Doctor Shaila Sharmin Rafa, a medical officer of Al Markajul Islami Hospital in Mohammadpur, would be leaving in two hours for her hospital duty. She was taking some last-minute preparations. But, suddenly, her phone buzzed with a family emergency. Shaila needed to leave at once to tackle the emergency.
Any average person's instinct would be to take care of the urgent issue, but for Shaila, she had to first call her friends to see if someone could cover her work shift.
"One after another, I called all my doctor friends. Everyone was busy. After trying for one hour straight, one of my mutual friends agreed to cover for me, and only then I could leave the house for my family emergency," remembered Rafa.
Salman Rahman, founder and chief executive officer of Frontliners, observed all these from a corner of the living room. He thought how much easier it would have been for his sister if doctors had a platform to be listened to. Since that moment, his mind started bugging him, thinking up ideas as to how he could build a platform that would solve such trivial yet significant problems.
And, then the seed for Frontliners' idea was sowed.
Later, Salman - an engineer - shared his thought with two other schoolmates, Abul Bashar Bhuiyan, co-founder and chief technology officer, and Shafiqul Islam Khan, director and chief operating officer. Both could connect with this problem as they also had doctors in the family. Hence, three of them teamed up and initiated the market research.
In the beginning, they were not quite sure about the potential of their idea. However, they soon understood that there are many other existing problems that a healthcare professional faces and which need to be addressed. With that realisation, the journey of the Frontliners started in March 2021 and the app launched in September.
What does the Frontliners app do?
Frontliners aims to bring all the necessary services on one platform for doctors.
"While building a platform for doctors, we want to create a better healthcare service for everyone where our doctors will be heard," said Salman while explaining what Frontliners stands for. Hence, it also provides doctors with services such as medical case discussions, job searches and workplace inquiry. It also has unique features like medical trivia: a quiz to answers and a news section.
"Each of our features has a unique story," said Shafiqul, "Remembering Dr Rakibuddin, who was beaten to death by the patient's relatives, we introduced my safety feature. Using this feature, a doctor can instantly share their current location with friends and auto-call them to the nearest police station whenever they detect danger."
Additionally, "We value users and constantly keep taking feedback from them, which makes it easier to make better services with recent updates. Currently, we are working on some more interactive features based on our user's feedback such as a medicine directory that explains different medical terms," added Shafiqul.
If any doctor wants, they can also ask questions to each other about hospitals, management and more.
Now, Rafa uses the Frontliners app regularly. Whenever she doubts any medical case, she can now easily have a second opinion from her expert peers.
She shared her satisfaction, saying, "This app has made my life easier but interestingly, it does not charge me for providing such useful services."
Shafiqul said Frontliners do not intend to charge its users even in the future. "It will always be free," he stated. Then, how will this venture be profitable and sustainable in the future?
In response, Shafiqul shared a little about their business plan, "We believe there will be enough scope to generate revenue for our app. It might be an advertisement, conducting a programme or sessions or anything that goes with our ethics." Though it looks like a B2C model, it essentially works in B2B format, where doctors and their comfort are prioritised above all else.
Traction and growth
Since its launch in September 2021, it got a great response from the user base. It has been downloaded around 7,500+ times and has 5,000+ active users. "Because we are only targeting a niche market of the medical community, we are happy with our growth," said a satisfied Shafiqul.
After launching this service, it has received a positive response from the medical community. The spontaneous growth happened through word of mouth. As doctors have quite a busy life, the Frontliners team struggled to onboard them, but once doctors heard about this app, it was highly appreciated.
Its growth has not stopped it. A team of three people has now grown to 12 people. And the founder is keeping his foot on the ground, "Definitely, we are here for the long run. We have started Frontliners as a professional service platform for doctors, but over the years, we want to grow it towards a country-wide healthcare aggregator ecosystem."
Now, there are 40+ networking ambassadors working with Frontliners on a temporary contract to help them reach out to users.
In the next five years, the team aims to establish Frontliners as a household name, especially in the rural and peripheral areas where proper healthcare treatment is inadequate. It also plans to launch similar services for the healthcare workforce in future, only when they achieve the expected outcome in this venture to build a better and long-lasting healthcare ecosystem.