Acumen Invests In Start-Up Company Offering Ambulance Services To Urban India

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Innovative Pricing Structure Provides Emergency Medical Services For All

We expect that the financial and operational support we are providing to 1298 will result in millions of lives saved throughout India as the 1298 team and its business model continue to grow.

Acumen Fund, a leading catalyst for sustainable, scalable solutions addressing poverty in South Asia and Africa, announced today that it has made a $1.5 million equity investment in Ziqitza Healthcare Limited (ZHL), a Mumbai-based company commonly referred to as "DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE" that is rolling out a nationwide network of Life Support Ambulance Service. DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE is filling the vacuum in Emergency Medical Service (EMS) / Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service that currently exists in India's cities. Acumen Fund's investment is being used to support 1298's rollout of additional ambulances as part of its scale up strategy in Mumbai.

"Acumen Fund is committed to identifying and supporting local entrepreneurs who are focusing on bringing critical services to the world's poor," said Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. "Acumen's investment in ZHL will enable DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE in India to continue to grow and scale so that the millions living in poverty in urban India have a greater chance of receiving life-saving emergency medical care."

DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE is the first for-profit, private sector initiative in India to provide ambulance services as its core service. In Mumbai, DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE currently offers the following services which can be accessed by dialing the common telephone no. 1298 across all telecom providers:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS) - to administer oxygen, treat splint fractures, control bleeding and perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in cases of cardiac arrest.
  • Advanced Life Support (ALS) - involves use of sophisticated equipment to monitor, shock and pace the patient's heart.
  • Patient Transport Service (PTS) - provision of transport for the patient from hospital to hospital or other destinations in a non-emergency situation.

DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE was developed by ZHL to employ a private sector approach to delivering emergency medical care services to all people, rich and poor, regardless of ability to pay. The 1298 model employs a sliding scale pricing system based on the level of hospital to which a patient is taken. Those who go to free public hospitals do not pay, while those who ask to be taken to Mumbai's more expensive hospitals pay accordingly.

1298 covers costs through a combination of the premium payments made by half its clients and by managing capital costs. The straightforward ethos of "service for all" requires constant vigilance to balance both social and financial aims. Given the importance of minimizing all capital costs so that free services can be made available, ZHL uses a mix of grants, equity and loans to grow its service. DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE is an impressive example of effective and fully self sustainable public-private partnerships in the health care sector filling gaps where governments lack the necessary resources to meet the growing needs and demands of the citizenry. As Mumbai's administrators, businesses and residents learn of 1298's effective, self sustainable public-private partnership model, more governments, corporates, organizations and individuals are donating new vehicles to 1298 rather than giving them to a standard charity lacking a proper system to run an ambulance network.

"The inability to pay for service should not be a barrier to receiving treatment during a medical emergency," said 1298 CEO Shaffi Mather. "The 1298 model we are implementing will demonstrate a viable, replicable and scalable platform for delivering EMS / Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service to urban populations in India, creating immense value for everyone living in India's urban centers, both poor and rich, who will be able to receive quality emergency medical care in a timely and cost efficient manner."

DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE is using the financing from Acumen Fund to scale from the 10 ambulances it currently operates (including 2 franchisee-based ambulances) up to 70 ambulances in Mumbai by March 2009. Once 1298 has completed this growth phase, it expects to be reaching patients in Mumbai within 15 minutes of receiving a call for an ambulance.

Emergency medical services are in the early stages of development in India, and ambulance service in India is extremely fragmented, informal and unorganized. Over 90% of the ambulances in operation in urban India are in poor condition and lack medical equipment or trained paramedics on board. While ambulance services may need subsidies or budgetary support in rural areas, the model developed by 1298 is fully capable of addressing the EMS market needs in urban India, where the largest cities have populations ranging from 1.35 million to 17.4 million.

In addition to the commitment of financial resources, Acumen Fund is advising 1298 on managerial and operational issues. Acumen Fund and 1298 are working together to use financial, social, and operational metrics to measure the investment's sustainability, potential for scale and social impact - in line with the Acumen Fund philosophy that these factors are the key to creating long-lasting, widespread benefit. The financial metrics that will determine the investment's success include gross and net revenue, capital expenditures and the number of paying patients; operational metrics include total calls responded to by 1298 ambulances, average response times, total number of lives saved and the strength of the management team; and social metrics being analyzed include increased access to emergency care for the poor and improved overall quality of health care as a result of services made available through the 1298 initiative.

"Considering the current lack of professional emergency medical services or even basic ambulance services for patients and accident victims in India, there is a severe market need for an effectively and efficiently run ambulance service in every urban area," said Varun Sahni, Acumen Fund's India Director. "We expect that the financial and operational support we are providing to 1298 will result in millions of lives saved throughout India as the 1298 team and its business model continue to grow."

About Acumen Fund
Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture fund that invests in market-oriented approaches for delivering critical, affordable goods and services to the world's poor. Acumen Fund's efforts focus on the convergence of philanthropic capital and business expertise to produce sustainable, scalable enterprises that reach underserved markets and open access to the opportunities of the global economy. For more information on Acumen Fund's activities and investments, visit http://www.acumenfund.org.

About Ziqitza Healthcare Limited and 1298
Ziqitza Healthcare Limited (ZHL) is currently rolling out a nationwide network of Life Support Ambulance Services to fill the vacuum in Emergency Medical Service (EMS) that currently exists in the cities of India. "DIAL 1298 FOR AMBULANCE" is an initiative run by ZHL to provide a network of fully equipped, advanced and basic life support ambulances in the city of Mumbai. In case of a medical emergency, any Mumbai resident may dial 1298 to access a fully equipped Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance within the shortest possible time. For more information visit http://www.1298.org.

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