In conversation with Fodhil Benturquia of the UAE's Okadoc
Okadoc is an online medical booking system launched in 2018 by Fodhil Benturquia. It aims to simplify the process of booking an appointment with a doctor and already has some 120 hospitals and clinics in the UAE on its system with plans to close a Series B round soon and expand to Saudi Arabia.
Before his foray into entrepreneurship, Benturquia worked as an investment banker who found himself unemployed at the crux of the financial crisis in 2009. It was during that time that he co-founded MarkaVIP before moving on to work as general manager at Souq and eventually group chief executive officer (CEO) at Noon, one of the region’s largest e-commerce sites.
Is there a difference between your previous roles and founding your own company?
I expected way more when I was CEO, I used to work much harder. I’ve learned so much from the experiences that I’ve been part of, it’s been a great journey for me, but I’ve been more passionate about what we’re doing at Okadoc.
I’ve been an entrepreneur from a very young age, I started my first business at 18, it was a grocery shop in Lyon and it was the best business school.
Seeing people use something you’ve been part of is interesting. I haven’t finished my journey, it has always been about learning. There is an excitement that comes from fixing a problem or making something better for people.
What has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned as CEO?
Previously, I worked extremely hard, it’s not a super-efficient way of working. We’re now working in a very healthy way. If you come here [into the office] at 6 o’clock, you’ll see very few people. I installed this culture from the very beginning. I don’t want people to work long hours, I want them to work with efficiency, to work smart. When you work too hard, you can make a lot of mistakes, so you end up losing more time.
How did the idea for Okadoc come about?
One day when I was working so hard at Noon, I wanted to make an appointment with my doctor, but it took me more than 15 minutes, the process of “press one, press two, on hold, listen to the music” and then I heard the voice message that says “no one can take your call, please call back later”. I was unwell, nobody picked up the phone. That experience stayed in my mind. I felt it would be a great problem to solve.
How did you know this was a viable business?
We’re not visionaries, there are other companies that do what we do, but that gave us the confidence because it is a proven concept.
A big problem for clinics and doctors is they waste so much time with no-shows, it’s about 37 per cent in the UAE. In Saudi it is 40 per cent. Half of no-shows happen because patients forget they had an appointment. If you can fix that, you solve problems for the clinics. Technology is here to improve your life. If I go online, it should be a process that is shorter, it should take less than one minute and be available 24/7.
What will your industry look like in the next decade?
There are many concepts in innovation in health-tech. For us, we are focusing on online booking which is a first step. There are other steps like telemedicine which can be very useful for certain specialties but you cannot deliver a baby with telemedicine. You have robotics in pharmacies, pharmacy delivery concepts, 3D-printing for prosthetics, big data, artificial intelligence as a layer that works across all these business models. There are so many concepts and everyone is trying to solve a problem. I’m very bullish about health-tech.