace quality concerns are rampant. So, they stayed on the inventory led path, which meant slower but profitable growth for the startup.
Mr Sanjay had another startup before Colmed, specializing in analytics space, where he worked extensively on energy forecasting using machine learning. After creating a wonderful product for year and half and successful pilot he had to shut the shop due to his lack of understanding of systems in govt sector leading to extreme delay procedures, permissions and protocols leading to delayed results. The experience taught him a lot about what not to do.
While their online business soared newer highs, the team Colmed struggled in direct supplies to small hospital segment in tier2/tier3 due to their low per order size, payment challenges and in many cases need of urgent delivery. Thus while significant volume of business was gained but it was an EBITDA negative business. This forced them to strategise innovatively to sort out the challenge with limited resources. They started focusing on resellers, who were only one level above the hospitals in this prevailing multi-tier distribution systems in tier2/tier3 cities. This step worked wonders for them and currently they are able to drive more than 80% of their sale from tier2/tier3.
So far Colmed has received over 5m USD funding through equity and debt.
He, along with other founders of Colmed were featured on cover page of silicon india, as one of the best healthcare startups.
3 messages for aspiring and budding entrepreneurs
“Execution is the key to success, so don’t get stuck with good/bad idea, if you have assumptions try it and find it out if it works in limited scale.”
“Don’t be afraid of failure. My failure from my first startup taught me a lot.”
“Don’t stay away from people of who challenge you. Would be great if you have a mentor who can tell you that you are wrong. It makes you think harder and might save you significant valuable time and money.”
At Colmed, he wants to first increase the reach to at least 20,000 resellers in Tier2/Tier3 market. Then he wants to build further on his tech platform to help them streamline their demand planning, inventory management and provide them easy access to financing by partnering with Fintechs. On the product side, he wants to build private label business which already has started doing very well for them, and create a sustainable above 12% EBITDA business.
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