Apr 3, 2024

Apr 3, 2024

Crafting an Opportunity Map for Digital Health

Written by:

Sep 1, 2023

Tanisha Sheth

Tanisha Sheth

Imagine a healthcare system that uses AI to bridge the gap between patients and specialists, even in remote areas. This type of solution could also support mental health and chronic disease management, all at an affordable cost. Read on to learn how generative AI can revolutionize healthcare access in India.

Imagine a healthcare system that uses AI to bridge the gap between patients and specialists, even in remote areas. This type of solution could also support mental health and chronic disease management, all at an affordable cost. Read on to learn how generative AI can revolutionize healthcare access in India.

Imagine a healthcare system that uses AI to bridge the gap between patients and specialists, even in remote areas. This type of solution could also support mental health and chronic disease management, all at an affordable cost. Read on to learn how generative AI can revolutionize healthcare access in India.

Mom + Google

One day you wake up with a tummy ache. The right side of your stomach really hurts.

What do you do next?

You ring your mom but she doesn’t pick up. Now you’re deep into Google. “Appendicitis symptoms.” Will you actually have to get surgery? You decide to go see a gastro. But who’s a good one? How much would it cost? You wait for your mom to call you back - she’s got to know someone.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Almost 5% of all Google searches are health-related. Before its sale, WebMD made close to $700mn in 2016 from ad revenue alone. While the mom + Google solution is a well-tested method to temporarily calm any hypochondriac inferences, neither can be relied on to effectively diagnose or treat you.

Now – imagine a world where you wake up with a tummy ache, type your symptoms into your phone, answer a few questions and it predicts - based on your exercise, sleep, food patterns, genetic predispositions - that you likely have food poisoning. It schedules an appointment for you taking into account your location, and offers to get some OTC medicines delivered to your home.

An hour-long process reduced to just a few minutes.

The ease of a Zomato order but for something far more important - your health. Today, this type of a journey lies far closer in the spectrum to reality than imagination.


When it came to payments, India leapfrogged from cash to UPI / mobile payments, bypassing debit / credit cards. And now we’re ready to make that same jump in healthcare.

This shift goes beyond just new software; it's a fundamental reconfiguration of how we deliver healthcare. In this new landscape, solutions should be considered on two pivotal dimensions: the severity of medical conditions and socioeconomic context.

This construct significantly influences consumer access and experience within healthcare. And recognizing where your offering fits, is key to building effectively for your audience.

Mapping Opportunities

By delineating healthcare solutions based on medical criticality and socioeconomics, we uncover a range of consumer needs. The first, medical criticality, spans from preventive care  (low urgency) to chronic conditions (high urgency). To help think through the second factor - Blume’s Indus Valley Report provides a helpful breakdown of India’s population by income category.

India1 / Consuming Class: 30m households / 120m individuals earning ~$15k ann. per person
India2 / Aspirant Class: 70m households / 300m individuals earning ~$3k ann. per person
India3 / Unmonetisable Users: 205m households / 1b individuals earning ~$1k ann. per person

While the majority of India3’s healthcare spends fall under government schemes, India2 and a portion of India3 represents a large underserved market. We can then correlate India1 with the high socioeconomic segment and classify India2+3 (partial) as low.

  • Low Criticality / Low Socio: Solutions in this quadrant address non-urgent health issues for individuals with limited financial resources and language barriers. Despite the apparent low market appeal, this quadrant harbors significant opportunities for versatile solutions especially in preventive care.

  • Low Criticality / High Socio: These solutions cater to preventative to minor health issues for affluent individuals who can afford premium services. Tech entrepreneurs often gravitate towards this sector, developing products for fitness, nutrition, and overall wellness. 

  • High Criticality / Low Socio: This quadrant is focused on severe medical conditions among financially constrained individuals. It addresses health disparities with low cost solutions, like telemedicine services, tailored for multilingual access in rural areas. It tends to attract medical professionals aiming to address health disparities with cost-effective solutions.

  • High Criticality / High Socio: Solutions in this quadrant address critical health issues for affluent individuals, often involving advanced medical technologies and treatments. The high technical barriers to entry and substantial capital investment requirements attract significant venture capital investment.

Please note this map is highly illustrative and non-exhaustive.

Addressing Gaps and Identifying Opportunities

“I think every human is going to have a world-class AI doctor in their pocket.” - Daisy Wolf, a16z

While there's a notable trend of investment and innovation in quadrants with high financial potential, significant gaps remain. Today, the adoption of generative artificial intelligence has created a watershed moment in our lives.

We saw low-stakes industries (hiring, marketing) embrace AI without much hesitation but now we’re seeing a calibrated permeation across high-stakes sectors (healthcare, finance, law) as the impact and effectiveness of these technologies are too hard to ignore.

It could even be argued that the breakthrough in natural language processing (NLP) represents a larger opportunity for India given our vast linguistic diversity (check out Bhashini). These technologies allow healthcare workers to re-focus their time on what they are uniquely qualified to do: providing expert care and intervention when necessary, serving as troubleshooters rather than data collectors. 

Better Care For All with GenAI

Mental Health

The emergence of AI-driven therapy has begun to bridge the gap of mental healthcare accessibility. Funnily enough, this started with folks uploading their WhatsApp chat histories to chat GPT to analyze conversation dynamics. Then relying on AI to speak to in the middle of the night about their anxiety. And it actually helped. 

According to WHO, India has 0.3 psychiatrists and 0.07 psychologists per 100,000 people with 70 mn people suffering from common mental disorders. The largest barriers for treatment are typically stigmatization and finances - AI provides a solution to both.

By reducing costs and overcoming language and social stigma, AI therapists can offer support for individuals who might otherwise forego treatment.

While general-purpose LLMs (large language models) provide a passable solution, models specifically trained in clinical psychology will prove to be great augmentations for therapy.


Today, the 60-plus cohort in India comprises about 10% of the population with 1 in 3 surveyed individuals reporting depressive symptoms and low life satisfaction. Tailored AI companions, such as those designed for elderly care or support for children with learning disabilities, represent a burgeoning field.

Genwise, India’s largest online club for elders, recently launched Jaanvi - an AI friend solving loneliness for 9 crore Indian elders. According to NITI Aayog, India's silver economy is estimated to be about $7 billion representing huge slices up for grabs.

By observing emergent behaviors, human-like specialized experiences can be developed for specific use cases. These can vary from a coach for chronic obesity to sponsors for various addictions.

Customized Care

Due to its 1:1 nature, healthcare has previously been hard to scale profitably. However today AI-powered telehealth solutions can deliver better patient experiences at enticing margins. As India’s aspirational class grows, the demand for superior patient experiences will outweigh the appeal of commoditized services. AI-powered applications / productized services offering holistic, tailored, real-time on user health will lead the charge in adoption of preventive care measures. 

Specialist Care

According to the 2021-22 Rural Health Statistics report, 21,920 specialist doctors were required in rural areas across India. However, only 4,485 were available, representing an 80% gap.

This capability is critical for addressing the high medical severity needs of populations with limited access to specialized care. In areas where medical specialists are scarce, Gen AI can help scale the expertise of available healthcare professionals.

AI systems trained on large datasets can assist in diagnosing and recommending treatments for complex conditions, making specialist knowledge accessible even in remote areas. Think of it as 1x cardiologist providing 5x care. 

Benefits Navigation

In 2023, only 40% of Indians were covered under health insurance schemes. And of these, the highest number of people were insured under government-sponsored health insurance schemes, while individual insurance plans had the lowest number of people.

But education around insurance itself is so bleak that even if you are covered under a plan, it is hard to avail of its benefits. Here, regional language-based solutions that assist customers along the value chain of insurance - from registration to automated claims settlement hold great potential. 

Zero Cost Starting Point

Capital is not always necessary when getting started. There is a tried and tested no-cost solution available for everyone – communities.

And chances are your audience is already within your network, you just need to bring them together. If you’re a young mom building for post-partum, chances are you already have monthly lunch dates scheduled with a bunch of young moms.

If you’re a running enthusiast and want to build a better nutrition supplement for runners, chances are you already have long text threads debating the best pre-workout with other fitness enthusiasts.

This is because of the psychological need to gravitate towards those just like you before the term ‘community’ even existed.

Communities can manifest as specialized social networks, forums, or applications tailored to specific health conditions and in turn drive UGC. When managed well, these spaces turn into rich repositories of data, offering deep insights and fostering continuous feedback loops.

In fact, several healthtech startups today including Fittr, Mylo, Momly, Healofy, Devils Circuit and Now&Me started out as communities. Platforms that unite individuals around shared health experiences hold enormous potential for precisely identifying problem statements and validating the efficacy of solutions.

Case Studies in AI-powered Customer Experiences

We’re still in the early innings of AI adoption as existing players identify how best to add value for customers.
Here are some startups already leaning in:

Healthify Me

Their ‘snap’ feature allows users to take a picture of their food and automatically populates its nutritional content including calories, macros, fat etc. They’ve also built Ria, an AI coach that develops customized nutritional plans and keeps you accountable with your fitness goals.


Flashaid offers health insurance tailored for the gig economy workforce, targeting those with annual incomes ranging from Rs. 1 to 5 LPA. They serve over 30,000 customers through partnerships with platforms like Oto Capital, Chef Chef Card, Load Me, among others.

To address the challenges of insurance literacy and linguistic diversity, Flashaid has adapted their product details into easily understandable infographics and videos in various regional languages. They have also implemented a WhatsApp bot that helps customers file claims in 90 seconds and provides prompt answers to queries in any language.


Uses AI to offer individuals tailored care while taking into consideration their health history, dietary preferences, and body parameters to build a comprehensive diet & supplement plan.


Now&Me operates a mental wellness community, offering both peer support and professional assistance to its 300,000 users. Addressing the need for prompt access in mental health care, earlier this year the company launched Nemo, an empathetic AI bot designed to offer immediate and personalised support.

Nemo, trained using publicly available community data, suggests tailored activities (such as meditation, journaling), guides users to relevant discussion threads within the community and helps them find the right professional support. 


AI-powered assistance for women & health professionals to monitor key indicators, get insights for proactive healthcare right from fertility, pregnancy and beyond

What comes next?

In creating patient-centric health technologies, it's essential to recognize the dynamics between healthcare needs and socio-economic conditions. By extending innovation to include neglected populations, there are huge whitespaces to be conquered profitably.

Solutions focused on bridging accessibility (financial + lingual) and focused on improving patient engagement and education are the need of the hour.

This approach is crucial in an era where generative AI allows us to redraw the thresholds of possibility. Today looks a lot like the time when we’d have to go to the bank and stand in line to make a small withdrawal – only for our wallets to be stuffed with 10 rupee notes and clunky coins – testing the durability of our pockets for the next week only to repeat it.

We’re hoping you can build a QR code future.

If any of these topics resonate with you, or you're currently developing solutions in these specific areas, we encourage you to get in touch! We'd love to discuss how People+ai can support your journey.

About Tanisha Sheth

Tanisha is currently building in healthtech to improve provider productivity. She also works as a strategy & GTM consultant for healthtech startups. Previously, Tanisha worked in tech investment banking at Goldman Sachs’ TMT group covering various clients including Stripe, Square and Salesforce. During college, she founded Fempower, a community for women founders across India. Tanisha graduated from Claremont McKenna College as a Bill & Melinda Gates scholar with a BA in Math and Economics.



Blume Indus Valley Annual Report
Forbes Health Insurance Statistics
Niti Aayog - Senior Care Reforms
ET Bridge the Gap Between Mental Health Experts and Patients

I’d also like to thank Drishti Gupta (co-founder, Now&Me) and Gunjali Kothari (co-founder, Flashaid) for sharing their domain insights. 

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People+ai is a non-profit, housed within the EkStep Foundation. Our work is designed around the belief that technology, especially ai, will cause paradigm shifts that can help India & its people reach their potential.

Join the Community

People+ai is a non-profit, housed within the EkStep Foundation. Our work is designed around the belief that technology, especially ai, will cause paradigm shifts that can help India & its people reach their potential.