​A doctor in my pocket

health, digital wellbeing,

Gautam Chopra when he started BeatO

BeatO for the diabetics, co-founded by Delhi’s Gautam Chopra, is the leading health management app for a chronic disease in the country

Gautam Chopra, 37, is the co-founder of India’s biggest chronic disease management app. —BeatO. The making of BeatO has been a process of creating something novel and unique. The app has the potential to help manage and improve the quality of life by finding the right balance and inculcating healthy habits in some 70 million diabetics in India.

During the development of the app, Chopra had his share of anxious moments.

Chopra was leading a comfortable life in Europe, holding a key managerial position in Lufthansa, the German airline. He was living in Brussels after having spent three years in Frankfurt.

Life was easy and to an extent predictable. He had adapted well to the German working environment, having learned the language while working. Then he bartered a paying, predictable and convenient life for uncertainty.

In 2014, on one his trips back home, he—an alumnus of Modern School, Barakhamba Road and DPS, R K Puram—met up with his school buddy Yash Sahgal. They got talking and expressed the need to try something new. Sahgal was overweight and was making necessary adjustments in his lifestyle to deal with the menace of diabetics. Chopra too was in the pre-diabetic stage.

Later that year, Sahgal visited Europe and they spent some quality time brainstorming about their present and how to shape the future. This is when they came up with the plan to set up BeatO.

They went to Lufthansa boss Lars Redelegix, who was taken aback by the proposal and Chopra’s decision to quit at the peak of his career, which was of such great promise for the company. “At that point in time, I was managing key operations for him,” recollects Chopra. They were able to make him see the larger picture. Not only was he convinced but went on to become their first investor. By then Chopra’s sister, who was settled in the US, had returned to Delhi, and he was happy to join the rest of his family.

What was the inspiration? The need for adventure was not the only trigger. “You may find it trivial,” he says when he talks about his school friends Rohit Bansal and Kunal Bahl who went on to establish Snapdeal–a multimillion-dollar online retail company. At that point, they were trying to do something new. India was changing for the better, offering great business prospects by infusion of technology. They set an example that gave Chopra the necessary inspiration.

Initially, it wasn’t a smooth ride. Setting up an office in Delhi was a bit of a challenge. Chopra’s uncle rented out to him premises he owned in Gurugram. Chopra who was under the impression that the rent was Rs 5,000 a month instead of it actually being Rs 50,000. They had some harsh reality checks but nothing was a hindrance strong enough to dissuade the startup team.

He put in his savings, got hold of some investors, and started the operations. Initially, it was not a success, for the app was designed from the doctor’s perspective and not the consumer’s. As a result, it encouraged patients to go to the hospital. But then it was re-designed to help people make required changes in lifestyles so that the customers would get to avoid a visit to the hospital.

Team BeatO1

After having made the adjustment, that evolved over a year or so, changes are still being made to the app to make it customer-friendly. The app now is inherently flexible so that it seems tailor-made for its user’s specific needs. There are some 70 employees and a panel of 10 diabetic educators working behind the scenes. Not only does the app helps keep a tab on the blood sugar levels and other particulars but also makes suggestions when they go haywire on either side—too high or too low.  Too little of blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, is even worse than high blood sugar.

One of the diabetic educators gets in touch with customers when the blood sugar shows significant change and helps them deal with the immediate crisis and even recommends a visit to a specialist for a change in drugs. It’s a personalised experience. There’s a BeatO device that can be connected to a phone or an app that can be downloaded directly on the smartphone.

Chopra narrates many instances of how timely intervention saved people’s lives. And that’s what gives him the greatest sense of satisfaction.  The customers are satisfied, for they feel a notional presence of a doctor in their pocket.

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