Features

Venkat Shatagopam – Metagenics

E-platform to enable holistic health

He wishes the big boost that his employer has enjoyed for the past year wasn’t so attributable to a pandemic being necessary to raise overdue health concerns.

“Prior to COVID, not too many people seemed that worried about their health,” says Venkat Shatagopam. “They weren’t using as many vitamins and supplements. Now everyone sees the value and it’s helped our business a lot. Every medical practitioner now is recommending supplements as a health enhancer.”

All the more reason, he says, for Metagenics to make its products more available through e-commerce, and for this Southern California health sciences company to go beyond its traditional business model as only a supplier to healthcare professionals. How much more beneficial it would be if those healthcare professionals who then sell Metagenics to patients could also treat them holistically by confronting the condition that left them mentally or physically under par.

Global vice president of technology since November 2017, Shatagopam has spearheaded those initiatives and more, as part of a digital transformation, and speaks excitedly of what the current year means for the company, its 40,000 affiliated healthcare providers worldwide and their patients.

This spring saw the launch of Metagenics’ personalized lifestyle medicine e-platform, a project that Shatagopam says revolutionizes the company’s approach of aiding the practitioner, who remains the core customer. A patient can now register personal information on an iPad or other connected device and download an app to answer detailed questions about their medical history, enabling a doctor or counselor to access machine learning and algorithms to advise Metagenics products or lifestyle changes or both.

Should that patient opt for the company’s products, the doctor can access them through an improved e-commerce platform. Metagenics already moves more than half its sales volume online, so the upgrades should mean even more efficient deliveries.

“What we are doing is kind of changing the health and wellness industry using technology,” Shatagopam tells Toggle in February, as the personalized e-platform is about to be rolled out. “We are using technology in our clinic that transforms how a doctor’s visit should be.”

Wiring a worldview

That e-platform was a long time in coming, what with Shatagopam and members of his 50-member infotech team traveling the world for two-and-a-half years. Always an idea worth mulling at every stop, he says, and the best of them factored as the company built a physical clinic complete with the equipment necessary to assemble the envisioned platform.

For five days of almost nonstop brainstorming, doctors held mock clinics with mock patients afflicted with physical and mental conditions. The intent was to generate detailed information so doctors could recommend treatment.

Why might you be stressed? What dietary changes might be beneficial? Are you getting enough physical activity? Do you feel safe in your home? Is the loneliness of quarantining causing you to self-medicate? What family history might contribute to your condition?

Having fashioned the way for those questions to be answered and the data restricted, Shatagopam beams while describing how technology can enhance Metagenics’ products such as detox compounds, enzymes, ketogenic, omega-3s, probiotics and hemp formulas.

And should a doctor recommend a product, they’ll find a customized website for whatever country they are located in. Once that doctor affiliates with Metagenics, their website includes the name and logo, and email campaigns are done automatically.

“We are using technology which transforms how a doctor’s visit should be,” says Shatagopam.

He means business

A South India native, passionate and highly educated, Shatagopam says he’s always wanted to help a small or midsize company grow from his mix of skills. Having earned degrees in electrical engineering, and finance and marketing at Acharya Nagarjuna University and XLRI Jamshedpur in India, he came to the United States to study technology entrepreneurship at Stanford University and then executive management at UCLA’s Anderson School.

The timing seemed right to cross the Pacific in the mid-1990s, he says, the internet boom creating a need for technology professionals and, a few years later, Y2K threatening to upset the tech world as everyone knew it, though that wasn’t the case.

Now 46, he’s worked for many West Coast companies, including Cisco Systems, where he spent 13 years, including a couple in India. In 2014 he spent a two-year stint as head of infotech at Cancer Genetics Inc. in Los Angeles, which would prep him well, a few years later, for Metagenics.

For a technology professional, there might not be anything so intriguing as a role in the life sciences, Shatagopam says. How entwined the two fields are, and what an opportunity to make a difference.

At Metagenics he would have that opportunity, a digital transformation overdue as the company sought to do more than just distribute vitamins and supplements. Here he would have a strong hand in product and data engineering, development operations and ecommerce.

Among the early projects was moving Metagenics’ infrastructure into the cloud, which proved wise when COVID-19 threatened to upend business as usual everywhere. But at Metagenics, he says there was zero disruption, the tech-savvy workforce and the call centers able to access all critical business applications remotely.

But important as his technological expertise is, he reminds there’s another part of the formula.

“It’s not really about technology,” he says. “It’s about people. Starting from the top and bottom, it’s about helping your colleagues transition to change. How do you do this? By being authentic with everyone you work with.”

Published on: April 22, 2021

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