Episode 104 / February 14, 2021

Dr Geetha Manjunath on Building Niramai, Breast Cancer Detector

49 min

Episode 104 / February 14, 2021

Dr Geetha Manjunath on Building Niramai, Breast Cancer Detector

49 min
Listen on

In this episode, we chat with Geetha Manjunath, Founder of NIRAMAI; one of India’s most awarded health tech startups using AI to solve the detection of early-stage breast cancer.

Prior to NIRAMAI, Geetha has made her mark at CDAC, HP & Xerox, with her 25+ years of research and innovation background. Set up in 2016, NIRAMAI is India’s only startup among CB Insights’ 100 most promising AI startups.

For anyone exploring health tech, this conversation would be of great value. From identifying the problem statement to creating affordable solutions for the end-user, by leveraging AI & technology, this podcast will guide you through it all.

Notes –

01:33 – Her belief in “Karma Yoga”

05:11 – Family background and upbringing

06:20 – Getting into IISc, learned – “Enjoying the newness of something”

07:36 – Joining CDAC – Member of the team that developed the First Indian Supercomputer

10:23 – NIRAMAI’s cause – Enabling early-stage detection of Breast Cancer

15:16 – Identifying problem statements and creating solutions

20:11 – Partnering with hospitals and health startups

21:54 – Mammography vs NIRAMAI screening (in terms of OpEx & CapEx)

29:06 – Challenges while fundraising as a Healthcare startup

34:33 – Opportunities for Healthcare startups in India

36:10 – Challenges Healthcare startups should brace up for

42:53 – Future plans at NIRAMAI

Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:00

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia, welcome to the 100x Entrepreneur podcast. Today I have with me Geetha Manjunath, founder, CEO, and CTO of NIRAMAI. NIRAMAI is one of the leading healthcare technology companies in India that uses machine learning to detect and diagnose breast cancer using 10 simple thermographic images. Geeta has over 25 years of experience in IT research and has led many innovative projects in healthcare. Until the end of 2016, she was the lab director heading data analytics research in Xerox India. Prior to that, she was a principal research scientist at Evelyn Packard labs for 17 years and a member of the C-DAC team, which built the first commercial supercomputer from India. She holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the Indian Institute of Science and management education from Kellogg School of Management Chicago, her company NIRAMAI is the only Indian company listed in the 2019 cohort of 100 AI startups in the world by global business data intelligence platform CB insights data. Geetha has also been recognized as the woman entrepreneur 2020 by Economic Times. She’s also on the Forbes list, top 20 self-made women this year. Geetha also has 16 US patents to her name, and more pending. She was awarded recently Accenture Vaahini Innovator of the year by Economic Times. Geetha, you have so many accomplishments, first of all, welcome to the podcast.


Geetha 1:46

Thank you, Siddhartha. It’s my pleasure to be part of this.


Siddhartha 1:49

Geetha, First I want to ask you, you have so many achievements like it’s the longest introduction in the history of 100x entrepreneur podcast, what has been the drive behind you being such a big achiever?


Geetha 2:07

Yeah, thanks for doing all the research to figure out, you know, things about me, and for writing this, thanks a lot for inviting me to this forum too. So, I don’t think like there’s no mantra, such a success, but I would, you know, maybe share a few things that may be useful to the audience. So one is, I believe in this sort of karma yoga aspect of it, that is, basically this is Bhagavad Gita, you know, the third chapter, where we talk about, do the job for the fun of the job itself, any task that you do, right, do it for the actual task, not for the results, right, I think that’s very, very important. And we, of course, we’ve all heard this, you know, saying, and so on. But actually, if you try to do that, you know, just put 100% into the activity, enjoy the activity, rather than sort of, you know, do it for the results, you know, I’d say whether you’re studying for an exam, you’re obviously doing entrepreneurship, there is a lot of ups and downs. And, obviously, you can’t, there’s no sort of end goal you usually go after, but of course, if the direction you’re going, is because you enjoy the direction, because you have some kind of sort of a bigger goal beyond yourself as a goal, right? You know, so, so I think that may take you through that, that’s how I would say, right, and on that path, of course, there’s a lot of learning. So, I also believe in learning something new every day and so on. So, being open and all of that I think, that takes you along you will have friends along will come and help you sort of achieve the bigger goal that we talked about and so on.


Siddhartha 4:12

Gita ,Tell us your journey from your family background to your childhood, what have been the key beads in the string of life of Geetha Manjunath if I can ask.


Geetha 4:26

The young Geetha was a very, very shy girl. And I have one brother, one sister, my parents were very traditional. Having said that, my father and mother kind of you know, believed in giving you know, what the child likes, you know, so for example, if I have to study something, you know, what do you like to study for example, at my 12 stage, you know where you have two options possible and that doctor or engineer was in. So I managed to get both very top College in both the streams and everyone said, you’re a girl you have to do Doctor this is long, long ago. But I’ve always been in love with science and maths and so on, thanks to my father who was like, you know, a key motivator for me to be in that area. And so I was very sure that, you know, I want to spend my life not doing biology, but it’s a completely different thing that now full circle, and I am looking at engineering application in biology assets, but, you know, that’s how it was, and my father completely supported my choice in terms of doing engineering, computer science I did at that time from top college, I guess UBC we call it and then my dream was to get into IISC because I went there for a couple of projects, and I really love the academic, you know, air in that and thankfully, I did well, in my engineering and got into my master’s program in computer science at computer science department in IISC. And then that, I think, also changed my Outlook about technology. IISC is a place where there’s a lot of research around and, the professors are very, very strict, extremely knowledgeable, and you will feel like a small dust. You know, because there’s so much more to learn, right? Not that you kind of just realize how, how little you know literally, and with that, sort of a feeling and support for researching. IISC kind of enables a lot of innovative thinking. And that’s sort of pretty much an open book text all the time. And that gave me an inkling of what innovation can do in terms of your own satisfaction of solving the problem, like I said, that the task itself should be fun, you know, not necessarily the end result, right. So, so in that sense, enjoying doing something that nobody has done before, you know, it’s something that I learned from there, and I started thoroughly enjoying it, to the extent that, you know, whatever I do be like cooking, or any of that still thinking, can I sort of mix and do something, let’s say the enjoying the newness of doing things is something I learned there. Then I joined as one of the proud team members of the first supercomputer from India from C-DAC. And that was my dream job, I didn’t want to go abroad, like more nationalist in mind and thinking. So, I went there. And, you know, it was also very nice, activity at C-DAC, where we did a lot of research to bring out research then, you know, Hewlett Packard was starting a research lab in India, and they looked around, and they contacted me, and I thought this is good opportunity to prove what Indians can do to the world, like in terms of research and innovation. So I accepted that job and, and it was a small team, but I had an opportunity to go, you know, every year to the US and, you know, work with my colleagues and present what we have come up with newer ideas, business ideas, research ideas, and also prototypes and so on. It was completely innovation kind of mindset. And that also gave me exposure to international research, right, you know, how they think, how they think not just about publication, but really about, you know, making things happen on the ground, right, you know, and so, so that was a huge nice exposure, an eye opener for me, and then I could see research getting on the ground making a difference in the lives of people. So I think, you know, I started enjoying research that was actually making an impact rather than publication itself right, which typically researchers tend to do. And in parallel, I also did my PhD at IISC, and, you know, tried, like, dabbled around with a couple of ideas within Hewlett Packard itself, as an intrapreneur, proposing multiple things for the business and new products for the business and so on. Great mentors at Packard as well. And then, you know, when Xerox research was starting off the data analytics, research, they contacted me and so I accepted that and there I was more of a mentor and kind of you know, Senior Manager, where you know, helping young researchers, both international and national academicians I would say, trying to think business you know, trying to think impact. So that was great. And this also required me to go in front of customers, potential customers ideate and play pilots and so on. And that is how it was. And yeah, I mean, suddenly I’m here as an entrepreneur.


Siddhartha 10:22

And which city you were born and brought up in?


Geetha 10:28

Everything was Bangalore. I’ve been a Bangalorian. And of course, I’ve traveled quite a bit abroad in many, many countries. My daughter keeps counting how many countries I think I’ve reached more than 25 now. So that gives me a perspective of the world, to some extent, right. And I really love interacting with, you know, people of common mindset and so on. And there’s so much commonality across different countries. I feel right. And there’s also of course, differences. So when you try to see this, you know, you can also think about products and solutions, which are, I just think the commonality, obviously, you can always see the difference. But there’s also commonality, right, once you see that it’s a product for the one, you know, so several learnings along the way.


Siddhartha 11:15

How did you stumble upon the problem you’re currently solving at NIRAMAI?


Geetha 11:22

Yeah. So, when I was a lab director for an analytics researcher in the previous organization, I was interacting with multiple doctors, collaborating with our, you know, even senior colleagues in the US and so on. And so around that time, one of my cousin’s sisters got breast cancer. Her name was Bharti and very close, we used to meet every summer or even before like, you know. And a few years ago and suddenly, she was detected with stage four, breast cancer. And the doctor said a few more months, and that, of course, she did, she recovered a bit with her surgery, but it relapsed. And she’s no more with us. And in the same spirit, you know, there’s another close relative of mine also got detected, and she was much younger. And that is the time when I said, what is this? I know, it was very, very shocking. And I saw how the whole episode affected the whole family. And then I said, Okay, I started reading about it. And so, you know, being in technology, solving so many problems in India and outside, here is a problem, which is taking away 90,000 lives in India alone, and more than 600,000 lives around the world, when breast cancer is a completely curable type of cancer, right? So how, you know, how can technology help? That’s what I started thinking more about it with my friends, discussing with imaging experts to see if mammography, the only solution? Well, it doesn’t work on women under 45. And this is where we’re seeing more and more cases coming up instances coming up. And during that process, I did meet Dr. Mehta, who mentioned thermal imaging which was used for breast cancer earlier, long, long ago. And I thought, Okay, why not experiment? You know, given that there’s so much job advancement that has happened in the algorithmic space, right, you know, where we have machine based intelligence computers with vision, and so on. So we started experimenting, this combination of thermography and imaging as a, like,”side project”, you know, and also a couple of exploratory project few members I added as a lab director. And then yeah, I mean, I thought there is something here and decided to quit my previous organization to start NIRAMAI.


Siddhartha 14:04

And what are the key milestones that NIRAMAI has achieved a lot till now and start?


Geetha 14:11

I think me, personally, I feel it is we’ve come a long way. Of course, we have a longer way to go. But I never thought when I just jumped out of my previous organization. Never Know what it’s going to be like an entrepreneur because I have always been within question of the corporate environment. And of course, lead big teams but you know, there’s more to entrepreneurship than just managing teams or managing cloud programs projects. Within about six months or so, I convinced a hospital to provide the solution, you know, as a reference customer BMS hospital, gave this as a test in their own hospital. So that I think was a major thing, because here is a way of providing privacy of a screening to women, and do it in a remote fashion building using SAS, right, you know, using cloud and so on. So you can have doctors come in and see the reports or images as and when needed or whenever that is done. And also having tools like what we develop the software analysis analytics that we call it as the engine which generates the scores, and it’s a more quantitative analysis of imaging or systems. Most of all, you know, having women come in and actually use this test, take the test, you know, the safe, of course, but still believe in it. And to take it right. To get to this, we need to cover the medical legal issues, we need to definitely cover clinical issues. And finally, we should never do anything wrong to the end user, right,we are here to save lives. And we cannot just put this in front of the women, just because you know, we are entrepreneurs, and we want to try to do any harm to the patient. So getting all this right, within six to eight months time. And putting as a reference customer location was I think it’s a biggest milestone, of course, this involves discussions with hospitals, discussions, doctors doing a small clinical trial, and also having doctors who are willing to sort of accept our report and give authentic, you know, screening impressions or to quality observations at the end of the preventative stream. And then I think the next milestone, so this also required us to sort of, you know, get the product, right, in at least the first version of the product that can be used by others, not just our our own team. Right. So that was also milestone. And I think the next big milestone was to understand the limits of this right, you know, for example, we wanted to see whether this test can be done only inside a hospital or do we really, can we support this large scale adoption, right, in rural and other places. So we partner with Canada Cancer Society, and, you know, this is the time where, you know, as in, I used to actually go to van to sort of rural parts to see how it is to do a camp and so that kind of, you know, gave us an understanding of limits, and, you know, what are the additional requirements of doing this? This test, right, you know, for example, we had to make the test work in the hands off simple health workers, you know, who initially even didn’t know how to type in left, when they say left wrist le FDA ago led you know, there are lots of electricity related issues also, obviously, we had to handle that. And then they used to make mistakes, you know, obviously, we had to ask for re imaging in Chile, right. So, all it was, it was a big thing. And then when you go outside, you know, you cannot assume that even though there is an air conditioner in the room, that it actually works, you know, so that, you know, how do you take care of these ground realities of making these things work? I think the limits were really really and another thing is also we said okay, can you just put a curtain between the laptop and the device that is doing the thermal screening, and bingo basically completely privacy resolution, where the technician could be at the other side of the screen and the lady was getting screenings one side. So this also gave us some kind of understanding of additional value propositions that will make more women come forward. I think there’s again a lot of learning in the first one or two deployments and so on. So with this screening, kind of an experience, we said okay, why not provide this as a corporate screening, so that, you know, because women has started to come to a hospital to come to a cancer hospital for a test, can we take the test to themselves right. So, we started providing corporate screening in offices and, you know, the kind of response we got from women was like really, really wonderful, right? In Chile, when we did the, you know, announced a corporate campaign I remember very well, this was in one of the companies in Bangalore, we announced and four people registered I said like what is the use we have announced and only four people registered because there was this apprehension What is his best cancelable I don’t have symptoms do I need to do screening and all that after the first two people went through our test right you know, they went out and call the whole office and trust me like I was there in the camp till late evening for 7:30pm you know, team wanted to go home. We had to extend it by another day and so on so forth. So I think this, you know, learning of the experience and how we make the experience of the patient, you know, really seamless so they feel good. And coming for these kinds of screening procedures is also very, very important in this whole game. And right now, as far as our of us forward, we’ve done about 33,000 screenings and we’ve got partners such as it CG hospital, we have partners like Apollo clinics, health, splaying BMS hospital, CMI, and also screening partners. And you know, like a b2c partners like 1mg also, right, you know, all of them, Nightingale, and all of them are to take a solution to lots and lots of them. Then last, again, last but not the least COVID taught us much, much more. I mean, people are not going to hospitals, but cancer is not going to wait because COVID is around, right. So so we innovated expanding our screening experience, I would say, we have now launched home screening of cancer for the first time who’s getting breast health for the first time, where women who will have some symptoms or not even a symptom, but they just want regular screening can just register from our website on our website and sort of, you know, get our team to visit their home and get this thing done within half an hour. So I think this is also an extremely learning experience, and a lot of innovation, that our team is able to support and respond to the occasion that COVID has thrown at us. It’s been a great learning experience.


Siddhartha 21:43

So please help me understand that worldwide till now mammogram has been the main device for breast cancer screening, right? How is the technology at NIRAMAI like, better than mammogram?


Geetha 22:02

Yeah, so, mammograms are good. And actually, in fact, it’s the only test which is proven to increase the survival rates of women, in terms of, you know, really large clinical trials and so on. It’s good, but it does have limitations, right. You know, for example, it does not work on women under 45 years of age, because we’re required to call as dense press, you know, to kind of fibromyalgia tissue, that many of the women who are like about 45 also have this and also younger women definitely have this so, so whole breast appears white and you’re not able to find a white spot, which is likely cancer. And so, this is a big limitation, and which again, people are becoming aware clinicians are able to mention this to the end users. In fact, there are rules which say that people need to know the overall breast density to see whether mammography results can be dependent upon or not. The other aspect is also affordability and accessibility angle which is a big deal for countries like India, where 1000 rupees test cannot be you know, administered for everyone, even a working lady will think twice you know, before paying that much because we are talking about every person going through screening once a year, right, irrespective of whether she has a you know, symptoms or not. And so that sort of is another second limitation and also the machine itself is so expensive, the capex is so high that small diagnostic centers are not able to provide this test. And so this again increases the accessibility issues that these tests are because women hesitate to go to a cancer hospital for screening so that’s another big issue. Again, last but not the least radiation bestest, you know, which is something that I’m completely against, of how can you use x rays to detect cancer when every test can be beat by a small amount, but if you can increase that is, you know, exposure for cancer. So that’s sort of the big gaps and NIRAMAI what we have done is to basically use thermal sensing as you introduced in the beginning, where we just measure the temperature variations on the chest and women awaited on the analysis, quantitative analysis of these temperature points like per person, we measure 400,000 that is four lakh temperature points with these high resolution and high sensitivity, thermal sensors, thermo cameras. And then once you have that much data per person, you definitely need, you know, a smart engine to analyze that to see whether something’s going wrong and when there is a lesion. You know, it turns out that there are some tonal patterns which can be called abnormal and accommodation Of these multiple zoning Park patterns is what you know very roughly what a machine learning algorithm is able to model and detect. And that’s what we do. And so what we have done is create this technology we called thermalytics, which is a combination of thermal imaging and AI. And we provide this end to end solution to the hospital’s diagnostic Center, which now is noncontact. non invasive. Like I said, it’s completely privacy aware where nobody touches on sees the person, it’s completely radiation free, because we use just temperature on the skin. It does work on women of all ages, because it does not depend on density just depends on what you can picture in which all of us have similar. It does work on male as well, not just on women. And finally, it is much much more affordable. And because it is affordable, both OPEX and capex wise, it can also be provided in small diagnostic centers, which increases accessibility.


Siddhartha 26:07

What’s the cost of a test to a person?


Geetha 26:11

So in a hospital, it’s about one third the cost of a mammography machine manual, if you test , which basically can be around 1500 rupees in India. This is a detailed report signed by radiologists and so on, maybe go for trial, you can wait for the doctor’s review for every test because the camp is so huge and people will know, just go home write the test. So it has to be real time. So it’s also an innovation we learned and we kind of had to make the engine so robust and so accurate, that we are able to confidently give provisional reporting completely automatically with health workers, you know administering this test. And of course, because it’s all cloud hosted it whenever there is a doubt we can hit the button, and then we get the experts online to review it as needed. And so this is almost 100 rupees per test, as you mean, the hardware is covered.


Siddhartha 27:10

In camps, you are mentioning when whenever,


Geetha 27:13

yeah, in rural areas where it’s a charging


Siddhartha 27:16

How many locations is the device and the technology deployed?


Geetha 27:23

yeah, so in initial few, few months, we focused only on Bangalore and we had a Hyderabad partner with a very cool close partner. And so, now we have it in 15 cities in India, established in multiple metros Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Bhuvneshwar and Dehradun and all of these places, so upon all of these places, we do have the test available with the home screening coming along. You know, we do provide this test in many more, you know, outskirts of these areas as well. And we have started a new program for our people, who are homemakers, generally, but they do have some spare time, and they want to do some kind of service to women around them. So we train them provide the skills needed so that they can provide home screening around their own locations be in tier two, tier three cities as well. And this is a program that newly launched, we’re just going through the training, and so on so forth, right.


Siddhartha 28:31

It has been a phenomenal journey. I believe in the last four years what you have been and your team has been able to accomplish. So how has been the fundraising part of your journey been as an entrepreneur? What were the challenges during that part? And what are the challenges currently, which you think, you know, you face to scale it to, let’s say 100 cities in India, and maybe even abroad in developed markets?


Geetha 28:57

Yeah, I think the challenges of fundraising is same for all entrepreneurs, for healthcare becomes slightly difficult because the time to market is a little slower. So if you just go by the financial metrics, obviously there’ll be much, much more attractive startups, you know, but it’s like a list versus reward. Right? You know, how big or bad you know how many venture VCs or angel investors will take that big bet, right? No. And make a call as to? Yes, this is probably a breakthrough innovation for breast screening. And we’ll go ahead and break the barriers of a very well established test right now. This is a question that moves to investors’ heads. I mean, yeah, of course, that that doubt is still there. But thankfully, we do have 30,000 plus women, you know, were able to come and stand in front of us and take the test. You know, it’s the trust of the end users and we have 70 plus hospitals who have actually fully convinced their doctors convince their management to actually give this test which means, you know, that is some stuff and of course, we do have clinical validation with this. So, initially, when we didn’t have any of these, you know, we just had an algorithm, I think the the main person who trusted in this is from piventures Soni Umakant, where we met second day itself, they said, there is really something in this technology and, you know, we were able to close the first job on funding the seed round pretty quickly, and we were under some pressure to you know, raise that fund also, because every, every machine at that time was costing point five lakhs, so even to do some simple stuff, a lot of money for us to start with. And, and this, this also mean that, you know, you have to buy the device, right, so that way. And after that, of course, in that round, we had access to other The cdca was slightly more longer, because now we had about two years of work, and we to really show the results. And, you know, we met people who made a 6 million series A and B, and I actually met multiple investors this time, you know, many, many more investors, then we met in seed round for the 15 investors, right, where you really have to find an alignment with the vision, alignment of the direction may be going, and also, you know, patient, you know, investors who can wait till we actually sort of go to the scale, I think, still, of course, we had Japanese investors who completely believed in us dream incubator came in as a lead investor, then we have been axed, and a couple of strategic investors also coming in, you know, that fundraise really helped us so that we could actually get on board. For the experienced leaders on our board, we have a Chief Business Officer join into legit multiple senior people join in, and also grow the team from both skills as well as, you know, blatten depth, I would say, right, you know, so that was good. And yeah, I mean, right now, we are about 55. Plus people, you know, everyone is charged aligned with vision. And, and also our investors team, I would still call it the Mr. Team is really like an extended team for us. Because, you know, they’re also so aligned, and so want to be engaged with what we’re doing. And it’s been fun recently, we almost finished our audit for our European regulatory, and so on. So we are very excited to move forward and look forward to the next round, hopefully, later, this year or next year. Yeah, it’s been very engaging the investors, have you also super networking, help write to connect with the writer, potential partners and so on. Yeah, I mean, there are many challenges. But I think as an entrepreneur, you have to sit in the kind of try to sit in the shoes of the master, and then say, okay, vision is good, I want to do this for good of the human being, but at the end of the day, you know, even the finances have to make sense, right? You need to have all the stories and all the homework ready for you like in terms of market size, what are the business models you have? What product market fit, you see. So if you know, in the first meeting, you will not have everything, once you get the questions, you go back home, try to sort of, you know, learn and build the story. Right.


Siddartha 33:50

Then, if you are able to meet the investors with the right vision, and right focus, in terms of the team of investing, thesis for investing, I think it is still possible. I mean, there is a good idea you will always be a good investor was interested in


Siddhartha 34:11

Being a healthcare startup in India, especially in the hardware plus software sector, it’s just not distribution of medicines, like most startups is very key technology. For what what have been the, you know, the major roadblocks in your journey. This besides the one you just mentioned? And do you think, is there a time that India can really innovate in healthcare? Like, what would be the key factor?


Geetha 34:43

Definitely. I think this is the time India can innovate in healthcare. So that’s an easy answer. Let me go with that first. Because this is a time where people are also caring for their health, you know, earlier, preventative mindset was not there. Even though it’s not there, but it’s much, much better, you know, these are some of the good things that COVID has done to the world, right, you know, people do care about their health now. And they know what not being healthy can mean to the world, it means it’s really, really important. So that is that right? And, and, and also, there’s a lot of higher budget we see, right, you know, the Indian government and other governments are putting so they mean, the government has realized that health is an important sector and increasing the budget. I think these two things and also this huge amount of problems here, right, you know, unsolved, especially if you look at affordable, accessible Health Care Technology can make a huge difference, because, you know, they can provide, like additional skills and expertise to the lower skilled people in the framework, and enable scalability to the doctor. So there’s a huge opportunity, and that the 1000s of diseases to be solved, right? You know, and there’s no dearth of businesses that you want, there’s no dearth of issues here we want to solve right. So this is definitely a great time to do a healthcare startup. In terms of sort of other challenges, you know, clinical efficacy of the result is fair game, we can’t say we will do a health tech startup and go with the lab level, you know, research, trying to show this work on real patients of walking into a hospital, and trying to show that your solution is in some form, maybe result wise, experienced by anything in some form, it’s better than the current solution, showing that cannot be in your slide deck or inside a lab, you know, it has to be on the real ground, I think there’s a huge difference between the two platforms, testing, and that, also for diseases like cancer, it’s, it’s a big deal, because I know it’s a decision that’s screening is a decision of saying yes or no, a person has abnormality or no abnormality. And it’s one of the biggest news that the lady can get, you know, I guess worse, you certainly can get if she’s positive. So it’s a really critical decision that a machine is now you know, claiming to do right, in our case, so you can imagine the amount of scrutiny that our solution would have gone through, right, when we say we’ll go to the doctor and say, You are a cancer specialist. And you can use our to say whether somebody has cancer. I mean, it’s a big, big, big, big leap of faith in AI, in the technology, like thermography, and so on. So this was, I think, the hardest of the challenges we have faced so far right in to prove the clinical efficacy. And we didn’t do any shortcut, we said, okay, fine, let’s try it out on your own patients, and we took the exam very, you know, blindly, in the sense, like, as they wanted consensus, like not looking at the answers, and so on, so forth. And I think that was the one of the main things and getting these clinicians, doctors essentially is key, as our partners was very, very crucial, because I appreciate because they, they give us the knowledge that you know, as an engineer, or like, you know, scientist, you’re not able to relate to merging the minds of clinician and engineer, then I think that that was very critical in solving many of these sort of the solution, which is in between the clinical and AI space, I think that is one of the biggest challenge that we face. And also, the second one is a mindset one mindset is one AI will replace doctors. So that is one mindset, that we have to say no, this is going to just help you, right? When they are your customers. And if this are having this negative, negative mindset, how do you kind of get this going. So that’s the second one and third one is also thermography has had a lot of some kind of a bad mouth thing before because some people have misused it and so on. So, you know, getting that right and proving that we are even better is definitely better than thermography no setting these trials in place, so that we prove it on the ground. So still, even now when we go to customers, you know, especially when you get very reputed doctors, they’ll say can you and you know, free test 400 of my patients, 30 patients, whatever my toughness of the patients before I accept. So, we do go through this clinical evaluation in formal formal way continuously and I think that there is a challenge we are willing to take because we are here to prove that this works. I mean, we have evolved from like learning how to and now we are confident that it is actually working. And so we are we are open to take those challenges of, people testing this out before buying and so on and anyone who has tested actually have gone ahead and bought the solution. So yeah, a lot of challenges are scaling as well. And kind of leadership positions. People come back when they see these big challenges, you know, they get discouraged sometimes and it’s important to Important to sort of, you know, take the leadership team with you, and give them the courage. I mean, you can only do as much as we can. But yeah, it’s been challenging. In general, people enjoy challenges will love, not love the job of an entrepreneur.


Siddhartha 40:20

And you have both the role of the CEO and the CTO in the corner. So I think that that must, again, you know, take a lot of bandwidth, because you are adding the tech team as a business team, as well as all the key decisions regarding fundraise. You think, right, at some moment, we will start, you know, hiring for those positions, and focus on innovation because you have been an innovator?


Geetha 40:54

I don’t know, I uh, definitely we are having we have already now hired very senior leaders. Also, we have a head of engineering, now we have head of products, and also the head of data science right now. So because this is a technology led solution, right? I’m on this technology mindset, to some extent, I do not handle any day to day technology issues anymore at all, I do have very, very able people that I just give a guidance when they are stuck, because we are trying to do something very new, you know, I mean, that’s nobody else’s done before. And so there are going to be some challenges and kind of roadblocks. And that’s really when I get involved. You will see many, many successful companies who have technology. leaders, especially when you’re trying to do innovation, I think it’s very important for the head of the organization, to know about the product as well, I mean, it’s not, it’s not just sales at all, like, you know, you’re not, especially for healthcare, I you know, your sales may take some time, right, you know, whenever, whenever it’s ready to be accepted by people, which is accepted by people, which already has, I’m very, very happy to give any of the CXO tools to anyone who is more capable than me to take this forward. Absolutely. I’ve no hassles or no love for the chair. It’s really, I really love the impact that the product can do. And whatever it takes to make that happen. I’m saying.


Siddhartha 42:39

What do you think? At what point? You know, you estimate that there will be an inflection point where currently, you have to convince people convinced that you have reached a very high milestone 17 Hospital supporting you 33 patients in what are we the inflection where there will be a bond a huge demand thing where you don’t have to go and sell it?


Geetha 43:04

Yeah. So I think now we are almost in that stage for India. Right, you know, right now, let’s say for screening, you know, nobody ever asks a question. I mean, it’s, we just go for it. I mean, because I think we are proven enough, we have shown So many designs in that space, we have good partners, for hospitals, also, they only want to see whether it will work in their condition. Sometimes one day camp is all that they asked for, which is also fine. And with the you know, big hospitals chains coming in, I think in India, we are finding a lot of positive traction already not much effort for sales as we used to have before. Recently, as I mentioned, we also got an ISO 1345 clearance as in, we finished the audit and we are expecting a certificate anytime. And also a CE marking. So that has given us like I believe is going to be a huge inflection point, which we’ve just reached, I would say for not just in India, for several other countries in the Asian area, as well as Europe and several other regions as well. And so that, you know, I’m very glad to say that hopefully, within the next month, we will actually have the certificate to show and say that, yeah, we’ve reached that inflection point. And so the way it works is that basically you have new new frontiers to you know, to take care of let’s say international expansion is a different kind of frontier, right you know, so that so wherever this slide established, kind of a productor aspect of it, you know, you have a senior leader taking care of it and a lot more to find that, you know, when your challenges that this particular technology forces so so that we I think we are in a good shape right now. And the next inflection point is our international expansion which I hope to see this year as a team To move forward beyond India, of course make established in India and beyond India in some sense. And I guess there’s no stopping because the technology is now proven. And we definitely wanted to focus on one problem, that’s breast cancer. But there’s no reason why this should be only for breast cancer, right. It’s a technology that we have developed and can be used for several other types of cancers, because all other types of cancers are many, many of those also depict a similar thermal signature that we can find to them. So not just for cancer as well, this can be used to several other type of abnormalities in the body. So this is just a beginning, in my opinion, and we have, you know, a really huge opportunity in front of us to use our patented technology for making a new platform for detecting abnormalities in the body in a non invasive non contact, you know, in a way that health worker can do it right, you know, and in a very affordable manner, inside a hospital or outside of hospitals. So I think it’s a huge, huge opportunity. And, yeah, I mean, we can’t do it alone. As a startup, you know, we have to partner with the ecosystem in doing so every partnership is also an inflection point. So I look forward to these additional inflection points that come in to take the solution to every lady on Earth.


Siddhartha 46:23

Thank you for much, Geeta, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the podcast. Phenomenal one.


Geetha 46:29

Thanks a lot.


Siddhartha 46:31

And I hope you have all the adoptions happen fast so that we see, you know, people not suffering because of breast cancer in the society, the prevention becomes much more of the first step rather people discovering the stage for it might be able to bring that change.


Geetha 46:53

Thank you so much, that it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. And just to let you know, I mean, I came to this program right after a mega webinar, a seminar that we conducted on cancer awareness on location of the world cancer day on February 4, and we said this, prevention is better than cure, definitely everyone knows this prevention is more affordable than cure. Prevention is also much easier than cure. Right. And so I think it’s very important to have our mindset on prevention, regular screening, wellness, taking care of lifestyle, and so on. And these AI enabled point of care devices, which help us take care of our health in a quantitative fashion. I think that’s very, very important. And thank you very much for providing me this platform to sort of reach to a few more people who can take care of their health and hopefully, you know, partner with the rest making this happen to everyone in the world. Thank you so much.


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