Egyptian health and wellness platform Esaal raises $1.7M to scale across the Middle East and North Africa

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There is a huge pent-up demand for medical consultations in emerging markets such as Egypt due to a shortage of doctors. As of 2018 in Egypt the ratio of doctors to citizens was on a scale of 1:2000; You can paint a picture when you walk into any public hospital and see long lines.

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These challenges and habits that the pandemic is changing have led to the proliferation of doctor appointment and consultation apps in Egypt and the wider MENA region.

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Esaal, one such platform that has seen tremendous growth over the past two years, announces a $1.7 million seed investment from A15; as a result, the total funding raised from the venture firm since its launch in 2018 was $3 million.

Esaal does more than just physical health consultations. It also addresses issues in other segments such as mental health and nutrition.

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There is a growing mental health crisis among the MENA population, with 35% experiencing frequent stress, 29% suffering from depression, and obesity reaching new highs among adults, according to reports. For most people, these illnesses persist because of the stigma associated with seeking therapy or talking about problems that affect their mental state.

“There is a high demand when it comes to the need to speak to someone who specializes in mental health. But most people are afraid to physically go to the center to see a therapist or psychiatrist. It’s not common yet; people would love to do it,” he said. Fady Dossfounder and CEO of Esaal.

Doss went on to describe how he browsed social media platforms and saw how people felt comfortable sharing personal issues, sometimes under pseudonyms, while getting feedback from other users who were not subject matter experts. This trend pushed him to develop a platform that took advantage of this virtual opportunity, but with therapists on the other end.

“We decided to create a platform that connects the user with an expert where he or she can get a personalized and real answer to health problems in a simple and convenient way,” he said. “And when it comes to nutrition, here in the region it’s getting a bit trendy because adult obesity is getting quite high. We see that people have become much more concerned about their nutrition and well-being.”

Esaal has attracted more than 350 consultants to its platform. They provide advice on a wide range of issues, including anxiety, physical therapy, pediatrics, and nutrition. Users access these services through the app (text, video/voice calls and in-person visits) and pay with cash, credit cards, Vodafone and Fawry.

Isaal

Image credits: Isaal

The Egyptian health technology company also operates a B2B2C model, in which it partners with more than 10 medium and large companies to provide these services to its more than 5,000 employees. Esaal currently charges subscription fees and on-demand consultation fees, and plans to make money from in-person visits in future updates.

Like most medical platforms, Esaal was one of the beneficiaries of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, which opened up opportunities for medical technology. Its user base grew by 55% between 2020 and 2021 and currently stands at over 1 million. The company’s revenue and ARPU also increased by 250% to $4.4 million in 2021 and by 130% between 2020 and 2021.

Doss said Esaal services are available in 7 more MENA and GCC countries: Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine and Iraq.

The company’s earnings show it is running a capital-efficient business with just $3 million in tranches from its sole investor, A15, since 2019.

“So far, they have been prudent in their capital allocation, demonstrating outstanding performance in the unit economy, which has enabled them to realize their expansion ambitions,” said Karim Bechara, the firm’s investment managing partner. “We are proud of their growth and have enjoyed building business with them over the past four years. There is still much to be learned from Esaal and the sector.”

Doss says capital efficiency is one of Esaal’s strengths over its competitors. He also highlighted another subtle difference: while other platforms like Vezeeta focus on doctor consultation, mental health, or nutrition, Maddie and Shezlong, Esaal combine three verticals into one.

The online health and wellness consultation platform plans to use this investment to scale in the MENA region, invest in product and brand development, and hire new professionals. Esaal expects a CAGR of 50 to 60% in revenue between 2021 and 2025.

“There is a huge potential for deeper penetration into every country we are now in and for penetration into other countries in the region. Yes, we have launched production in eight countries, but I believe that the potential is still huge, and in the next four to five years we will be able to increase the number of sales.”


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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