As the demand for medical consultation services in Africa and other regions of the world continues to grow with the supply, not at the same pace, the need for alternative methods, using technology, continues to be more apparent. Digital platforms such as Egypt’s Esaal are coming up with the aim of catering to this demand.
Egyptian health and wellness platform Esaal has raised $1.7 million in a seed financing round from A15. Following the new round, the startup which was launched in 2018 has raised a total of $3 million in funding.
Esaal provides medical consultation services on physical health, mental health, and nutrition. With the new funding, the online-based medical consultation platform wants to scale its operations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It will also hire more talents while working on product and brand development.
Esaal’s appearance is quite a timely one. According to several reports, there is a growing rate of mental health crises among people in the MENA region. About 35 percent of people in the region suffer from frequent stress, another 29 percent from depression while obesity continues to reach new highs among adults. This can be blamed on people refusing to seek medical help as a result of the associated stigma, but Esaal wants to change that.
According to Esaal’s founder and CEO Fadi Doss, “There is high demand when it comes to needing to talk to someone specialized in mental health. But most people have a fear of going physically to a center to see a therapist or psychiatrist. It’s not common still; people would love to do it.” The founder and CEO said he noticed how people were really comfortable with sharing personal problems on social media while receiving information and recommendations from people who weren’t even specialists or experts. Of course, most of these people didn’t use their real identities. Fadi Doss thus recognized a budding opportunity that became the Esaal of today.
“We decided to have a platform that connects the user to the expert, where he or she can get a personalized and real answer for health concerns in a straightforward and smooth way. And if we talk about nutrition, it’s becoming a bit trendy here in the region because obesity among adults is becoming quite high. We can see people started to care much more about their nutrition and wellness,” he said.
Today, Esaal has more than 350 consultants attending to patients on its platform. These consultants provide services that cover various medical issues such as anxiety, depression, pediatrics, nutrition, and physiotherapy. The platform’s services can be accessed via its app in the form of texts, video, and voice calls, and in-person visitations are options that are provided. Users can pay for these services using their credit card, Fawry, Vodafone, and even in cash.
Esaal also runs a B2B2C model which allows it to partner with companies and provides these services to their employees. It has partnered with more than 10 medium to large companies and currently charges subscription and on-demand fees.
Apart from Egypt, Esaal’s services are available in seven countries across the MENA and GCC region. They include Iraq, Palestine, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.
Esaal, since it started has received all its investments from a sole investor – A15. Karim Beshara, the firm’s managing partner on the investment said that “They have been prudent in the deployment of capital to date, demonstrating outstanding efficiencies in unit economics, which has enabled their expansion ambitions. We are proud to see their growth and enjoyed building the business with them throughout the last four years. There is so much more to come from Esaal and this sector,” noting that the company has been able to run a capital-efficient business with just the funds it received so far from its sole investor.
“There’s huge potential going deeper inside every country we are currently in and penetrating more countries in the region. Yes, we launched in eight countries, but I believe the potential is still enormous, and we can get multiples upon multiples in the coming four or five years,” Esaal’s founder and CEO said adding that the company expects a revenue CAGR of around 50 to 60% between 2021 and 2025.