We are focusing on people who are serious about being healthy rather than going after the larger population, says the founder of the digital healthcare start-up
Focused on preventive health since its inception in 2014, GOQii has been endeavouring to deliver distinctive user experiences through fitness gamification and healthcare rewards. It has now upped the game by introducing a digital health metaverse that further enables real-world health and fitness to merge with the digital universe.
GOQii announced its foray into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this week, its third market after India and the UK, to establish its presence with a comprehensive Web3-based preventive health ecosystem. Its partnership with the UAE's Harley International Medical Clinic will allow the country's residents to avail comprehensive digital diabetes care program with an option to create a virtual avatar connected with their GOQii Age app.
In an exclusive interview on the sidelines of this event, Vishal Gondal, GOQii's Founder and Chief Executive Officer, tells Outlook Business why he believes gamified holistic health management is the future of healthcare.
What is the metaverse's role in personal healthcare and wellness?
Metaverse is more of a transition to the internet of the future, with powerful devices, faster connectivity, and changes in user interface and how one interacts with an application. It is a global trend and not healthcare specific. Mark Zuckerberg is so serious about metaverse that he changed Facebook's name to Meta to emphasise this concept.
In the current context of larger decentralised companies, data is owned by organisations like Microsoft, Facebook or Google. However, in Web3 and open metaverse, the user owns it.
Data breaches exist even in the decentralised world. While the user is in charge of it, as a collaborator, how will GOQii build a business model on the foundation of trust?
The best thing about our business is that we will not be data custodians. Since all the data is on the blockchain, there is nothing to be hacked.
At the same time, the metaverse is no different from the real world; one could get mugged in any city, be it London or New York. Similarly, while malicious actors will be keen to steal data in the digital world, the way to counter it is by creating security policies and frameworks. You will need a policy in the metaverse, just like in the real world, to ensure there are no bots or bad actors.
Will you invest in security as a stakeholder in a user's data journey, nonetheless?
While there will be encryption on the blockchain, it can be potentially breached. All I am saying is that a lot of this is under development and will take years, not months.
The problem is that one only knows that their data has been hacked if they read a news article because they do not know who is storing or stealing it. Web3 will bring transparency because in the metaverse, you will be your data's custodian and will see if it is hacked.
Doesn't that make GOQii's role tricky since you have payments, a sweet spot for cyberattacks, and sensitive healthcare data?
Payment is not integrated within our metaverse. We have partnered with financial entities like the National Payments Council of India (NPCI) to enable payments on our wearable devices. But we don't take care of any security on the financial transactions; NPCI and our banking partners do it.
We are just a conduit to enabling the payments and hence have no role in payment processing.
Should a payment breach, unfortunately, take place, won’t the customer of a GOQii product have a level of expectation that the accountability lies with your company?
Of course, and we will help them. But ultimately, the finances are connected to the bank account, and we are facilitators.
How will you educate customers about this accountability?
It will be a process. This metaverse roll-out will be done in a phased manner over the next 18 to 24 months with several trials. We demonstrated today a test run that we will initiate with around 100 customers, which we will scale to more people gradually.
Have you set a target of the percentage of existing users you want to transition towards the metaverse?
Actually, we are yet to earmark that since we are still running trials. We don't want to introduce something till we have completely tested it.
GOQii's user base is mainly in India and stands at about a million active users. However, we are taking the metaverse overseas since it is not connected to our device exclusively. You can use any device, be it Apple, FitBit or Garmin, which will hopefully expand our user base.
Is it also because you expect better uptake for your metaverse service in more developed countries like the UAE?
We are running trials in the UAE under the guidance of the Dubai Health Authority. It is a great place to test this concept since they are creating a regulatory framework for the metaverse.
Incidentally, GOQii is already certified with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, India's national regulatory body for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. However, getting a metaverse project up and running will require working with several governmental bodies since we collaborate with various entities be it in insurance, healthcare or banking.
How are you leveraging data to help your customers?
Data is at the core of our business and we are creating a data lake. For instance, while underwriting, insurance companies offer a higher coverage to one individual as compared to the other, which is done based on data.
We encourage our users to pursue a healthier lifestyle to reach certain milestones and then reward them with tangible benefits. For instance, if someone reduces their weight, they can avail a higher insurance coverage from our insurance partners.
You started GOQii Cash in 2018. What will happen to that as you shift to the metaverse?
GOQii Cash are loyalty points, which will become a token over 24 months. As more people accept the metaverse concept, we will create a network where companies will issue tokens and other organisations will accept it.
For instance, you collect reward points while flying an airline and then redeem those points in a hotel. We will create a similar network.
How have you utilised the $10 million that you raised from Animoca earlier this year and $50 million from other investors in February 2022?
Our whole play is preventive healthcare and Web3, and taking it global by entering new markets like the UAE. We will be looking at Japan, the UK and the US.
Preventive healthcare is the future. We want to take this model outside India and find the right partners.
Our model outside India is a partnership model, whether it is Mitsui, Animoca or Modality who have invested in us. We are not going to traditional investors and taking dumb money; we are taking smart capital, where the partner comes with capital and a go-to-market strategy.
How do you ensure that your devices, which are the vehicles for preventive healthcare, reach people who actually need it?
We are focusing on people who are serious about being healthy rather than going after the larger population. Our average user is a 35-year-old, typically someone with a healthcare condition or who wants to improve their health. Since they are already spending heavily on medicines, they are willing to pay a fraction of that on GOQii.
We are not targeting the youth who buy our wearables for style.
Calling smart wearables unproven screening tools, doctors warn that they could accentuate non-severe cases, resulting in anxiety, costly testing and unnecessary treatment. Do you agree?
If you monitor a particular company's share prices daily, you might get palpitations that get registered on the smart wearable device. This is data too, but by itself, it does not have much value.
We look at patterns in data rather than seeing how it acts in isolation. That is also why we have health coaches. They analyse this information, glean insights and present it to users to improve their lives. So, our role is to guide, motivate, empower and reward.