The recent entry of Gobi Partners into Southeast Asia’s healthtech industry has pretty important ramifications for the region. Their recent strategic investment in ORA, a cutting-edge vertically integrated telehealth platform, demonstrates their understanding of the quick transition to digital health, a movement that gained traction even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The direct-to-consumer business model developed by ORA, which focuses on managing chronic conditions rather than offering one-off treatments, has the potential to cause significant disruption in Southeast Asia, where nearly 40% of healthcare costs are borne by patients themselves. With retention rates exceeding Netflix’s and roughly 70% of ORA’s revenue coming from recurring subscription plans, the company’s impact is evident.

We look into overcoming barriers to consumer adoption and acceptance of healthtech solutions in Southeast Asia

But, what does the future of the industry hold in Southeast Asia, which has its own particular share of challenges when it comes to scale and healthcare pricing? We spoke to Gobi Partners Co-founder and Chairperson, Thomas Tsao, about the company’s plans for the region and what we can expect in the coming months.

Could you share what were the factors that led you to invest in the company? hat led to this shift in focus towards the healthtech industry in Southeast Asia? 

In Southeast Asia, a rapidly growing and youthful population is displaying an increased focus on health, particularly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as indicated by research from the Deloitte Global Millennial and Gen Z Survey. Within this sizable demographic, there is a strong demand for reliable, medically-approved solutions that inspire confidence.

Our new investee company, ORA presents itself as a dependable answer to various “lifestyle” chronic ailments, including issues like hair loss, and notably streamlines access for the younger generation. With an impressive track record of 250,000 consultations conducted, ORA boasts a comprehensive infrastructure and capabilities that encompass: a) E-pharmacy and clinic services that deliver prescriptions directly, b) In-house medical professionals offering telehealth consultations, and c) Electronic medical record functionalities.

The potential within this market is substantial, particularly as ORA endeavours to extend its reach to address other chronic conditions like weight loss and to explore new territories, including regions like the Greater Bay Area, where Gobi could offer significant value addition.

Are you seeing any specific Southeast Asian markets that have a lot of potential for growth in the industry?

Malaysia notably distinguishes itself through its firmly established advantages in the realm of medical tourism and its efficient and cost-effective healthcare system. In a similar vein, Thailand emerges as an intriguing opportunity, exemplified by our investment in HD, a platform that enhances connections between surgeons and patients to tackle inefficiencies in hospitals. These markets collectively demonstrate considerable growth potential within the broader Southeast Asian region.

Are there other industries in Southeast Asia that have the potential to attract more investment from you?

Southeast Asia offers diverse investment potential across industries like e-commerce, fintech, healthtech, edtech, logistics, agtech, travel, renewable energy, proptech, food, transportation, and media. With growing digital adoption and entrepreneurship, the region is a prime destination for venture capital-seeking high-growth startups.

What’s next for Gobi in Southeast Asia?

As one of the most interconnected Pan-Asian venture capital firms with US$1.6 billion in assets under management, we have diligently been supporting entrepreneurs from the early to growth stages and focusing on emerging and underserved markets since 2002.

Southeast Asia is our playing ground and we are eager to meet, invest and nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs. Leveraging on our presence across 15 locations, most notably in the Greater Bay Area of China, we see massive potential in expanding our portfolio companies’ capabilities across Southeast Asia and into China where the market is more vibrant and the opportunities to scale or successfully exit is readily available.