This April, Susnata Vishwas’ father suddenly collapsed. Vishwas, a resident of Delhi’s Indirapuram, doesn’t have a car and lives on the 9th floor. She reached for her phone, but rather than calling 11, she used the Medulance app, to book an ambulance. It reached in about 20 minutes during peak rush hour, and had her father to nearby Max Hospital within another 25.
For Ravjot Singh, the co-founder of Medulance, the story turned out differently. In 2010, his grandfather went into cardiac arrest, but he didn’t know which private ambulance to call or how. By the time the family got him to the hospital in their own car, he was dead on arrival.
Six years later, Singh, 27, and 26-year-old Pranav Bajaj founded their app, which is one of several trying to rescue the flailing ambulance situation in India, particularly in traffic-jammed cities like Delhi and Mumbai. According to reports, the average time it took for the Delhi Government’s Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) to reach callers—25 minutes—increased by 15 minutes in the last seven years.
Pranav Bajaj with Medulance office in Delhi. Image: Parthshri Arora
eStart-ups like Medulance are trying to pick up the roughly 800 (according to Bajaj) unserviceable calls each day. As a report on the nascent industry states, there are several applications, like eSahai, StanPlus, and Dial4242, trying to do this in various Indian cities, with different models, and levels of success.
Medulance, which partners with local private ambulance companies, was initially conceived as a sort of “Uber for ambulances” that allowed people to book the nearest vehicle, choosing from either Basic or Advanced life supports (BLS or ALS). About 3,500 patients later, Medulance began supplying to businesses as well.
Medulance now has clients like DLF, with a BLS permanently stationed outside seven of their residential complexes in the National Capital Region. I hung out in one of Medulance’s ambulances in Gurgaon, outside a large complex with a population of 10,000 people. In case of an emergency, the paramedic and driver within can reach an apartment in two minutes. They say they get around 40-50 calls a month, though none occurred while I was there.
Medulance also caters to large events, especially sports matches: under-14 football, Pro Kabbadi and Premier Badminton. It’s even partnered to provide the Reliance Foundation with 55 drivers and paramedics, trained and paid by Medulance.
The app has more downloads than its competition; they’ve also added a hotline number. An ALS costs Rs. 5,000 for 20 km in Delhi, but apparently sometimes people actually try to negotiate. “I have quoted second prices just to get the ambulance quicker at the scene,” one of the hotline operators, Rohit Sharma, told me over the phone.
Bajaj thinks the way forward is to eventually work with the government. “They get more than 3,000 requests a day. Why not work with the government and try to make a difference?” Bajaj asked. “Even not having to negotiate the price takes one step out of the way to provide the service.” He thinks dramatic improvements are possible. “What if we can achieve a 15 minute average reaching time to every person in Delhi?”