My name is Debo Odulana, I am a medical doctor and management consultant in healthcare. I am also the founder of Doctoora. I’m an alumnus of University of Sharjah, UAE and Imperial College Business School, London, UK. I have over 10 years of combined experience in healthcare service delivery, operations management, marketing and health professional training. In addition, I run small businesses in the entertainment and food industries.
* Tell us more about your business. How and when was this idea birthed?
Doctoora is a technology & real estate company operating an online marketplace for healthcare services and products. Primarily, we enable healthcare professionals establish and manage private practices by providing them with on-demand access to short term facility rentals. Our goal is to enable 1000+ professionals start and run successful private practices in 2018. This we hope, will check the emigration of health workers and improve the quality of health services being delivered to the consumers of care. I have had this idea since I relocated to Nigeria in 2011, however I fleshed it out while I was at business school in 2016. I shared the idea with my co-founders Beatrix Wu and Dr. Shakirah Saliu and they encouraged me to start. So Beatrix and I started brainstorming while I set out to build the first version of the Doctoora website, which was geared towards testing our initial hypothesis – “if we introduce Doctoora, will people use it?”. Turned out that we were right, so I packed up and left the UK for Nigeria to begin the development of the physical facilities. At around this point, the 4th co-founder Ms Alecia Esson – a product designer joined the team to start developing the web platform and the entire product as a service. * When and how did it all start and what inspired you? I realised that healthcare workers in Nigeria, including myself were grossly dissatisfied with the overall experience of healthcare. We were not happy about the quality of health facilities, poor financial compensation, being overworked, and most importantly, being subject to the demands of our employers. More so, even the senior members of the workforce were having to hop from one health facility to another in order to make enough money to make ends meet. A major factor was that the cost of setting up a private practice is very high, this was a major deterrent especially since banks & institutional investors rarely fund healthcare business
* Please tell us how your business works?
Doctoora runs an online platform that connects healthcare seekers to providers. We also connect healthcare providers to healthcare facilities whenever and wherever they might require these facilities. For example: if Dr Bolade needs to see a patient in Ikeja, she can log on to the doctoora web application and rent a clinic room in Ikeja for the desired time. Also, a patient Mr Badmus can also log on to search and find the right professional, and have the choice of home, clinic or video consultations.
* Why is your business different from others?
Doctoora is different in the following ways – We are the first real estate company operating in the healthcare industry. – Our approach involves high fixed costs and low variable costs – We are extremely lean on staffing (we do not employ any health workers) – More than all, we are building an ecosystem in which everybody wins
* What have you achieved so far since this idea started (awards etc) ?
We currently own 3 facilities in Lagos, and have 6 affiliates, (a total of 12 service delivery sites in Lagos) making us the largest private healthcare network in Nigeria. We won a place on the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program and we have recently been accepted into the Make-IT Africa accelerator program organised by GIZ.de, Endeva, and CCHUB. * How long did it take for the idea to come into reality? From the point when the idea was fully fleshed out to the creation of our minimum viable product – this took a year. However it’s all work in progress as we are constantly creating new facilities and onboarding existing healthcare facilities that have spare capacity.
* What do you understand by the phrase “ Innovation”?
Innovation refers to any change or invention that has been adopted by the target users. * Do you believe that innovation can help improve Africa’s business sector and why? The business sector in Africa is faced with multifaceted constraints to development ranging from infrastructural deficits to knowledge gaps. Most of which can be attributed to our current ways of working/doing business. A critical analysis of the improvements experienced in Africa following the introduction of mobile technology to the continent reveals a great potential to for growth.For these reasons, I believe innovation can improve business in Africa. The only barrier is adoption.
* If Yes, how can it be achieved?
It is essential that we change our ways of working and rethink our business infrastructure, workforce development as well as political frameworks in order to glean the benefits of technology.
* There are a lot of people out there that what to be innovative and some even have great innovations that will impact lives but don’t know how to take it to the next level. What advise do you have for such people?
By virtue of definition, it is impossible to have a great innovation if you haven’t introduced it to a cohort of adopters. That said, for people with inventions or those looking to invent, I’d advice that you perform adequate research on the target users of whatever you intend to invent. It is essential to be problem eccentric and aim to achieve a problem/product fit in whatever situation. It is also important to ensure that your solution is easy to use and that your users perceive the solution as being useful. These are key factors that will influence the adopting of any invention. * Were you at any point scared of the dream if it won’t work and how did you overcome? No, I had no doubt.
* How were you able to start such healthcare business in Nigeria despite the challenges?
To be honest, I thank God for pointing me in the right direction. The rest of the credit goes to my team ( Ms Beatrix Wu (RN), Dr Shakirah Saliu, Ms Alecia Esson, Mr Seun Lawal, Ms Monijesu Akinkugbe, Mr Taofeek Olugbode, Dr Firdausi Umar-Sadiq, our graduate trainees and Ms Alice Omisore who just joined us. Furthermore, I had built a strong network and alot of relevant capabilities over the course of my career and that helped me alot. Mentors like Dr Femi Omololu, Mrs Sola Fashola (RN), Dr Tunde Salako also helped cushioned our start up period with valuable advice and introductions. With regards to funding, we have been self funded till date and I thank my co-founders and my family & friends for throwing some money in the bowl.
* You are an alumnus of The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, what did you do differently to be chosen and how did you feel when you saw your name?
I was quite happy to see my name on the list, to be honest when I looked at the first page and I didnt see my name – I’d viewed it on my phone initially, only to find out there was more than one page. It was good validation. It meant that we weren’t just living in a bubble.
* We will like to know how the Foundation has impacted your life and your business
The cash provided has been useful so far and I made a few contacts during the programme that can strategically influence my business growth. Its quite early to say how much impact but I can say I already enjoy the perks of being a TEF entrepreneur.
* What will you like to say to The Tony Elumelu Foundation
Thank you for the nudge and keep up the good work. Africapitalism is ideal for Africa and I am glad to be an Africapitalist.
* What are the challenges you encounter daily and how do you overcome them?
A major challenge is power supply. The cost of running power generators is ridiculous. However, I have started installing solar panels at our facilities to help cut the cost of fueling especially when there isnt any business activity * How do you see the business in ten years’ time? In ten years time, I expect Doctoora to be a pan-African establishment with a strong real estate asset base across multiple countries. I also expect Doctoora to make Africa a destination for medical tourism.
* What are your views concerning entrepreneurship in Africa and what advice can you render ?
Africa’s growth will be driven by entrepreneurship, and this greatly relies on the performance and growth of small and medium enterprises. For this reason, it is important to encourage more individuals to take the leap of faith and embark on an entrepreneurial journey regardless of the size or growth potential of their business idea.
* Who is an Entrepreneur to you?
An entrepreneur is a problem solver, and opportunist who invests time and effort towards developing a viable solution.
* What will you like to say to young minds out there that would want to make an impact but don’t know how?
It is essential to build capabilities, strong networks and a good support system if you want to make an impact. Get a mentor, speak to people about your ideas. Get your hands dirty by putting in work. * What will you say is your philosophy of life? Just do it, dont wait for anyone. If you dont try you cant succeed.
@doctoorahealth (instagram & twitter) @doctoorahealthmarket (facebook) @deboOdulana on all social media channels