Sylvana Sinha: Leading the Fastest Growing Healthcare Brand in a Fast-Growing Economy

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become empathetic entrepreneurs. This series features interviews with founders working on SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing by a character named Spiffy. Health is on a lot of our minds these days, so let’s see what’s being done!

Hi everyone, I’m Spiffy. Yesterday I was in Vietnam, today I’m in Bangladesh. Being an interplanetary journalist is a fast-paced life. In this interview, I’m talking to Sylvana Sinha, who is leading a revolution in healthcare quality in Bangladesh.

Spiffy: Hi Sylvana! Thank you for talking today. What challenge is Praava Health addressing?

Sylvana: The problem we face is that Bangladesh’s health system puts profits over patients, and incentives drive patients toward hospitals. Praava Health is Bangladesh’s fastest-growing healthcare brand – combining digital tools with meaningful doctor-patient relationships, quality diagnostics, and prescriptions. Praava does things differently, with a care model that improves experiences and outcomes through world-class clinics, technology, and business innovations. Our brick-and-click in-clinic and virtual care models in Bangladesh reduce hospitalizations and the burden on health systems and patients.

Spiffy: What motivated you to make an impact in this way?

Sylvana: In 2010, my eyes were opened to the limitations of Bangladesh’s healthcare system when my mom suffered complications from a basic surgery in one of Bangladesh’s top hospitals. What came next turned my life upside down.

I moved from New York to Bangladesh and embarked on a global listening tour to learn more about the health system that failed my family – I began to realize the problems went deeper than high costs or poor quality alone. Patients consistently told me: doctors in Bangladesh don’t listen; they don’t even look us in the eye; we would rather leave the country for better care than waste time seeking it in Bangladesh. I believe that Bangladeshis deserve better – they deserve a system that treats them with dignity and respect and quality healthcare services that they can trust.

Spiffy: Your conversations with people around the country led to something incredible. How does Praava make Bangladesh a more equitable place?

Sylvana: Praava is using technology to increase access to our quality services. Praava Health’s brick-and-click in-clinic and virtual care models in Bangladesh reduce hospitalizations and the burden on health systems and patients alike. We are working to democratize access to quality healthcare. Every day, thousands of Bangladeshis travel to neighboring India in pursuit of quality healthcare services – Bangladeshis deserve to be able to access world-class care without leaving their country.

Spiffy: You’re using technology to make their lives easier! What’s something that often surprises people about Praava?

Sylvana: People generally think Praava is a nonprofit, assuming Bangladesh is poor & desperate and as a woman, I must be drawn to charity for women and kids. Why is Praava is for-profit? First, as Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies, people are demanding quality healthcare and there are promising businesses to be built around that; second, although there is an essential role for charity, it can never be more than a bandaid; the only sustainable form of development is private sector development.

Spiffy: What’s a recent milestone in your journey with Praava?

Sylvana: When COVID-19 hit Bangladesh, Praava leaped to action. We developed a digital concierge product called Praanno for at-home management for 80% of COVID patients not requiring hospitalization. To date, 86% of Praanno patients successfully recovered at home, compared to 49% nationally. Initial data suggests each averted hospitalization saves the average patient $8000, the private system $5000, and the public system $1500.

Spiffy: That’s a lot of lives and money saved! Tell me about a time when you faced failure, how did you overcome it?

Sylvana: The biggest surprise of the journey of building Praava Health has been that it has frankly been harder to attract investors and capital to help us to build and scale the model than to actually build the company into a successful business. Bangladesh isn’t considered a sexy investment destination – though it should be as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. What I’ve learned is simply that sometimes the hardest and best thing we can do is simply to keep going, and to wake up and fight another day to serve our patients and mission, and stay focused on what needs to be done to be able to keep fighting and keep the business alive. Resilience is never taught to us in school, but it is the one thing that has allowed me to survive as an entrepreneur.

Spiffy: Any parting words of wisdom?

Sylvana: The one who asks the most questions learns the most!

Spiffy: As a journalist, those are truly words to live by.