‘Haunted for trying to help’: Kerala startup CEO upset over QuikDr controversy

Congress leader VD Satheesan said the company could misuse data and questioned the directorial position of an auto rickshaw driver, who happens to be the CEO Safil’s father.
‘Haunted for trying to help’: Kerala startup CEO upset over QuikDr controversy
‘Haunted for trying to help’: Kerala startup CEO upset over QuikDr controversy
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By seven in the evening, Safil Sunny sounds exasperated. He has answered a lot of calls, made television appearances all day, defending his start-up, QuikDr Healthcare Private Limited, against allegations regarding data privacy and ownership.

A day earlier, Congress leader VD Satheesan claimed that Safil’s company, employed by the Kerala government for telemedicine services during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, was only two-months-old and thus inexperienced. 

Satheesan alleged that the medical data of callers was sent to a third-party company. The MLA questioned why the position of company director was enjoyed by an auto rickshaw driver and alleged that it showed vested interests.

This, coming just days after the Sprinklr row hogged the news cycle in Kerala. Ramesh Chennithala, Leader of the Opposition, had alleged that the state government had violated the privacy of people under observation for or susceptible to coronavirus in the state by tying up with the US-based customer experience management company, Sprinklr. The government has denied the allegations even as the matter was later taken up by the Kerala High Court.

QuikDr Healthcare Private Limited

The auto rickshaw driver whom MLA Satheeshan terms a ‘benami’ is, in fact, CEO Safil Sunny’s father: Sunny CA. A Gulf returnee with some savings of his own, he bought an auto rickshaw.

“When I started my company, all I wanted was to become a good entrepreneur, to be able to provide jobs to some people,” says Safil, over phone to TNM, from Kochi.

The first company he started, Tranzmeo IT Solutions, was launched in 2017. A technology-oriented product company, it was registered with Startup India and the Kerala Startup Mission. It began functioning in a start-up warehouse before gradually setting up an office at Kochi’s InfoPark.

In 2018, they developed the telemedicine technology product QuikDr, which was piloted and implemented in several hospitals in Kochi. In November 2018, they submitted the report to the government’s Startup Mission and received a scale-up grant.

They were all set to scale up when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Safil and his team felt that it was the time to help out with technology. They decided to provide the telemedicine service free of cost.

“Healthcare compliances are such a niche area that deals with patient data. And Tranzmeo is an engineering company. So we decided to set up a separate company and that's how QuikDr (Quick Doctor) Healthcare was registered with my father Sunny CA and family friend Lalan Varghese as directors,” he says.

Both directors are close family members of the founders of Tranzmeo and they provided the initial investment, Safil clarified in a press note he released later.

“The company could manage 1,000 or 10,000 consultations smoothly on a stable platform. We made the presentation to the government on March 23 and it is only on March 30, after they did all the cross-verifications, asked many questions about product capabilities and were satisfied that they confirmed the purchase order,” Safil explains.

Safil has been receiving Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award every year since 2016, a recognition given to ‘technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community’. 

“The idea of starting a company was so that what we learn will be of good use to others,” Safil says.

In a press release on Tuesday, Safil wrote, “We are disappointed by the unfortunate controversy regarding the selection of QuikDr Healthcare Pvt Ltd for providing telemedicine service by Kerala State IT Mission… To join the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, we offered our product to Kerala State IT Mission free of cost. The database is hosted in a server located at Kerala State Data Centre and remains completely under the ownership of Kerala State IT Mission.”

He added: “We are now facing an unfortunate situation of being haunted for a voluntary support we offered to help our fellow beings and overcome the pandemic.”

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