Dr Arbinder Singal | Fitterfly
IDEA LEADER | Dr Arbinder Singal is helping millions prevent, reverse and manage Diabetes with a unique blend of expertise, empathy and technology.
Dr Arbinder Singal is a celebrated super-specialist doctor and a healthcare entrepreneur. He is the Co-founder & CEO of FITTERFLY (www.fitterfly.com), a health tech start-up providing Digital Health & Digital Therapeutics) solutions in areas like Diabetes, PCOS, Maternal health, Obesity and Child Health. He is also an avid blogger, fitness freak and subject matter expert in healthcare.
Dr Singal is a Gold Medalist in MBBS from Delhi University and Gold Medalist in Pediatric Surgery from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. He received further super-speciality training from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, USA in the field of Pediatric urology. Dr Singal has worked in USA & India offering surgeries to children with complicated urinary birth defects. He has been an invited guest speaker at various national, European, Australian and American Conferences and has delivered more than 50 keynote lectures. His innovative surgeries and difficult cases have found a frequent mention in newspapers, tele media and medical textbooks. He has to his credit 50 International publications & children from more than 20 countries who have benefitted from his expertise.
Dr Singal has made a significant difference to healthcare by setting up two hospitals (Advanced Eye Hospital-acquired by Agarwal Eyecare and Mitr Hospital running successfully in Navi Mumbai), two health-tech start-ups and an NGO to help needy people. Dr Singal was the co-founder of the online telemedicine platform- MediAngels.com which was acquired by 1mg.com in 2016.
Dr Singal is also the founder trustee for One Vision Foundation which serves public with more than 500 free surgeries every year and large-scale health awareness work such as
1) Nanhe Nayan- India’s Largest child eye care campaign every year- 25,000 children checked free of charge
2) Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya – World’s largest walk against blindness, 10,000 people walk to fight blindness every year.
Dr Arbinder Singal sets the prelude for our tribute by summarizing his labor of love: “Fitterfly has built India’s largest database of food with detailed information about 30+ micronutrients and linked it to wellness, health and disease. Fitterfly is currently running a very successful Diabetes care program (www.fitterfly.com/diabefly ) which has shown best in class outcomes which are scientifically validated. Fitterfly also provides B2C and B2B solutions and SaaS platforms for pharma companies, restaurants, doctors, dieticians, hospitals and NGO’s”
We initiate the session by probing further into the big idea, concept or philosophy that defines Dr Arbinder Singal, and his driving approaches to life and success? “Making large scale impact and help people achieve better outcomes. This is what gets me up each morning and make me want to work hard every day”, shares the idea leader, capturing his raison d’etre in a nutshell.
We request Dr. Singal to explain to us the true, underlying significance of his idea, something that may escape attention to the cursory eye. Arbinder obliges. “From core healthcare to online healthcare information and access, to digital therapeutics, my life’s journey arc has covered a wide range of terrain, before culminating in a company which uses technology to help people get better. As a medical professional and a super-specialist surgeon, my life has always revolved around outcomes. When we started setting up Fitterfly, our intention was very clear that we will impact the future by changing outcomes. At Fitterfly, we have created digital therapeutic programs which will help millions of Indians prevent, reverse and manage their health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, PCOS and many others.”
What is the big need gap or flaw in the system that Dr. Singal and his team want to ‘correct’ and disrupt? The man underlines the chasm he is trying to bridge: “Currently, there are a lot of gaps in healthcare. Once a diagnosis of diabetes is made, doctors often counsel the patient about tests/ medicines and advise lifestyle changes and then ask them to visit again every three months. There is a huge gap in that advice. Patients often do not know what lifestyle changes they need to make, what foods are healthy for them, what exercise will help them and the whole diagnosis of diabetes puts them under stress. In such cases, digital therapeutic programs with personalised advice around nutrition, stress management and physical fitness can be the primary therapy and also augment the doctors therapy”, elaborates Dr. Singal.
It is time for us to go into flashback mode. While every idea leader has a powerful goal, where they are coming from often makes for an equally compelling glimpse into the persona and its many shades. We enquire how his idea or philosophy eventually become the driving force of his journey? Was there a life-altering experience or turning-point that caused it or inspired it? As it turns out, there was. We lean in as Dr. Singal recalls the ‘moments’ that motivated his milestones….
“After my training at AIIMS and in USA, I returned to India and started working as a surgeon in some hospitals in Navi Mumbai. I had an accident in 2010 with a wrist injury and I couldn’t do any surgeries for 3-4 weeks. At that time, I realised that surgery is very manual and I could do much more with my brains rather than just with my hands. I started reading about websites and business and start-ups. I actually wrote about 300 pages of content for my medical website in those days and then used a software to code and launch my own website. The website became very popular and helped a lot of parents understand what problems their children had and how they could be solved. That is when I fell in love with technology and how it could help people. I could see a lot of gaps in healthcare that technology could fulfil- information and access and that led to my first start-up MediAngels.com which was a medical second opinion website. It was finally acquired by 1mg.com in 2015.”
Post his MediAngels experience, Dr Arbinder Singal started working with couple of friends and started setting up Fitterfly - Initially with an intention to help children for a health future but gradually pivoted to a more focussed approach to help people with diabetes and other chronic conditions have better outcomes. The pivot to diabetes management also happened because of a personal incident. Dr. Singal travels back in time again…
“In April 2019, I was diagnosed to have very severe fluctuations of blood sugars and I fainted twice in gym due to low blood sugars. I was even taken to hospital once. My blood tests confirmed that I had prediabetes. I searched around and discussed with my doctor friends who work in the field of diabetes and they advised that I had high risk of diabetes and I should eat healthy, exercise and repeat tests every 6 months but I was already heavily into exercise and I thought that I was eating healthy. So basically, I was unhappy with what advice I got. Hence, I researched and got to know about Continuous Glucose monitoring devices which are essentially small wearable devices which track blood sugars round the clock. I then worked with my tech cofounder, Jayesh Sawant, and patched this data with what I was eating and found out all the reasons for my blood sugar fluctuations. I realised that when I ate any wheat product my blood sugars rose about 150 and with lot of other foods, they remained stable. I also understood which type of pre workout meals kept my blood sugars stable during workouts. Lastly, I could clearly see how blood sugars at night impacted my sleep. This whole phenomenon is known as “Personalised Glycemic Response” and became our innovation tested on myself. Based on that I made certain changes in my diet, exercise and sleep patterns and reversed my prediabetes. From there, we did initial pilots for patients with diabetes using the same software and insights and the results were just phenomenal. The power of personalised data helping people make meaningful changes was just so powerful. The solution which was tested on mehas the power of helping thousands solve their diabetes issues and that too on a deeply personal level. ”
Dr Arbinder Singal’s vision and energy has ignited the collective imagination and commitment of his teams as well. How does he explain this successful transfusion of passion to his surrounding people eco-systems? The man delves into this critical ingredient of his success: “People are excited by outcomes and personal stories. We all have monthly calls called “Celebrating Outcomes” where coaches share transformational stories and outcomes. Plus my team knows that I was the first patient on the program and that the program works. They are excited by the power of the idea, the innovation and its potential to transform the lives of millions of people in the near future.”
Within Fitterfly, our focus on impact and outcomes drives our culture, creates a sense of belonging and paves the way for a great future. Every single individual in the organisation knows that at Fitterfly we are here to help people get best in class outcomes. This central idea- of impact and outcomes, it drives our meetings, marketing campaigns, interactions with clients, projects and technology.
I am extremely blessed to have great cofounders - Shailesh Gupta who looks at Ops, legal and HR and Jayesh Sawant who manages product and technology. The great thing is that we bring complementary skills and we all have the same core values of impact and outcomes.
So what is the big goal or problem that he wants to solve in the future? We want him to share his ‘foresight’, as it were, and Dr. Singal happily steps forward into the emerging future, laying out the broad roadmap for our readers:
“There are over 200 Mn Diabetics and Pre-Diabetics patients in India alone. Pre-Diabetics have no solution and Diabetics can only take medicine. Proper lifestyle management can help in preventing, managing and reversing diabetes.
We offer a unique CGMS based Diabetes program called Diabefly that is able to correlate the effect of food on blood sugar of an individual over a period of 14 days. Our application combines 1300 blood sugar readings with the top 80% food consumed and chart glycemic response. Using this intelligence our software tweaks the diet plan of the patient leading to significantly effective diabetes treatment. Pilots have shown 90% of our Patients experienced better Glycemic Control and 85% of patients had a significant reduction in their HbA1c. In 30% of patients the medicine dosage decreased or stopped altogether. Our programs are now available on our website and on the Fitterfly wellness app across India. We are lucky to get validation from top doctors across India, work with pharma companies and are now opening our solutions for employee wellness and insurers. We have presented our innovation and stellar results at major international conferences.
We believe we are in a unique position to positively impact millions of lives and make a scalable enduring business. In the long run, our platform will help manage multiple lifestyle diseases as well as special journeys like pregnancy.”
Does Dr. Arbinder Singal approach to success work for a new league of leaders bred on GenZ thinking? What advice or suggestion does he have to help them kick start their passion journeys? The spirited personality generously shares his mind :
“Start-ups are not easy. Having clarity around your core mission helps you fight the odds. Sometimes the partners or investors may push you towards a short cut but as long as you stay on course of your larger vision and mission, you will find success. So, discover your “WHY” and consistently communicate to your team, your investors and all your relationships. And back it up with action which adheres to that WHY. Second lesson which I have really learnt the hard way is to have great co-founders if you are setting up a start-up. I am lucky to have two stellar people as co-founders, who add complimentary skills and whom I can trust with my life.”
We approach the concluding part of our edifying and inspiring session, and request the idea champion to share a short line or two about Voice of Healthcare, and how tribute profiles such as Idea Leaders are important to add direction, inspiration and positive energy to the healthcare community. Dr. Arbinder Singal shares expansively, “Sometimes when we read about a successful person, we often do not know the hard work which must have gone into that success. Success is not overnight and there are a lot of lessons which people who have achieved success can share. Sharing of such ideas can often motivate other people out there. VOH can help with this visibility and inspire a lot of youngsters to participate in innovation and drive new businesses. I believe that the time is right for medical professionals to think laterally and be a part of start-up ecosystem and drive innovation”.
*This story is published by VOH team*
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