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Meet the CEO: An Interview with Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh on Launching and Leading CancerAid

Meet the CEO: An Interview with Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh on Launching and Leading CancerAid

  • CancerAid is an oncology focused digital health startup founded in 2015
  • CancerAid provides a personalised touch to cancer treatment and helps patients through this challenging time

Radiation Oncologist and CEO, Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh has been part of the digital health scene since co-founding CancerAid in 2015. He has been a medical doctor for more than a decade and holds a strong vision and ambition for the future of health technology.  Whilst in oncology training, Dr Murali-Ganesh established various ventures that lead to a passion for entrepreneurship, ultimately teaching him the ins and outs of business through first-hand experience.

In this interview, Dr Murali-Ganesh describes the different aspects of his life that have contributed to the growth of his digital health company CancerAid. The aim of CancerAid’s platform and service is to give a personalised touch to cancer treatment and help patients through this challenging time meaningfully and effectively. Just like many of his fellow clinicians and researchers, Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh has observed that better engagement and patient outcomes can be realised as the adoption of technology amongst doctors and patients increases.

The journey of CancerAid all started when Dr Murali-Ganesh was on the path towards specialising as an oncologist. While juggling with exams, he worked on CancerAid part-time and gained the first round of investment a year after the company’s inception. The early stages posed great challenges in terms of commercialisation, hence the need to take some time off clinical practice to work on a sustainable business model and to explore which developments of the technology would fit the market.

With the historical conservativeness in the health industry, coupled with misaligned incentivisation and complicated decision-making, commercializing digital health is tough. Dr Murali-Ganesh understood how valuable it is to be able to draw from experiences in both clinical practice and entrepreneurship when leading a health technology startup. With the ability to consult on both business problems and contribute to insightful conversations around contemporary issues of the medical industry, he has been able to fast track meaningful discussions with key decision-makers.

In hindsight, Dr Murali-Ganesh reflects that he would have primarily focused on solving the commercial problems and followed with the clinical ones. In order to support cancer patients, the company needed commercial partners and clinicians to adopt their solutions, and he quickly learned that disrupting the industry is a far greater challenge than getting patients to adopt the technology.

Top Insights for leading a successful start-up

Juggling clinical work whilst running a successful company certainly takes its toll but Dr Murali-Ganesh stresses that having a good team and communication practises makes it all that much easier. He strives to lead with empathy and understanding and believes strongly in treating everyone with respect and aligning the team with the company goals and mission.

Like many in his position, Dr Murali-Ganesh observes the differences in human behaviour when it comes to leadership. There are often clear discrepancies between the communication style of someone that is being reported to in comparison to when someone is reporting to them.  He stands clear that in any situation that requires management, equal respect should be given to both parties. Having the right people on board, with the right attitude has been crucial for the growth and commercialisation of CancerAid.

The quick pace of a startup easily results in periods of increased workload which may sometimes get overwhelming. No matter how tough times are, Dr Murali-Ganesh mentioned that the key pillar of support is his family. Whilst his wife lends an ear to listen to challenging problems, his lovely 18-month-old daughter allows him to switch off temporarily from the oftentimes hectic work life. Family plays a significant role in Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh’s life and his father has always been his greatest inspiration. As a charismatic people-person, his dad was able to build incredible relationships and businesses, something that he continuously admires and strives towards.

Managing a health crisis as a business owner and doctor

During this COVID-19 crisis, the engagement and welfare of the company, its employees, patients and partners were prioritised. He is exceptionally proud of how his team stepped up during this challenging time and highlights a LinkedIn article published by his colleague and CancerAid COO, Timothy Atkins. The article outlines how COVID-19 has improved CancerAid and its operations, a stark difference from the negative impact the media often portrays. With deliberate communication, ‘good morning’ calls, virtual informal discussions and quiz competitions, productivity, teamwork and output has increased greatly. In addition, with continual check-ins on team members, they were able to reduce employees’ feelings of isolation, allowing the company to cope well in these unusual circumstances.

The ongoing pandemic has posed challenges when making business decisions and some of CancerAid’s expansion plans have had to be put on hold or slowed down. On the plus side, with 16 existing commercial partners, CancerAid has been given the bandwidth to form deeper relationships and more meaningful extensions to their service offering. With the growing need for remote solutions, COVID-19 has also resulted in an increased adoption for CancerAid’s patient support program amongst partners and patients.

Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh says changes in an insurer partner’s workflow (owing to COVID), led to fewer referral volumes onto CancerAid’s support program.  CancerAid was fortunate in that its partner’s key decision-makers recognised the impact of this on patients in need of help, and allowed CancerAid to develop a technology solution through which patients could by-pass the claims ecosystem and receive help from CancerAid coaches at the time that matters. Positive referral volumes are beneficial for both our insurer partners and CancerAid because when we get referred more patients, we can demonstrate a larger return on investment for them.

Ongoing challenges in HealthTech commercialisation

Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh is grateful to have explored many parts of the globe and learned to appreciate a diversity of cultures whilst living in Iran, UK, India and Australia. He chose Australia as the hot-spot to start a business, due to the great talent pool, government incentives and ease of visibility when getting a business going. However, one downside he has noticed is that even with CancerAid’s growing  market share and successful attainment of its revenue milestones, it has been, at times, challenging to address valuation with investors.  Dr Murali-Ganesh suspects this may relate to unfamiliarity with the technology and service underpinning CancerAid’s offerings and a lack of significant comparable exits achieved locally. Dr Murali-Ganesh also emphasises that the barriers to adoption of technology are oftentimes due to the conservative nature of healthcare. Due to the current unforeseen circumstances, doctors now have to treat patients remotely and digital health has stepped in. HealthTech has finally been able to show its promise, to not disintermediate the conversation, but rather augment and improve clinician-patient conversations. He strongly believes that with growing exposure to the efficiency of digital health, improvements in patient outcomes will be inevitable in the long run.

About the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort

The Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort is the only acceleration programme built to scale digital health startups to be the next generation powering healthcare innovation in the New Normal in Asia. In 2020, Galen Growth is working with 25 HealthTech startups which will benefit from Galen Growth’s long-established and unmatched curated community of investors, corporate leaders and innovation teams and other essential stakeholders through our proven multi-channel tools. For more information, visit Galen Growth’s HealthTech Cohort webpage or read this article on the launch of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort.

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