Guddi Bajis: Connected Care for COVID-19
One-line solution summary:
Guddi Bajis are female frontline health workers who use technology to connect underserved communities to remotely located female doctors
Pitch your solution.
The exclusion of women in the (informal) workforce in both developing countries and mature markets has accelerated in the midst of COVID-19 and resulted in not only a massive loss of human potential but also loss of human life - especially in developing countries such as Pakistan where over 70 million women and girls continue to lack access to quality, affordable healthcare, a problem accentuated by COVID-19
'Guddi Bajis' are up-skilled, female frontline health workers recruited from rural villages and equipped with: (i) technology inputs (software/hardware), (ii) clinical and business skills training (tablet app-enabled, inventory management, digital diagnostics such as handheld antenatal Ultrasound) and (iii) income-generating assets (inventory such as fast-moving consumer goods, health supplies & products and digital financial services).
This model impacts SDGs 1 (poverty alleviation), 3 (health), 5 (gender equality), 8 (dignified work), 10 (reduced inequalities) and 17 (public-private partnerships).
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on the exclusion of women from the workforce in both developing countries and mature markets. This has resulted in not only a massive loss of human potential but also loss of human life - especially in developing countries such as Pakistan where over 140 million people continue to lack access to quality, affordable healthcare. This lack of access is exacerbated in the informal sector where women maids, babysitters, cooks, etc. have lost their livelihoods and with that their ability to afford private sector healthcare.
In Pakistan, the good news is that the government has trained over 100,000 female Frontline Health Workers (FHWs). The bad news is that over 80,000 of these workers are unemployed or underemployed and both physically and technologically disconnected from the mainstream, public or private health systems.
Reasons for exclusion of these FHWs include: (i) lack of consumer awareness around the availability of point-of-care (PoC) diagnostics in rural communities, (ii) lack of demand in the public sector for the skills of FHWs in the absence of qualified doctors and (iii) rigid public health systems that prohibit FHWs from working part-time or flexi-time.
What is your solution?
Female Health Workers (FHWs), nurses and community midwives are recruited, equipped and trained on ICT hardware/software (tablets, broadband connectivity and point-of-care (POC) diagnostic tools such as handheld ultrasound) and then deployed in a rural, hub-and-spoke model.
The digital health & wellness hubs are operated by female last-mile distributor (Guddi Bajis or GBs) with inventory supplied by Unilever and major pharmaceutical companies via a sustainable, social business model. The spokes consist of a group of 4-6 female FHWs who cover a cluster of between 6-8 villages and prioritise end-user cases based on guidance provided by AI-inputs, predictive analytics and remotely located, female doctors. These GBs also serve as last-mile retailers of FMCGs.
All FHWs are trained on Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ALS) and can escort acute patients/trauma victims in ambulances to the nearest tertiary care centre while delivering life-saving interventions at point-of-care or during transport to the trauma centre, guided by remotely located Emergency Room (ER) physicians and trauma surgeons.
The technologies we apply include the following: (i) HD video-consultation linked to a digital health platform and (ii) Point-of-Care digital diagnostics (e.g. handheld Ultrasound, ECG, fetal heart monitoring, etc).
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Our target population consists of over 3 million low-income women and children across 3000+ rural villages in 36 districts of Punjab and Sind (low-income = income less than $3/day). Most of these women work informally as smallholder crop and dairy farmers or as house-makers. In most cases, they do not receive any wages for their informal employment (in the fields or at home)
When designing our model, we immersed ourselves in the target population we are serving so we could observe their natural behaviour. As a result we have a more nuanced understanding of their actual needs (in addition to the needs they verbally expressed). We rapid prototyped our model to deliver different types of frontline health interventions with or without remotely connected doctors. The model which received the most positive feedback and which we continue to iterate on is the Frontline health worker-assisted video-consultation model. We also have created tight customer feedback loops that feed directly into our product and service design.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Enable small and new businesses, especially in untapped communities, to prosper and create good jobs through access to capital, networks, and technology
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
The two market failures we are addressing - lack of access to quality, affordable care (including COVID-care) on the demand side and the lack of inclusive employment & workforce exclusion of women on the supply side are directly related to the challenge.
By up-skilling the Guddi Bajis, linking them and their communities to the mainstream economy as well public-private health systems, our tech-enabled, gender-inclusive solution is tackling both market failures (problems).
Our target population (women) are most at risk of losing their livelihoods from the disruptive effects of industrial automation, AI technology and COVID-19.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Karachi, Pakistan
What is your solution’s stage of development?Scale: A sustainable enterprise working in several communities or countries that is looking to scale significantly, focusing on increased efficiency
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
'Guddi Baji' Project Director (Nadia Bukhari)
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
The Guddi Baji last-mile retailer project is unique in that it: leverages technology, (ii) up-skills frontline health workers and (iii) involves a large-scale public-private collaboration between Unilever, doctHERs (a 2017 MIT SOLVE winner) and the Punjab provincial government.
We recruit, capacitate, and equip frontline health-workers (midwives, etc) with laptops, tablets and smartphones. These trusted intermediaries are essential to our model as they help to build trust with health consumers in a culture which values interpersonal human interaction (as opposed to virtual). By leveraging technology, we are able to amplify access to quality healthcare to remote rural and urban slum populations alike.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Our core technology consists of a digital health (telemedicine) platform that connects healthcare providers (female frontline health workers, nurses, community midwives, doctors, therapists, pharmacists and nutritionists) to beneficiaries via HD video-consultation.
Patients are or will be able to access the platform via 1 of 3 ways: (i) direct call-in to a helpline which routes them to a doctor who calls them back and can have a discussion via Whats App, (ii) via a trusted intermediary (e.g. Guddi Baji FHW) who uses a ClickMedix tablet-based app and (iii) directly via a doctHERs' mobile app (to be launched in July 2020).
Digital Diagnostic devices (e.g. Lumify handheld ultrasound which can be used for antenatal use) can connect to the digital health platform via Bluetooth. In addition, other digital instruments (EKG, pulse oximeter, stethoscope, etc).
Provide evidence that this technology works.
As a technology, telemedicine (the delivery of healthcare via a digital platform that integrates audio and video imaging) is used widely across the US, industrialised nations and emerging markets. With the rise of COVID-19, the use of telemedicine has grown exponentially.
US health systems including the Johns Hopkins University hospital system, the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic widely use this technology for both diagnostic (e.g. tele-radiology) and interventional/therapeutic purposes (e.g. tele-psychiatry).
The integration of AI and predictive analytics into telemedicine is enabling the rapid risk stratification of large populations so that healthcare providers can focus their attention on those patients most likely to benefit from available therapies. While the primary diagnosis continues to be made by the primary care physician (or specialist consultant, e.g. OB-GYN and Pediatrics in the case of MNH)
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
We believe that the re-integration of women into the workforce (an output) by leveraging technology (an input) will yield increased economic empowerment for women (an outcome) which will ultimately lead to improved maternal and neonatal (MNH) health and increased returns for both society & participating corporate/business partners (Impact).
This theory of change is based on compelling evidence cited by Dalberg (1) and the Cherie Blair Foundation (2) which reports that "female sales agents had superior customer service skills and processed customer queries more quickly than men"
1. Dalberg: "The business Case for Women's Economic Empowerment"; 2014
2. Cherie Blair Foundation: “Women Entrepreneurs in Mobile Retail Channels”; 2011
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Current: 1,050,000 lives
1 year: 2 Million lives
5 years: 25 million lives (in collaboration with Unilever, Punjab Government, Federal Government, UKDFID, RSPN, and other corporate, NGO and social enterprise partners). This work can not be done alone. It requires the integrated efforts of many like-minded souls.
Also, all of the above numbers reflect direct impact, i.e women who have either received video-consultations (e.g. for antenatal care) or who have received extensive education on special safety/preventive measures to take against COVID-19 or other conditions (e.g gestational diabetes) during their pregnancies.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our 1-year goals include:
- Creation of ~300 jobs for women (healthcare providers - frontline health workers + remote female doctors)
- Direct Impact on 2 million women and girl-children across Pakistan
- Indirect Impact on 6 Million lives (families of women - including male members, i.e. husband, son, brother, father)
- 25% increase in monthly income of Guddi Baji (compared to baseline, time=0)
Our 5-year goals include:
- Creation of ~5000 jobs for women (healthcare providers - frontline health workers + remote female doctors)
- Replication/adaptation of our model by the Federal government of Pakistan as well as provincial governments.
- Direct Impact on 20 million women and girl-children across Pakistan
- Indirect Impact on 100 Million lives (families of women - including male members, i.e. husband, son, brother, father)
- 100% increase in monthly income of Guddi Baji (compared to baseline, time=0)
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
Our potential 1-year barriers include:
- Deep local market knowledge: of the deep rural villages in which we will are delivering services
- Regulatory: clinical guidelines around telemedicine remain murky at best in South Asia in general so this is a potential risk that needs to be mitigated.
Our potential 5-year barriers include:
- Political: working in South Asia requires careful navigation of political waters. Some high-impact growth ventures have run afoul of the political powers that be so this is something we need to be cognisant of.
- Informal Worker Labour Unions: Although such unions do not exist at the present time, we need to be aware that this risk exists. )
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
Ways to Overcome 1-year barriers include:
- Deep local market knowledge: we plan to mitigate this risk by collaborating with local tech-enabled women entrepreneurs (Guddi Bajis) and grassroots-level organisations (e.g. RSPN) in the health & wellness space.
- Regulatory: One way to mitigate this risk is to be part of the solution - i.e. to engage the government on formulating guidelines that enable innovation while enhancing quality of care and patient safety.
Ways to Overcome 5-year barriers include:
- Political: We need to ensure that we work in an apolitical manner and engage governments across the political spectrum.
- Informal Worker Labour Unions: One way to mitigate against this risk is by ensuring that all of our frontline workers are provided with employee benefits that are traditionally enjoyed by workers in the formal sector (e.g. health insurance, paid leave, etc)
What type of organization is your solution team?For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
If you selected Other, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
Office-Based: 50 full-time
Field-Based: 200 (full-time, contract-based); 50 (part-time, contract-based)
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
(i) The team has done it before. We've scaled a tech-enabled health social enterprise (Naya Jeevan) to full scale in Pakistan; https://naya-jeevan.com/
(ii) The team is a multi-disciplinary group of pharmacists, doctors, nurses, therapists, design thinkers, lateral thinkers, diagonal thinkers, etc. We have people who have the foresight to see 'unreasonable' opportunities that are invisible to our competition.
(ii) The team is relatively young (average age: 31) but experienced with over 60 years of cumulative corporate experience at companies
(iii) We are alumni of MIT, Harvard, Insead, UCL, Cambridge, NYU, etc and can leverage our faculty and alumni networks.
(iv) 70% of the senior management team are women (7 out of 10 Departmental Heads) and 100% of our healthcare providers are women. This positions us well to tackle issues that relate to women and children.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
 We collaborate with large, multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Unilever, Nestle, Friesland Campina, etc and provide workers (and families including parents) in their value chains (i.e. suppliers, smallholder farmers, distributors, SME retailers, factory workers, etc) with access to a highly curated, continuity-of-care, health & wellness program. This program focuses on the 'missing middle' the low-income population that constitutes that largest segment of the population (~60% or 120 million lives) but who cannot rely on charity or on public sector healthcare (the urban/rural ultra-poor typically receive charitable care).
 in the Guddi Baji program, we are integrating additional corporate partners (e.g. Roche, Novartis, Philips, Pfizer, etc) into this urban center to last-mile village program that connects last-mile retailers (Guddi Bajis) to formal corporate value chains linked to Unilever's massive in-country distribution system.
What is your business model?
Our core business model is very straightforward: we charge corporate employers/sponsors a subscription fee for a monthly digital health & wellness plan of ~$5/person/month. Our COS (Cost of Sales) is $2.50/person/month, yielding a gross surplus of 50%. After deducting SGA (sales, general & administrative) operating expenses, we are able to generate a net profit margin at the unit economic level of ~15%-20%.
Corporations are willing to pay this amount both to mitigate against reputational risk (worker HSE regulations) as well as to incent their value chains ( distributors, retailers, etc) to perform better - one of our paths to scale.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Organizations (B2B)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We have 4 major revenue streams:
(i) Earned-Income from Corporate Clients for Delivering Health & Wellness services to workers in their value chains
(ii) Service Contracts - both development agency (e.g. UKAID) and government-based (e.g. Punjab Population Innovation Fund) which are milestone-based and tied to specific outcomes (Pay-for-Performance contracts)
(iii) R&D Innovation grants - provided by corporate foundations (e.g. Pfizer and Philips Foundation) to market test/pilot a novel way of delivering healthcare
(iv) Therapeutic Area/Disease Awareness Campaigns: we partner with companies to conduct disease awareness campaigns which help to raise awareness around specific diseases (e.g. women's health, breast cancer, osteoporosis, nutritional supplementation, etc)
In addition to these revenue streams, we have raised seed-impact investment from a US impact investor (Gray Matters Capital) and are currently finalising the close of our Series A round of $2.5 Million.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Having participated in several SOLVE challenges in the past, we find that the ecosystem network effect that SOLVE enables is phenomenal. Each contest has a unique group of invested stakeholders who we get exposed to. It's great for our product innovation as well as gaining more visibility in terms of the impact we're creating on the ground in the lives of over 1 million women and children.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
To help diversify our revenue base, we are building small teams in the US and Europe (UK and Continental) who can liaise directly with potential corporate clients at the HeadQuarters level.
We are always looking for like-minded partners with innovative products/services that can be added to the 'market basket' that the Guddi Baji frontline health worker offers to her last-mile communities (e.g. sanitary pads is an unmet need)
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
Business Development: Large MNCs with extensive supply chains and distribution systems such as Coca~Cola, Nestle, Pepsi, etc. We can provide our digital health & wellness plan to tens of thousands of workers in their supply chains.
Product - Innovation & Integration: We are very open to integrating new products into our 'value chain', e.g. we have integrated Philips' Lumify handheld ultrasound device into our Guddi-Baji-assisted telemedicine model.
Impact Finance: Impact funds (corporate, development sector, etc) can invest in doctHERs and help us to globalise our impact across the ASEAN region and Sub-Saharan Africa and even test a variant of our model in the US & Canada with a special focus on indigenous people and migrant workers.