Naya Jeevan is a social enterprise that seeks to alleviate poverty in the emerging world by providing low-income families with affordable access to quality healthcare. The organization, currently based in Karachi, provides protection to low-income families through a unique micro health insurance model, (underwritten by Allianz-EFU and IGI Health Insurance), aiming to provide quality healthcare to nearly 75,000 low-income individuals over the next 3 years. Below, TC-P sits down with Naya Jeevan Founder & CEO Asher Hasan:

Naya Jeevan CEO & Founder Asher Hasan

Q: Can you explain what Naya Jeevan does? How does the NJ micro-health insurance model work?

Naya Jeevan is a not-for-profit social enterprise that seeks to rejuvenate the lives of low-income families in the emerging world by providing them with affordable access to quality healthcare, coupled to other critical social services. The globally innovative model that Naya Jeevan is based on focuses on three target populations: (i) domestic staff (cooks, maids, gardeners, drivers, etc.) and their families, (ii) low-income employees who are affiliated with any business or organization – small or big (restaurants, gas stations, banks, factories, etc.) – across all sectors and industries and (iii) children attending NGO/public sector schools and their low-income families.

In our corporate model, the corporate employee (benefactor) makes a majority contribution and the corporate employee’s employee (the beneficiary, e.g. maid, driver, etc) and the corporation both make minority contributions towards the health insurance of the beneficiary. It is important that the beneficiary also make a contribution towards their own family’s healthcare, giving them a stake in their own future and empowering them to demand a certain standard of service. Usually, the minority contribution made by the beneficiary is deducted from the cash wages they receive from the benefactor, although this deduction is at the discretion of the benefactor.

For individuals who want to extend this benefit to their domestic staff, all they need to do is pay the premium of Rs. 200/person/month (Rs 2400/person/year). If the domestic staff member decides to leaves their employment, it is as the employer’s discretion as to whether they terminate or continue the beneficiary’s health coverage. The coverage is transferable over to an incoming employee. This important employee benefit is aimed at increasing employee retention and building loyalty.

Q: What led you to launch this venture?

During one winter college break, I returned to Pakistan to discover that my maid’s children had dropped out of school and had been placed in various homes as child labour in order to help pay back huge medical bills. I was very disturbed by this and found out that their father had suffered a stroke and the mother did not want to take charity or beg. This incident gnawed at my conscience for a while and I kept on mulling over how a catastrophic medical event had deprived an entire generation of the opportunity to emerge from poverty. A sudden, major illness such as a stroke or cardiac arrest could trap a family in a vicious cycle of debt. This was the driving force behind the launch of Naya Jeevan: the creation of a healthcare model that could prevent low-income families from drowning in debt when confronted with catastrophic health crises.

Q: Who are the founders and management? How large is your team and how does it work?

I conceived and launched Naya Jeevan in July 2007. Subsequently, in November 2007, my colleagues, Irum Musharraf and Saad Tabani, helped me write the business plan that enabled us to win the 2008 NYU Stern business plan competition (social entrepreneurship track) Saad had the IT expertise. Irum was the risk-management expert and I provided the healthcare expertise and the vision.

We have three business units: Business Development, Member Services and Corporate Development. Apart from our senior management team, we have a team of 23 people working in our Karachi office.

Q: How did you go about raising funds for Naya Jeevan in the beginning? Do you have any words of advice regarding fundraising for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

I helped cover the initial expenses (~$35,000) of the organization from July 2007-April 2008, including a 5-member market research/feasibility trip to both Pakistan and India from August 2007-October 2007. Victory at NYU’s Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition in 2008 was accompanied by $75,000 in seed capital and helped kick-start our operations on the ground in Pakistan during 2008. We started expanding our team in Pakistan in May 2009 after receiving a grant from the Draper Richards Foundation.

My advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs would be: (i) don’t quit your day job until you have a reliable source of alternative revenue to help you get through the tough ‘bootstrapping’ phase (first 1-2 years). I made this mistake and it resulted in two and half years of not being able to pay myself a salary and burning through my savings; (ii) apply to business plan competitions as that really gives you an opportunity to refine your vc pitch and to continuously improve upon your existing business model; (iii) approach prospective donors/funders early, It may take over a year to get funded from the time that a dialogue is initiated with a donor.

Q: How do you go about monitoring and evaluating the impact of the organization?

The biggest measure of our success is the impact we have on the lives of our beneficiaries. While we are capturing their feedback qualitatively, ultimately we will need to transition to a more objective, quantitative assessment. The number of lives we enroll i.e. number of beneficiaries and their retention/renewal rates are proxy indicators for how well this plan is being received. Apart from that we evaluate ourselves by regular corporate client/sponsor feedback; number of calls we receive on our 24 hour medical helpline number and the number of value-added services (VAS) workshops we conduct in each quarter.

Q: Since Pakistan’s low-income population is still under-served by the current health care system, what are other possible areas for intervention you would encourage other social entrepreneurs to undertake?

There are plenty of opportunities for social entrepreneurs in the healthcare space. These include: (i) a pharmacy drug benefit plan, (ii) a vision/screening plan (iii) a dental plan, (iv) a community health services/OPD plan.

Q: What are your future goals/plans for the venture? How are you going about taking this model to other emerging economies?

Naya Jeevan’s social enterprise model was designed to be sustainable, scalable, replicable and globalizable. Consequently, we aim to first scale the model in Pakistan – expanding our organizational footprint in Karachi/Lahore/Islamabad and then in other cities in Pakistan. Our hospital network already encompasses over 150 private, high-quality hospitals located in over 30 cities across Pakistan so it is logical to enroll beneficiaries from those cities/towns. Ultimately, we would like to leverage advances in telemedicine and mobile health (mHealth) technology to connect inaccessible, rural areas to our nationwide network.

Once we have achieved sustainability in Pakistan (projected to occur in early 2013), we will then replicate our model in India followed by other emerging countries (S. Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, etc). Whether we replicate organically or through a franchise model remains to be determined. We’re keeping all our options open at the moment!

Q: In your interview with Kalsoom for the CHUP blog, you mentioned that the fact that Naya Jeevan beneficiaries sincerely believe that it’s changed their lives for the better, is there any one specific story that you would like to share with TC-P readers?

In April 2010, Margaret Fernandes, a 37-year-old homemaker from Karachi, experienced a sharp pain in her side. But unlike many people in Pakistan and elsewhere in the developing world, Fernandes had access to top-notch medical care. After an ultrasound diagnosed kidney stones, she received lithotripsy treatment at the Jinnah Hospital Kidney Center. Her husband, Augustine, earns less than $8 a day working for a chain of coffee shops, supporting Margaret and nine other family members, and the procedure would’ve cost more than a third of his annual income. The Fernandes family, however, paid nothing for Margaret’s treatment. Through Naya Jeevan, the Fernandes family receives quality health insurance from Augustine’s employer, Espresso Cafes. Without the health insurance Margaret might have resigned herself to taking painkillers and hoping for the best, until a time when the excruciating pain would have forced her to take out a short-term, high-interest loan from an informal, predatory lender or sold whatever meager possessions she had.

Click here to visit Naya Jeevan’s website and Facebook page.