Geetha Manjunath, Founder of Bengaluru-based healthtech startup Niramai, says it is important for people to work and enjoy it, and to do it because “one loves it, and not for the end results”.
Quoting the idea from the Bhagavad Gita, she says enjoying the job at hand – be it entrepreneurship, a job, or an exam – and achieving a bigger goal beyond their own selves will help people get through the challenges in their way.
“I also believe in learning something new every day and being open. This can take one along their way. One will also meet and have friends who will help in reaching the bigger goal,” Geetha says.
Founded in 2016, Niramai has developed an AI-based breast cancer screening solution. Its cloud-hosted analytics solution uses big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning algorithms for early breast cancer screening.
Geetha, who completed her PhD from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), was working as Lab Director at Xerox Research Centre India prior to starting up. There, she was responsible for mentoring machine learning and analytics researchers for developing innovative solutions in healthcare, transportation, education, and customer care sectors.
During that time, her cousin was diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer. Another relative who was much younger was also diagnosed with cancer.
“That was the time when I started reading about it…Here is a problem that is taking away 90,000 lives in India alone and more than 600,000 lives across the world when breast cancer is a curable disease. So I started thinking how can technology help solve this problem,” she explains.
After consulting experts, Geetha began experimenting with solutions combining thermography, imaging, and machine learning as a “side project” during her stint as a Lab Director. Eventually, she left the position to launch Niramai and build solutions for faster and accurate diagnosis of breast cancer.
Future of the healthcare sector
Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 and the future of healthcare, Geetha says technology offers a huge opportunity to solve accessibility and affordability issues in the sector and can also be used for skilling and scaling up healthcare professionals.
According to her, COVID-19 has also helped people realise the importance of maintaining one’s health. She explains that people are now slowly understanding the importance of preventive healthcare.
“People do care about their health. Now they know what not being healthy can mean…These are some things that COVID-19 has changed across the world,” she says.
She also adds that government’s focus on the sector through increased budget allocation this year will also help in creating more opportunities and strengthening it.
In this episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, a series featuring founders, venture capitalists, and angel investors, Geetha spoke to Siddhartha Ahluwalia about her entrepreneurial journey, launching Niramai, and the future of tech in healthcare sector.
Listen to the podcast here
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 for Niramai