Cover Azran wears outfit from Dior

In this excerpt from our January 2022 cover story, serial entrepreneur Azran Osman-Rani shares why he is focused on redefining modern healthcare to become more holistic

Azran Osman-Rani began his career as a management consultant where he was tasked with helping corporate clients develop strategies and address tough financial issues. He later oversaw business development at Astro and subsequently was brought in by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes to act as the founding chief executive officer for AirAsia X, leading the fledgling long-haul low-cost airline from a startup to IPO within six years.

He later served as the chief executive officer for video-on-demand service iflix in Malaysia, growing it beyond our borders to reach millions of users across Southeast Asia as well as the Middle East and Africa in its first two years of operation.

Though his career has taken him to wildly different industries, Azran says he has never shied away from jumping into the deep end and taking on new challenges. The process of discovering new ways to solve problems in each new business he leads has always fascinated him. To him, the prospect of tackling something fresh, starting with a clean slate, is something that energises him.

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Azran has always been intrigued and motivated by problems faced by existing businesses. He often frames his mind around how he would do things differently rather than relying on tried-and-tested formulas.

“What I do with the product could change over time as I learn what works. But the one thing that doesn’t change is the problem that you want to tackle,” he says.

“The good thing about being a startup is I don’t have any legacy systems or constraints,” he explains. “I don’t have to change or deal with existing businesses, though it is a double-edged sword because you often start with little to no money and you need to rally your stakeholders to convince them to believe in your vision.”

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Naluri, his latest venture, which means “instinct” in Malay, originates from a deeply personal place. Azran shared how he lost his father to diabetes and cancer 10 years ago. He saw how the medical system at the time was only focused on physical care like surgery, chemotherapy and medication. But it was the complete lack of focus on his father’s mental health that impacted his condition and made it worse.

“There’s a big gap in our approach to healthcare in Malaysia. We need to tackle both physical and mental health elements together,” says Azran. “We now know there are correlations between diabetes and depression, heart disease and anxiety. So, instead of seeing specific specialists, Naluri provides a multi-disciplinary team with several professionals coordinated as one team to come up with a holistic solution that is results-driven.”

He explains the problem with healthcare today is that it is reactionary, waiting on people who are sick to go to the hospital and clinic to be treated. Azran wants to turn this approach on its head and look at how people can reduce the probability of falling sick and maintaining a good quality of health.

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With that in mind, in 2017, Azran, together with medical systems specialist Dr Jeremy Ting, co-founded Naluri, a digital health service that combines data and behaviour science to deliver health coaching and psychological support to those affected by chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, as well as mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Naluri’s app-based care delivery combines support for physical and mental health and adopts proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assistance to ensure personalised, coordinated care from a team of health and wellness experts that include clinical psychologists, dieticians, medical advisors, fitness experts and pharmacists. They also provide digital tools like food journals, planners and thought journals to help them learn, plan and track their progress and get professional feedback.

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Naluri is in a unique position as the company has amassed a data set of more than 35,000 Malaysians who can give insights into the state of the nation’s mental wellbeing. He acknowledges that the Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on mental health with many corporations looking at ways to help their employees cope with anxiety and stress.

“We know that between 30 to 40 per cent of employees have elevated depression, anxiety and stress,” he explains. With Naluri, Azran’s ambition is to move away from reactive healthcare to a more proactive approach.

“Instead of waiting for a patient to come in sick, we need to help prevent them from falling ill in the first place. To do this, we created programmes with set goals and help patients lead a healthier lifestyle,” he says

The healthcare startup looks to be on the right path as it has already raised a total of US$8 million to date. Notable backers include 500 Startups, BioMark and Duopharma Biotech. In June 2021, Naluri secured a US$5 million Series A funding round, their fourth, led by Integra Partners.

The additional funding will help the company expand operations in its existing markets that include Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. There are plans to launch in the Philippines and Vietnam in 2022.

For the full story, pick up a copy of the January 2022 issue at the newsstands or get the digital copy here


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