Monday, May 21, 2012

SimplyDoc

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been hacking around with healthcare data in India. It is quite surprising to see the poor quality of data that we in India have about our healthcare system.

There is hardly any validated, current information about the distribution of doctors and healthcare facilities in different locations. Even the Medical Council of India, the only centralized body which collates data about health facilities in India, is supposedly one-quarter inaccurate. I believe that this is an understatement, since I doubt if the database (which has over 9L entries starting from the 1960s) has ever been thoroughly validated.

So in order to improve the quality and currency of information, we have started geocoding available information from multiple sources on the presence of healthcare facilities in the country, and validating it to the extent possible.

We've hashed together a quick piece of code to put out what we have currently and the result is SimplyDoc (http://www.simplyDoc.in) - a simple platform that provides information about the closest healthcare facilities to you (using the browser's geoip to determine your location), or for any location that you specify.

Currently the data coverage is largely restricted to Bangalore and Mumbai, and our confidence on the accuracy of information uploaded is about 75%. We will continue to clean, validate and upload as much of the healthcare data as we can into the system and improve the quality of the system over time.

If any of you out there have any feedback or comments, or would like to validate any of the information available, please feel free to drop us a note - here or at vasant[at]simplydoc.in or tweet to us at @SimplyDoc

Friday, May 11, 2012

Starting up - a Month-1 perspective

Its an exciting roller-coaster journey on which I have commenced, and too early to call. So a few brief points to journal my learning.

1. Its all about the people
If there is one thing that defines success and failure in this environment, it is people. Their attitude and their quality. For someone from consulting, this is the biggest learning while starting up. The rigorous standards of people selection and development in management consulting often ensure that we work with the best, and the self-motivated. Outside here, its like the wild-wild-west. Add to that, the lack of a brand and limited ability to pay for high quality talent, and you have a situation where people often slip to the lowest-common denominator in their performance. In this environment, finding people with the right attitude and motivating them towards a vision is the biggest challenge one faces.

2. The devil lies in the details
In a consulting environment, one often has an attitude of taking a big picture view of everything. The so-called 10,000 ft perspective. And one often tends to undervalue the small issues and challenges in executing on design. A second big learning in a startup environment is that the real challenges exist in addressing the smallest of the issues effectively and in a time-bound fashion. The small issues are the attention and time suckers, the true devils that can jeapordise the best laid plans.

3. When everything is fluid, discipline matters
For someone from consulting, a fluid unstructured environment is a walk in the park. Or so I thought till I jumped in. The lack of structure here is of a different dimension relatively. There are no boundaries. There is no 'right' way and 'wrong' way. There is no work-life distinction (and therefore where the talk of a balance?). In the absence of bounding constraints, everything is up for re-definition and re-direction. Its very easy to spend attention and energy on a million different things without having achieved anything at the end of the week. So focus matters.

All said and done, despite the challenges one faces, starting up is intensely exciting and great fun. Its an adventure where the learning is so steep, that it feels like drinking from a fire hose.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ranganathittu Ho!

Ranganthittu is a bird sanctuary located nearly 120 kms from Bangalore on the Mysore road, just off Srirangapatna. It's a day's drive from Bangalore and we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to do a quick dekko.

We started from Bangalore around 7am with plans to reach the sanctuary by around 9-10. We took the Mysore road (State Highway #17) passing through Kengeri, Channapatna and Maddur. Surprisingly, we hit heavy traffic before RVCE, with all the Metro construction around which slowed us quite a bit. By the time we found the high road again near Kengeri, it was nearly 9.

Channapatna toy
We stopped for breakfast at Kamat near Ramanagara around 10. The buffet spread was awesome, with a wide range of regional delicacies that left us satiated, yet drowsy. The Jackfruit modaka and the Moode idli were outstanding! After buying a few colorful Channapatna toys (wooden ones for which it is famous), we headed out towards Mandya.

The turn after Srirangapatna towards the sanctuary was surprisingly unmarked. Thankfully with the iPhone navigators we had, we were able to find our way across the inner roads towards the sanctuary.

The sanctuary itself is incredibly verdant and well maintained. It has beautifully manicured lawns up front and the walk-ways are well paved. The main area of the sanctuary is a small lake (estuary?) of the Cauvery river, with a walk-way around it.

Ranganthittu stork
A large number of birds inhabit the islands on the lake - herons, egrets, painted storks - of varied colors and sizes, and are a worthy watch even to a un-ornithologist (for lack of a better word). The standard trip is a group short boating trip, though one can organized customized longer group-tours as well. Beware of the water though, for it has crocodiles in it, and we found 2-3 sized ones calmly swimming about (the guard assured us that the crocs were clearly fish and bird-eatarians and left humans alone).

Overall it was a worthy visit. The access one has to the birds is one of the closest I have had in any of the bird sanctuaries in India, literally a feet away at times. Plus the green surroundings and the calm waters make a worthy boating experience.

For those who follow: 1. The best times to visit are from February to May. 2. Make sure you try out the Kamat's lunch enroute from Bangalore. 3. The turn-off after Srirangapatna to Ranganthittu is unmarked, so do be on the lookout to avoid missing it. 4. Tickets at the entrance of the sanctuary include a boating trip (so do not book it again inside, as we did and realized late). 5. Do take a binocular or a telephoto lens for your camera for a great photo-opportunity.