In 2017, Tazin Shadid's grandfather fell ill. He could only move using a wheelchair. Taking him to the hospital for regular check-ups became nothing less than a nightmare. When the doctor suggested some tests, Tazin became worried about how to take him to the diagnostic centre and whether the trip would make him worse.
"The idea of AmarLab sprang into my mind from that problem. In the beginning, we did some research and identified some problems common to diagnostic centres. We found that waiting in long queues, inaccessibility of transportation, poor health of patients and elderly citizens are the most commonly-faced ones," said Tazin Shadid, chief executive officer of AmarLab.
"The growing popularity of Foodpanda and other such apps that cemented our determination. We thought if people could order food from anywhere then why couldn't they place an order for medical treatment? Therefore, we initiated AmarLab in 2019 as a part of a health-tech solution for Dhaka's city dwellers," he added.
AmarLab is a medical service that delivers regular health check-ups to the doorsteps of Dhaka's citizens. To do medical tests, one can call and place orders at AmarLab call centres.
After receiving an order, a phlebotomist goes to the address provided by the patient, and collects all test samples – following hygiene and medical procedure. The samples are stored in a cold box, which is kept in another protective box for safety purposes.
"Hospitals and diagnostic centres also use such boxes when they send samples to other hospitals or abroad for testing. These boxes can automatically handle dust, light, pressure and atmosphere," said Ishtiaque Zahid, chief clinical operations officer of AmarLab.
AmarLab recruits phlebotomists with at least three to four years' experience in this profession. The company also trains them on how to handle emergencies with confidence, painless blood drawing and sample collection.
After collecting the samples, the phlebotomists deliver the cold boxes to the patients' preferred diagnostic centres.
According to AmarLab's policy, it hands over reports to customers within two hours of delivery.
AmarLab takes Tk200 for their service. The patients have to pay for the diagnosis as per the charges of the diagnostic centres.
AmarLab is open seven days of the week from 7am to 10pm.
Last year, during the dengue outbreak in the capital, AmarLab reached a peak in serving the highest number of consumers.
"At one point, I had to attend late-night customer care calls as our whole team was busy," said Ishtiaque Zahid.
The four-member team has now grown to fifteen members, and they invested Tk1 crore to operate this business. Since the beginning, Zaanala Bangladesh– a 360-degree integrated market communication agency – has supported them in their: operations, management, brand development, and other aspects.
AmarLab has so far reached more than 1,000 customers by serving reliability, comfort and trust. Around 40 percent of these clients learned about AmarLab through recommendations from customers who had already received their services.
"Now, the growth rate is steady and increasing every day – which is a good sign for AmarLab. Our research shows that around 1 lakh people leave their homes to receive services from diagnostic centres. So our target is to provide them that service at home without inconveniences," said Hasib Ahmed, business development manager of AmarLab.
If any customer complains about their service or is dissatisfied, the company gets back to them instantly and tries to sort out the problem. Sometimes they offer a discount of up to 100 percent.
"We understand that patients, or caregivers, are experiencing a stressful time, so, we try to serve them our best, as much as we can, with care and attention," said Zahid, chief clinical operations officer of AmarLab.
The patients appear satisfied with their service. AmarLab's client Rumana Rahman, a UX researcher of Grameenphone, said, "Some days ago, we took their services for my mother's dengue test. And I noticed that their pathologists are highly skilled and professional, which is praiseworthy."
An app titled AmarLab is coming as an extended form of their service within three months. AmarLab has partnered with various healthcare providers to enable easily accessibility to healthcare services.
Currently, their officially signed diagnostic partners are – United Hospital of Gulshan branch, Popular Diagnostic Centre and Ibn Sina Trust's all the branches of Dhaka. They are also working in partnership with Olwel - a healthcare that provides at home doctor consultancy.
AmarLab is planning to expand its services to other cities of Bangladesh by the end of 2020. In future, the company is preparing to implement this business idea in adjacent countries as well. Hence, they are now talking with a company in Nepal at a primary level.
When Tazin Shadid started planning for AmarLab, he had a full-fledged job in America as an engineer for Microsoft. Now he is a proud entrepreneur and solving our daily problems.
"The Thyrocare, Olwel, Praava, and Doctorola initiatives try to ensure better health. If it is possible, we want to share our knowledge and work in collaboration with them. We want more and more competitors in this sector for our improvement."
"Bangladesh is a land of opportunities. We have thousands of problems and we are supposed to have solutions to more than the thousands. All we need is the courage to act," Tazin said confidently.